Will Bueché

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Comfortable relationships vs intimate relationships

Posted in Personal by Will on Saturday, June 25th, 2005 ~ 10pm

Are you in a comfortable relationship, or an intimate relationship? (The latter can be the former, but answer the latter if you know you’re in the latter, because there is a distinction I want to draw).

I ask this to you because I read recently that a fellow Sangha-ite broke up with someone, and because I did not know the couple I started to imagine what other couples are like, particularly seemingly satisfactory couples with similar interests and backgrounds. Why do couples break up?

And I realized that there are probably some people who are going out only because it is comfortable for them. Similar people, in particular, can easily date and have meals and coffee together and have nights of seemingly satisfying sex easily, due to their being very similar. They can do all this … and still find it somehow vaguely unsatisfying or even disturbing in how superficial it seems. I am not saying the couple I was thinking of was like this – as I said, I don’t know them.

I was thinking about how I have differences with the girl I like. Girl, I should say woman. And how difficult things can be when differences are encountered. But when I reflected on how there may be couples who don’t have differences, I realized that a lack of differences does not mean that those people are in an intimate relationship. Do they know intimacy? (Picturing a large black man in a restroom saying “You don’t know intimate, no sir, you don’t know intimate at all!”).

Does anyone who has only dated a cookie cutter version of a person really have intimacy – or do they simply have something that feels comfortable, a situation that is less likely to ever have problems because they never really get into the nitty gritty about what makes the other person tick, what makes them who they are? (And is this why seemingly satisfactory couples break up so often?).

As I look at the relationship I am in, with some differences in background – heck, more differences than similarities – and as I compare that to whether I’d rather have, say, Rebecca DeMornay (from the film “Risky Business” with Tom Cruise), I recognize at last that the reason why I for years assumed I wanted Rebecca DeMornay (the call-girl who “every white boy by the lake” would want) is not because it would provide intimacy – it is because DeMornay would provide a vague, superficial “comfort” – and in that recognition, I realized that “comfort” is not a reason to want something or someone.

Intimacy is a reason to want someone. And from intimacy may come comfort; intimate relationships can also be comfortable. But comfortable relationships, if they even exist, I question if they ever become intimate. To become intimate you need to want to delve into another person and be willing to be stunned and shocked and even in pain. Intimacy is a trial.

I am fortunate in that the person I am dating recognizes this implicitly – it isn’t a challenge for her. She sees that relationships have challenges or trials, whereas for me, it surprised me, it surprises me because I often assume – when I am not looking at life closely or openly – that people and life generally sail across an even, steady arc.

In short, when I was asking myself what I would get from a relationship with Kettie, what she was offering me, it was this: she is offering me an understanding of what intimacy is. Through the experience of real, true intimacy. Not some cardboard cut out of something that appears to be a relationship but is just something comfortable. Am I up to the task of true intimacy? Can I believe in it more than the temptation of a shallow ease and comfort? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. But it is said that “God hates a coward.” I see it as a real thing, whereas the other option is not real, it is an illusion. I think I’d like to fight the illusion and find out what true intimacy really is.

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