Connecting is Worth the Risk

We are connected to more people than ever before in today’s fast-paced world of technology. We can call, email and text in the blink of an eye to people all around the world. Yet at the same time, we notice an increase in a variety of communication and interpersonal problems evidenced by troubled relationships whether professionally or personally. Far too often, we grow up and try to learn how to communicate with each other, to build friendships, partnerships and committed romantic relationships without having good examples to learn from. We learn by trial and error in a world where face to face communication seems to be diminishing at the speed of technology.

In such a world, is it any wonder that deep, authentic relationships and true intimacy are found so rarely? We tend to go through our lives with intermittent mentors and friendships that give us strength and hope and the occasional moments of comfort found in human connection. We ache for that something without knowing exactly what it is or how to go about getting or creating it. We suffer along the way with the insecurities of our past and though we try to grow past them and not let them affect our interactions with others in the future, often our behavior patterns are unconscious as we try to protect ourselves in the minefield of interpersonal relationships with others.

So as we continue on in life we build walls to protect ourselves from the pain when we don’t feel accepted and loved by others for who we are. It becomes an internal debate as to whether we are willing to be vulnerable with someone and to share our fears and concerns or our true feelings. This in turn becomes less a protection and more of a barrier at times. You can reach the point where you want to connect with someone; you want to share yourself with them, your whole self, faults and all and yet the fear that sharing your real and less than perfect self would actually make them care for you less immobilizes you. Each meaningful encounter is made up of so many moments where we each advance or withdraw in our ability to be open and intimate with one another. It is a choice, much like withdrawing behind our walls where we feel neither hurt nor feel the joy of connection with others.

What if instead, we were able to pause during those moments and then choose to act authentically? We would be opening ourselves to being hurt because we are showing our true selves, yet we would also be opening ourselves to being loved for who we truly are. Being respected, understood, accepted, loved and trusted for who we really are is such a wonderful feeling and yet so rarely felt by most people. We seem to actively prevent that which we so desire in our lives. One day at a time, one person at a time, we can choose to let go of our fears and live as our authentic selves. It can be a scary journey, not everyone will like or appreciate you for your efforts and at times you may feel like giving up, retreating behind those familiar walls to be the way people expect you to be. It can feel like a battle with yourself trying to determine what is most important to you and how much you care what everyone else thinks of you. So is it even worth it?

Consider the possibilities and the “what if’s” of that possible scenario. What if you started each day determined to be yourself, knowing your priorities in life and feeling good about who you are? What if although you weren’t out to hurt anyone, you chose to always stand up for what you believe in and to make choices that are right for you whether or not anyone else agrees with them? What if when you interacted with others, you were honest about what you want, what you think and how you feel in a way that respects and allows the other person the same rights? It would be natural for some people to disagree with you at times and they may not always understand when you choose to do something other than what they expected. Conversely, it would be natural for you to come across people who do agree with you, who understand and think similarly to you. When you come across these individuals who are hopefully being as authentic as you are attempting to be, there are opportunities for deeper connections and for new friendships to bloom. New ideas and partnerships can form collaboratively from similarly held ideals and yes, even romantic relationships formed under these beginnings have more fruitful foundations.

In the world of romance, intimacy is something we too often find lacking for wont of knowledge on how to create it. Too often intimacy is confused with the sexual part of our relationships. Sex is certainly an important thing and not to be disregarded; however, the lasting glue of committed, happy relationships is forged far more from true intimacy. It is when we are able to be open and vulnerable with our partners in a safe and loving environment where true intimacy can develop. When we are willing to help our partners understand us when we are hurting instead of lashing out or playing the part of a victim then we can better communicate our needs and desires. When we feel respected and loved regardless of having different opinions and feelings about something and are able to work together for a mutual benefit in a relationship, new foundations of growth and security allow greater levels of intimacy.

When we say that we love someone, what do we really mean? Well, we mean different things in different situations and with different people depending on our relationship to them. We hear I love you and I’m in love with you and know somehow they are different. We can think of types of relationships whether familial, friendly or romantic and various levels of “love” can be imagined. So what is love really? When we love someone, do we envision the Corinthian ideal described in the Bible? Do we picture a passionate love scene from a romantic movie or that perfect kiss? Do we picture the couple in their golden years who smile at each other lovingly, still with a twinkle in their eyes after so many years shared together? Love is a wonderful and complicated thing and it can be difficult to pinpoint what we’re really aiming for when in many cases, it’s likely all of the above.

Ideally, love allows an authentic sharing of selves within a framework of trust, respect and acceptance. Love is an act of choosing to build and maintain an intimate relationship where both give each other the benefit of the doubt and work together in challenging times, to support each other as individuals with unique dreams and goals giving each other the freedom to grow while still choosing to mutually benefit the relationship. This level of love can be seen in various types of positive relationships and we can envision ideals such as brotherly love. We can form a sense of community and partnership with others at this level and it becomes more natural to care for and support each other. From here, we can branch out into greater depths of intimacy and sharing depending on the nature of the relationship.

When we form committed romantic relationships with one another, passion and romance certainly have their place and with such an environment as described above for a foundation they would seem to flourish and hopefully be celebrated! Imagine being loved and accepted fully with both you and your loved one being able to freely communicate exactly what you need and desire from each other without fear or judgment and then happily working together, giving each other the time and patience to master each other’s needs! When you consider the possibility of such a relationship, is it any wonder we continue looking for that special someone to spend our lives with even with the challenges we experience along the way?

It is easier and far more enjoyable to weather the storms of life when we are connected with and supported by others in our lives. We are social beings and as much as we’ve discovered the value of independence we sometimes miss out on the value of deeper relationships with others. We get so serious about the business of living and achieving, we get so caught up in the fast pace and routines of our days and perhaps don’t spend as much time investing in the relationships with the people we share those days with. Of course, we learn new things and make new choices every day and tomorrow is a new day.

It may not always be easy but I hope you choose to be you and to bravely share your authentic self with those around you, I hope you will take the steps to develop deeper friendships, partnerships and real intimacy in your romantic relationships and I hope you will laugh and be happy along the way. We needn’t take ourselves so seriously all the time, after all, we are each of us on a journey of many lessons and although we may not know where we’ll end up, a shared journey among friends and loved ones is sure to be a little more joyful even when the path gets a little bumpy.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:03:19

    I agree. Unfortunately, we are all socialized to conform with others’ expectations and I think many, many people just cannot conceive of breaking through those barriers. It is a lonely path at times, but so worth the rewards of the freedom it fosters.
    My husband of 36 years is, and always has been, my very closest best friend. We know all the good, the bad and the ugly about each other – so we have the freedom to be open and completely honest with each other on any and all issues that are important to us.
    It has always been my practice to be true to myself and my own beliefs and to respect and accept this same honesty in others.

    Reply

    • alegnasevarg
      Mar 02, 2011 @ 19:51:47

      I think it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to develop such a relationship with your husband. It feels challenging and scary at times to open up to people and share your complete self, but I definitely think it’s worth it. It takes effort to build and maintain such a friendship/relationship with someone and it takes both people to make that work. I think it’s important to consider the aspect of love and connection that is the daily choice we make to really bring our whole selves to our relationships. I feel it’s really important to be able to have that level of deep, authentic friendship with open and honest communication in as many of our relationships with others as possible, especially romantic ones. We may not always succeed, we may have off days but the important thing is the desire and willingness to continue trying until it’s ingrained in us enough that we’re able to be authentic and complete in all our interactions with others.

      Reply

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