“Now I understand that there can exist an intimate language between people that can never really be shared. Perhaps the sounds can be imitated; perhaps one might come to appreciate elements of the grammar. But the poetry unfolds only within a deep relationship, the reciprocity of unconditional love giving rise to the freedom to self-reveal and other-embrace” (Longing to Love, 78).
This is a strange time in which to talk about intimacy. Reality TV has brought into our homes the intimate details of others’ lives. Facebook, Twitter, and other cyber communities have made it possible for us to tell just about everyone everything we do, every moment of the day. Dr. Phil, various judges, and talk-show personalities have opened up to the world topics and situations that, in previous times, would have remained at least somewhat private. Songs and movies don’t even try to veil topics of sex, violence, or racism. Everything is out in the open.
In this kind of culture, how does a married couple define intimacy? How do wife and husband arrive at a language all their own?
This topic is worth more than one discussion. From time to time, a person has to check in with her partner about how much of their life together can be on display. How much time alone do they need to nurture this relationship? Which friends and family members will they entrust with important information? In fact, each partner must ask the other, “What do you mean by ‘private’? That we can share something only with close friends, or with no one at all? That, when it comes to certain matters, we must ask each other permission to take this outside our bedroom or living room?”
Sometimes these definitions shift according to gender; women are more likely than men to talk about deeply personal matters with their friends. In a marriage, we can’t assume that both people share the same assumptions when it comes to the language that is theirs alone.
Have a discussion with your significant other about what privacy and intimacy mean to you—how they are defined and how they are maintained.