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 bites the dust. 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 .

Maybe your tastes are so different that you can’t even find a movie that both of you can tolerate. Then you try, but the next time that you can go out is on a Saturday night and you've already missed the 7:45. You’re don’t know how to get tickets on-line. The two of 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.

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 isn't morally objectionable, disgusting or distasteful.

Games, sports, or the arts work nicely. Even pinball at a bowling alley. The partner who doesn't like the activity still has to have fun for a couple of hours. Two hours is plenty.

This is another misconception about intimacy. 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 Monopoly? Too bad. You have to either have fun or pretend to have 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.

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


David Rochester said…
Hmmmm. I have to admit, I don't understand this at all. I can't imagine what benefit I would derive from having a partner who pretended to enjoy something we were doing together. In my repeated experience, that leads to resentment and frustration. If people have no common interests, why are they together?

I guess I could understand two people trying something together that neither of them likes, but if one person likes it and the other is "humoring," how is that healthy?

I think I don't understand how it's not kind of co-dependent to pretend you enjoy something in order to make someone else happy.
Anonymous said…
I don't enjoy live music nearly as much as my bf. Certainly not enough to drive 4hours one way just because we got free tickets to a band. But I do love him and like making him happy enough to drive 4 hours. It doesn't make him happy to force me to sit through something that isn't worth the inconvenience. But it does make him happy to share his fun moments with me. That's the distinction. He has fun and wants to share that fun with me. It's easier for me to "suck it up" if I view the request from his perspective instead of mine.
David Rochester said…
But wouldn't it be far more preferable to do something you *both* enjoy so you can have the intimacy of shared experience?

It seems to me to be supremely selfish to want to share "fun" that the other person really isn't enjoying.