10 Paths to Mutual Respect and Genuine Intimacy

A good marriage is created when each spouse appoints the other as “guardian of his/her solitude,” to quote a line from a poem by Rainier Maria Rilke.

And it’s this kind of committed partnership that forms the basis for mutual respect and genuine intimacy. Here are 10 ways to contribute to the development of that kind of deep, satisfying intimacy.

1. Bring up difficult subjects.

2. Listen with openness to feedback.

3. Attempt to elicit a fuller range of feelings during discussions and disagreements.

4. Respect your partner’s desire for greater distance or closeness as expressing a need for comfort—not a personal rejection.

5. Listen without comment during disagreements, despite strong feelings being stirred.

6. Maintain perspective. See you partner as a human, not a deity or demon.

7. Be honest with yourself. True intimacy with another can’t really happen until we are intimate with ourselves.

8. Dare to expose your imperfections and fears.

9. Avoid depending on your partner to fulfill all your needs.

10. Don’t use affection, sex and loving behavior to reward or punish.

Rilke reminds us of the connection between intimacy and a healthy ability to maintain what’s separate: “Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings an infinite distance continues to exist, a wonderful living side-by-side can grow up if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible to see each other whole and against a wide sky!”

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