Everyone can fall in love, but not everyone can stay in love. Falling in love is easy. It does not require emotional strength. Falling in love is getting high on someone else. It’s like popping a pill. Falling in love is selfish because I am using you to make me feel good. Falling in love is like fireworks that for a moment burst into exotic colorful patterns but quickly burn out and disintegrate in the darkness of the night sky. It has no permanence.
To stay in love one must have the capacity to be intimate and intimacy requires great emotional strength. Intimacy is about connecting at the emotional and spiritual core of one’s being with the emotional and spiritual core of another’s being. A person with a weak emotional core will likely become overwhelmed by the intense feelings that are evoked by this type of relational experience and feel a need to retreat and disconnect for the sake of self-preservation.
Here are 20 questions to evaluate your intimacy potential.
Score each question on a scale of 1 (this is not true about me) to 5 (this is very true about me):
1. I am not afraid to tell people how I really feel and be vulnerable
2. I can express my needs without fear if being rejected or shamed
3. I am not afraid of being abandoned
4. I am not afraid of being engulfed or smothered by another person.
5. I am not a people pleaser nor do I need other people’s approval to validate my self-worth.
6. I like who I am and know I am lovable.
7. I am a good listener and respect other people’s feelings
8. I don’t have any shameful secrets to hide
9. I am able to be myself no matter who I’m with.
10. I am not threatened by others being different than me and truly desire that others be their unique self.
11. I am confident and can handle criticism reasonably well.
12. I accept myself with all my limitations, weaknesses, and character flaws
13. I am a team player and a good problem solver who strives for win-win solutions.
14. I like shooting straight and don’t play games
15. I enjoy giving pleasure to others and am not afraid of losing myself
16. I am able to respect and love people even when I disagree with them.
17. I am not afraid of my feelings and am capable of experiencing a wide range of feelings without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.
18. I am generally able to accept the bad along with the good aspects of people and do not split people into being all good or all bad.
19. I tend to remain pretty calm even under stress.
20. When someone disappoints or hurts me, I am open about my pain.
This is not meant to be seen as a scientific test. It is meant to give you some guidelines for learning more about yourself and help you become more aware of some of the essential elements necessary for building and maintaining a mature, intimate relationship over the long run. What may be most useful is to take note of the questions you scored very low on and use this as an opportunity to become more curious about that issue and what it says about you. I suggest that you think about how this issue may have interfered with your having satisfying relationships in the past or present.
6 Ways to Strengthen your Intimacy Potential
1. Identify your greatest fear of being in a long-term committed relationship and get the help you need to come to terms with this fear. Until it is resolved, it is likely that this fear will prevent you from ever getting into a truly intimate relationship.
2. Judaism’s definition of love is the pleasure we get when we identify someone with their virtues and accept them with their faults. Start practicing loving people you don’t particularly like. The challenge of loving someone is to be able to experience him or her as a whole person without splitting the person into being either all good or all bad. Idealizing someone as all good or demonizing someone as all bad will never lead to an authentic experience of love.
3. Practice being more emotionally open, honest, and vulnerable with people that you feel safe with, like family members and friends. Push yourself when you feel like withholding your feelings or opinions to express them. Then begin to practice with people you may not know as well and don’t feel as safe with.
4. If you tend to be a people-pleaser, practice saying “no” more often when that’s what you really want to say. Learn to tolerate the anxiety associated with saying no.
5. When on a date make a conscious decision that you will not play games or allow the other person to play games. If you feel the person you’re dating is not shooting straight, call him or her on it. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. Share how you feel in an assertive not aggressive way and try to have a conversation about your concern. You want the person to know that your goal is to get to know him or her better and that playing games will only hinder movement towards this goal. This exercise will also help to improve your communication and problem solving skills.
6. Practice being a better listener, which means truly hearing what the other person says without reactivity, criticism, or giving your opinion on what he or she said. Just listen! Listening is a necessary skill for building true intimacy.