Remembering to hug my friends extra tight: redefining intimacy
Written by Gabrielle Francis
Intimacy. What comes to mind when the word intimacy is proposed? A sense of closeness and familiarity. A tendency towards romantic relationships, and a bond to be shared between two intimate partners. A connection that comes with a deep sense of fulfillment.
What if this dynamic were to be applied elsewhere? Not limited to the confines of romance, but approached with similar effort to platonic relationships of every type? After facing a very emotional breakup, my own sense of intimacy was floating somewhere far from my reach. This seemingly sad case of loss presented me with a sense of exploration, pulling me towards the navigation of intimacy and all the diverse and colorful ways it can be experienced, acted upon, and reclaimed.
A closeness that is vital for all humans to experience, intimacy can manifest itself in so many divergent and differing ways, each coming with varying experiences. To see intimacy in terms of only romantic or sexual relationships is too limiting, almost suffocating to other potential connections that could be made. When the term is seen as an applicable form of connection to others, a new sense of fulfillment arises that destroys the normalization of true fulfillment only through romantic relationships. Previously, I had put all my deepest emotional efforts into my one, long-term, romantic relationship with a narrow understanding of the dynamics in which intimacy can play out. However, I have learned what can flourish when intimacy is found in many corners of life, and it becomes tangible in exciting new ways that can fulfill oneself in an undeniably wholesome manner. It has taught me a radical sense of love not only as a feeling, but an action that can build intimacy in many platonic relationships in life. This is not to say romantic relationships are harmful to one’s sense of intimacy, as beautiful close connections can come from this. But when the notion is expanded and molded to platonic situations, beautiful and meaningful friendships can also arise that allow for a more wholesome sense of connection.
Intimacy can be shared between two best friends, a parent and a child, a mentor and a student, or between siblings. The ways in which closeness and familiarity can be emotionally satisfying is applicable to so many forms of connectedness, and all relationships take on a new sense of meaning. If we see all relationships as opportunities to put in as much intimate effort as we do in our romantic endeavors, those around us can give us happiness and fulfillment just like the “ultimate” fulfillment we are told comes only in romantic situations. This sense of intimacy can also be found in one’s self. When self love and connectedness is found we are able to finally give the love and intimacy to others that we expect to be given to ourselves. These notions blow up the traditional confines of intimacy, and can feel liberating and empowering.
Ultimately, through this journey of self-love and relationship building after a major romantic relationship of mine ended, I found the importance of finding just as strong a connection with my friends and family. As bell hooks said in her book All About Love: New Visions, by making love an action of simple everyday life, it becomes “…a force that is capable of touching all meaningful people in your life. Not something that comes along only in romantic situations with one person; this notion cuts off deeper capabilities people can draw upon in friendship, family, and other platonic situations.” This quote acted as a major catalyst for me in expanding my notion of intimacy at such a vulnerable point in my emotional life. Her words were one of the sources that taught me to see love as a dynamic and broad action, exposing the richness of the emotion and how it is a force to be applied to all connections. This conviction allows for fulfillment and intimacy in relationships that were once blocked off to such a capacity.
A final reminder for myself and for you: always hug your friends extra tight. Tell your family how much they mean to you. Go on those spontaneous road trips, fall in love with yourself, kiss the faces of those you care for, and leave little notes with affirmations to all the lovely people around you. To love and build intimacy is the goal of all meaningful relationships, and the warmth that can emit from those connections is undeniably fruitful.
Contact Gabrielle by email at email@example.com and follow her on Instagram @gabriellefrann
Photo courtesy of Star Swink