For the most part when I’ve written about intimacy I’ve referred to physical intimacy —the act of lovemaking. But today I want to write about verbal intimacy, trust intimacy, and truth intimacy.
Keith and I have been married for fifty-two years—a lifetime, really.
A lifetime of births, deaths, joys, sorrows, adventures, boredom, illness, recovery, arguments, making up, sulking, doubting, becoming parents and grandparents and now great-grandparents. Learning and unlearning, receiving and letting go. We’ve witnessed the best and worst of each other; times when we were easy to love, and times of just the opposite.
Talking and writing are how I sort and work through challenges. I’m always surprised, even at this age, at how necessary these two modes of communication are in order for me to digest and make sense of life. And that almost always, my most significant insights occur as a result of being intimate with Keith.
This morning was a perfect example.
After making love and still cradled in Keith’s arms, I started crying. It began as I felt so humbly blessed at being able to still enjoy lovemaking “at my (our) age.” And then just as quickly, my thoughts moved to our shared past. During our first years of marriage I was so naïve and had never explored my own body in order to gain an understanding of my own arousal triggers. My lack of arousal, of course, caused Keith to feel inadequate. Expressing how far we’ve come, and how the memory of causing him pain stings even after all these years, I pulled Keith even closer and thanked him for his patience and encouragement. He, in turn, kindly offered, “We’ve learned together.”
I lay still, while my mind flashed back over the scores of lessons we have shared during our half century together, then spoke again. “We were really just babes when we married. We thought we were so old at 21 and 22. Truly, we’ve grown up together and learned from our journey of life events.”
And then what so often happens when my emotions are heightened from our lovemaking, my thoughts traveled to our unknown future of my memory and cognitive decline. “Will I become a different person, someone who might be very difficult for you to love? What if I’m no longer capable of making love?” Through fresh tears, I began to apologize in advance, reminding Keith that no matter who or what I become, he should always remember how much I love him.
Still holding me close and gently brushing my hair with his fingers, Keith listened without interruption, letting me get it all out—he knows by now that this is how I process. I have to say my fears out loud, hear my own words, and most importantly, have them witnessed and held gently, respectfully, and without judgment by the most important person in my life.
This is what I call verbal intimacy, truth intimacy and trust intimacy. Putting words to all the subconscious fears in our minds truly loosens their grip. All pieces are interconnected, and each piece is necessary. I can’t verbalize honestly without speaking my truth, and I can’t speak my truth without having trust in the integrity of the receiver, assured of their willingness to honor my words and thoughts without judging or interjecting their own perception.
This level of commitment and intimacy takes a certain amount of time and experience to evolve, but certainly doesn’t have a requirement of fifty years of marriage. Nevertheless, once it is achieved, I’m convinced it doesn’t regress.
It is a gift of a lifetime.