All human beings crave intimacy, yet there is a reason we often hold people at a distance. To ‘let someone in’ is vulnerable, and being vulnerable means the possibility of getting hurt. It is only natural to avoid putting ourselves in harm’s way. However, before we go encouraging everyone to be more vulnerable, let’s be realistic. If the situation is not safe it is our duty to protect ourselves. Forcing ourselves to be vulnerable in an unsafe situation is like picking up a hot baking tray without oven mitts. We’re going to get burned!
When I am alone, it doesn’t really matter what I do. My actions do not significantly affect anyone. I can swing my arms and legs, or jump around sporadically. Who cares? I’m not hurting anyone! But when we add other people to the mix things are a bit different. The presence of another demands that I be considerate of other people’s needs. I may have been accustomed to ‘moving as I like’ when I was alone, but now those same movements result in an elbow to the face. The closer I get, the more considerate I need to be. In a perfect union absolutely everything I do, no matter how small, impacts my partner and vice versa. In this way intimacy requires a relinquishing of personal freedom, or rather a joining of that freedom to another.
Attempting to be intimate with a person beyond their capacity to love is a sure fire way to get an elbow to the face. When we find ourselves getting too close and we start stepping on each other’s toes it makes sense to take a step back and create a bit of space. It may be tempting to ignore the pain and push on, stay close no matter what. However, it is only with a safe distance that we can relax, rediscover our harmony, and attempt to resume the close embrace.
So, where am I going with this? Learning how to love is learning how to be considerate. It is learning to care for the people close to us so that we do not accidentally injure them with careless words and actions. In this way love is not a feeling. It is a skill. It is the ability to dance, the ability to lead and follow, the ability to move in unison. If we desire intimacy, we must build our capacity for it.