My friend wrote a tweet a couple days ago that really struck me:
vulnerability x time = intimacy
I wanted to hear more on the matter, so he sent me this:
Just my thoughts…
So, vulnerability x time = intimacy
Intimacy is born out of vulnerability. A person needs to allow themselves to be seen before they can cultivate anything real with someone else. The degree to which we do this is the degree to which we get intimate with another person. Unfortunately, many in our world (particularly in our generation) think of intimacy as solely physical. I don’t. It’s emotional, mental and spiritual before it’s ever physical. When we’re invested in ego, invested in reputation, invested in power and status… rather than invested in allowing ourselves to be seen as we really are — complete with chipped paint and all the requisite chinks in the armour — we sabotage our relationships. Many of my “close friendships” over the years could’ve very well grown and fluorished into a connection of the romantic sort… but in at least two or three cases, I made an executive decision and placed the woman on the bench… on account of her inability (more so, unwillingness) to be vulnerable.
Now all this is under the assumption that one has the time to achieve this. One of the things I’ve been reminded of since returning here [Ghana] is that intimacy comes quickly for me. Whether the relationship we have is platonic or not, I often get deep on the first or second question of the conversation. I’ve had people joke about how excruciating times with me can be… but also, how they end up being genuine, authentic and refreshing once they clear the hurdle of being reluctant about vulnerability. Most “normal” people take time to get “deep” however. It’s a gradual process. Even in long-standing friendships, when people have been apart for a very long time, once they reconnect, they’re usually slow to get back to the same level of intimacy. So a person has to be patient (to a degree) and wait for enough time to pass that a person can develop trust and confidence in the relationship… and feel comfortable opening up.
Now, some people are able to speed up this process. Particular demeanors, personalities and dispositions lend to this. Similarly, if you’re the opposite of these (cold, frigid, intimidating, arrogant) then you’ll cause people to clam up. So the speed can be varied.
But intimacy can’t be had without vulnerability.
And in most cases, vulnerability can’t be had without time.
Some people spend “years” in a relationship, but have no intimacy with their partner… because they spent those years putting up fronts and/or interacting on a functional level — “how was your day?” “who’s going to pick up the kids today?” “what’s your ePack fund looking like?” — rather than a vulnerable level — “what are your hopes? dreams? fears? what about yourself gives you pause? why does that quality in that person irk you so much?” etc…
So lessons I’ve had to re-learn since getting back to Ghana: intimacy is a lifeblood for me, and relationships are (more often than not) personally useless to me without it; vulnerability requires putting in the time, rather than expecting things instantly; the more the tendency to front, the weaker the connections between people will be. This is true at work, church, home, etc.
Hope that gives you an overview of where my mind was when I came up with the equation?
Eli just moved back to Ghana after being the US for some time. Apart from being my big brother and designated life coach :), Eli is also editor-at-large of Dust Magazine, follow him on twitter: @elidot
I’ll be responding to his thoughts in Part 2 of Vulnerability x Time = Intimacy. Stay tuned.