Note that the title does not say “easy,” but “simple.” There is, of course, a big difference.

Intimacy can only be achieved as the result of the development of three prior conditions. I’ll list them in order with each followed by an arrow pointing to the next condition: Trust—> Safety —> Vulnerability—> Intimacy.

When I work with couples in deep conflict, trust has been compromised. Trust is a bridge that leads from one person to another. It is built out of honesty — telling the truth, integrity — making sure that there is an integration of what one says and what one does, reliability — you can count on this person to fulfill promises, and loyalty — agree with you or not, you can know this person has your best interest at heart.

Trust provides the basis for safety. Safety not only means that you will not be physically harmed or robbed, but the imperfections of you will not be used against you to do psychological and relational damage. Safety means that you can dare to be you, speak the truth as you understand it, express your emotions without fear of reprisal. Safety does not mean that you will be agreed with at all times; if that was required, then the other person would not feel safe. Safety goes both ways. But you will he listened to with respectful curiosity and the expressed desire to be in dialogue about whatever you need to discuss or share.

Vulnerability, the sharing of our underbelly — our fears, past hurts, needs, aspirations, affections, and dreams — anything which could subject us to ridicule in the presence of the unsafe and untrustworthy, follows after trust. Vulnerability can only be sustained where there is abiding empathy.

Intimacy is that back and forth flow of relationship that results in daily acts of behaving trustworthy, feeling safe, sharing vulnerably; it is that deep knowledge of another such that needs are anticipated, body language is read and respected, and physical holding becomes an extension of holding the heart of another and having one’s heart held in hands that are trustworthy, safe, and vulnerably open.

Need a little help regaining intimacy in a relationship or overcoming trauma that has left you uncertain about the most basic foundation of trust — trust in relationship to yourself and others? I’d like to help you. Let’s talk soon.