What is fluid? Something that flows easily without much obstruction. Just as we want fluidity from the water in our faucets we also want it in our relationships, especially intimate ones. Intimacy implies a closeness beyond familiarity and generic caring. It’s when you know someone really well, you have shared a multitude of different experiences with them, you value what they bring to the table, and you cherish the depth and closeness you have built together.
Think of fluid intimacy as an effortless, spontaneous, and relaxed dance between two people where each assumes the best and resists the urge to jump to conclusions, get defensive, or lash out when feeling misunderstood or judged. Who wouldn’t like that? While achieving fluid intimacy 100% of the time might be nirvana, it’s not realistic; however, we can keep it as a guiding force and create more fluid intimacy in our relationships by paying attention to:
How well you listen. I mean really listen. Not just to what is being said, but to the emotion underneath. When you respond to the emotion underlying what is being said you open up new realms of communication and understanding.
Whether you respond carefully, or just shoot from the hip. You don’t have to filter every word or thought, but some pre-screening is helpful. Take three seconds to think what reaction your comment might engender.
How you feel after an interaction. It’s so easy to think there’s no point in revisiting something difficult. It will only cause more dissatisfaction, pain, or disappointment; but, often that means choosing short-term peace over long-term benefits to your relationship. When you allow yourself some time to digest what was said and felt you can come back with a fresh, more loving perspective. Sometimes, a little adult timeout is all you need.
How patient or impatient you are when handling tough topics. Are you in a rush to get through the conversation as quickly as possible? Is your low frustration tolerance leading the way? If so, take a breath, get grounded in your seat or feel your feet on the earth. Isn’t it worth some extra time to better understand someone in your inner circle? Wouldn’t you want that person to be patient with you and the process of connecting in an even deeper, more supportive way?
Whether you hold a grudge. The beauty of fluid intimacy is it allows you to work through your issues so they don’t stockpile and create resentment, which corrodes the very intimacy you have spent time creating. Fluid intimacy allows you to bounce back from conflicts (inevitable in any close relationship) more quickly, because you and the other person have a fairly secure, open, and supportive relationship that can weather some storms. Fluid intimacy, is like Rain-X for your relationship: bad weather—misunderstandings and disagreements—no longer block your view of the road, but bead up and wash away.
How you handle unpleasant situations that crop up. There are bound to be times when you don’t see eye-to-eye on an issue with a loved one and these can easily escalate. If you already have timeouts in your repertoire, that’s great. However, allowing a timeout to mushroom into a let’s-never-talk-about-that-again trope only encourages stockpiling grievances. Take time to calm down from a heated moment. As soon as you’re in a better frame of mind clear the air. You don’t have to agree on every issue. Just remember how much you value other aspects of your relationship and resist the urge to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Everything you have enjoyed and valued from this relationship. The way you felt understood, supported, loved, and respected. The way this person was able to make you laugh at some of your lowest moments, or help you change your perspective when you felt mired in negativity or hopelessness.
Whether you assume the best. Last but not least, resist jumping to negative conclusions about your loved one’s behavior or motivation. Assume they value you, care about you, and want the best for you. Anything else diminishes trust and is often incorrect. Everyone has bad days and people can’t always come from their kindest, patient, most evolved selves.
How wonderful it is to have a person with whom you can feel safe enough to be vulnerable. It is a great luxury to drop your guard and allow yourself to feel exquisitely open and vulnerable. Fluid intimacy creates that safe space. When all these aspects of closeness come together it’s possible to feel really known and accepted for who you are.
Fluid intimacy is an amazing thing to feel within another person. Once you experience it, you may want it all the time; yet, that is not achievable. Everyone with whom you interact has moods, hormonal shifts, and external events that impact their internal states. None of us can bring our best self to the table every minute. Part of fluid intimacy is understanding that and cutting people slack when you know they don’t feel well or are challenged in some other way…even if it’s something as mundane as being stuck in traffic.
Just like a good habit that can vanish if you stop doing it for a week, creating fluid intimacy is not something you achieve and it suddenly becomes self-sustaining. It takes consistent effort to show up and do all the things mentioned above. Also, just like a good habit, it will bring years of something priceless to your life: feeling heard, understood, and loved.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang