Sunday, May 28, 2006

Recreational Intimacy

The 5 Types of Intimacy. People tend to have very fixed ideas on the subject of intimacy, but there are at least five types. It’s not all touchy feely, which is good, because many people are very uncomfortable with direct, romantic expressions of love.

But because there are five kinds, relationships that are light on one, two, or perhaps even more of these varieties suffer. You sort of have to have it all, to have it all. Lacking any one of them can be the reason a committed relationship dissolves. And unfortunately, it's not at all easy to have them all.

We'll start with recreational intimacy. Counselors sometimes suggest that couples go out and find something they like to do together. Not bad advice, but it's not good, either. It's like saying, You guys go out and find a movie you both like.  There may not be such a thing.  And the process of finding one might be more trouble than it is worth, a prelude to an argument.

But the doc says, Do this.  So you choose one, but by the time you make the decision you are late for the  7:45 and didn't get tickets online. You fight the crowds, get frustrated and bored. You can do it, maybe, but why?

What these counselors should suggest is that you work less at finding something you both want to do and more at doing something together. Anything. The catch is having fun. The rule on an assignment like that is to keep it light, try to make it fun. You can still go to a depressing movie, but only if it’s good and one of you can do an imitation later.

I tell people not to worry about both of you liking an activity. Whatever you choose to do, it can be something one of you likes and the other totally hates, as long as it's not morally objectionable, disgusting or distasteful.

Games, sports, or the arts work nicely. Even pinball at a bowling alley. This is a personal bias, I'm going to admit. It could be that I'm showing my age, but video games don't seem to be as interactive as pinball used to be. Pinball was a whole body experience (a little more sexy, I think), the visual field more expansive. You had a whole machine to work. 

Regardless of the game, the partner who doesn't like the activity still has to have fun for a couple of hours, make himself have fun. Two hours is plenty of fun. It won't kill you.

Another misconception about intimacy is that you have to spend a lot of time at it. It isn’t a quantitative thing. Spending six hours trying to enjoy a Saturday night might be less worthwhile than a half an hour a night every night during the week. We really are talking quality time.

But you hate Gin Rummy? Too bad. You have to either make it fun somehow or pretend to be having fun. Pretending is one of life's most unselfish challenges. Don’t think of it as being someone you're not. Think of it as becoming someone you want to be. If it’s okay for your spouse, it’s okay for you. Of course if it's morally objectionable, then it's not okay for either of you.

Pretend you're Gerry of Ricky and Gerry (gender nonspecific). Ricky has picked an activity that Gerry hates, golf. Gerry has the hard part-- not-- bursting Ricky's bubble.

Gerry has to think, Ricky wants me to do this. Ricky wants us to have fun together doing this. How can I make it happen? The answer is:

By not complaining. By laughing as much as possible. By letting go of thinking how dumb you look when you miss the ball. By thinking of how funny you look—it's good to laugh at yourself! Try to remember how happy Ricky is that you are there, just chasing after a little ball. Complement Ricky on how well he plays. Let Ricky teach you and don’t get defensive.

Ricky, has a big responsibility here, too. Ricky can't make you feel like a clod. Ricky has to ingratiate him/herself because Gerry is doing what Ricky wants. Gerry is sucking it up, and Ricky will have to do that next time. Sorry, Rick.

Thinking like this is a challenge, no doubt. But it is just this sort of (1) empathy and (2) fake it 'til you make it that is the key to intimacy. It's hard to be happy doing something that doesn't naturally make us happy. It's unnatural by definition and yet. the pay back is amazing.

Recreational intimacy can be hard even when you're doing something you both love to do, too, primarily because the other types of intimacy interfere with the process of your interactions with one another.

That’s why all five plates, all five types of intimacy, have to be twirling at the same time..

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

2 comments:

Escribo Cartas said...

Just wanted to drop in and say how much I appreciate your blog. It's like a Snickers bar for my soul. :-)

TherapyDoc said...

Escrib, thanks. We do have to feed it, you know.