As a psychologist, the key thing I learned is that we as individuals do not and cannot exist in a social vacuum. From the very first day of our life we discover ourselves and the world around us through continuous relationships with the people around us. Although we are born with a human body, our psyche at the time of birth presents an infinite potentiality. During infancy our inner self is shaped into a human form by our interaction with other human beings that take care of us. After all, once a human baby is introduced into a non-human family, such as a wolf pack, for example, the psyche of this child will take shape of a wolf. Human relationships are a vital part of us becoming human.
Social interconnectedness and interpersonal relationships is a basic human need. Our social relationships change shape as we progress through our lives. In time the new kind of relationships emerge – intimate relationships. Couples that come to my couples counseling practice in Beverly Hills and Valencia can attest to the importance of intimate relationships in adulthood. The purpose of intimate relationships is to fulfill the need of love and connection on the deepest possible level. The ideal intimate relationship is where the physical connection is accompanied by an emotional bond, a mental unison of values, beliefs, and goals, and by a spiritual sense of belonging and togetherness. The connection of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels create the ultimate sense of love, belonging, and interconnectedness. In marriage counseling and couples counseling psychotherapist focuses on realigning these four levels of relationships to strengthen the bond and enhance intimacy within the couple.
Our Western culture at times presents the initial infatuation, the falling in love, the initial crush as the actual love bond and the foundation of intimacy, relationships, and marriage. This could not be further from the truth. The younger Beverly Hills and Valencia couples I see in psychotherapy many times come with a sense of loss and disappointment, since the infatuation is no longer there. The infatuation phase is thrilling and fun, with lots of exciting anticipations and cravings. It is the initial impulse that pushes two people to get closer and focus their attention on each other. This could lead to a profound bond and relationships, however, there is one point that psychotherapist has to make clear in couples counseling as well as marriage counseling: the infatuation is neither sufficient nor necessary component in developing intimate relationships.
Infatuation, by definition, is grounded in fantasy with a strong component of denial. We idealize the object of our desire, almost purposefully ignoring anything that does not fit into the ideal image we created in our mind. Infatuation is a potent hallucinogenic, allowing us to twist and adjust our reality to sustain the ideal image of the person we desire, which in turn sustains the state of infatuation. This is fun, but it is not intimate relationships. At times psychologist and psychotherapist conducting couples counseling or marriage counseling is faced with the challenge of helping the couple understand the true nature of intimacy.
Intimate relationships and marriage in their ideal form are grounded in knowing, rather than denial. It takes time to get to know your lover, partner, and spouse. If we examine all the levels of connection we are hoping to experience in our intimacy, aka physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, it is only the physical bond that can be forged instantly. The emotional, mental, and spiritual connections take time to build. Working as a psychologist and psychotherapist in Beverly Hills and Valencia conducting marriage counseling taught me that time in and of itself is not enough. Getting to know your spouse also takes genuine desire to understand and to connect.
Spending time together, observing and interacting with each other in different situations and under different circumstances, sharing experiences, emotions, visions and goals create the sense of closeness, familiarity, and knowing. The true bond and deeper love lies in knowing each other’s shortcomings, rather than denying any imperfection. Through our awareness of each others faults we allow mutual acceptance to emerge. An expectation of perfection is substituted by a deeper understanding of each other’s humanness. The ideal fantasy is surrendered in favor of appreciation of who our spouse is. It is the understanding, acceptance, and appreciation that create the deeper bond.
Intimate relationships and marriage allow us to express our own nature and personality, observe ourselves, obtain a deeper understanding of our own beings, and grow from this insight. Marriage and relationships reveal sides of us that remain hidden from others and ourselves until triggered within the context of intimacy. Our relationships, once built solid and maintained regularly create a powerful foundation to our human existence. It is fortress that shelters us from a storm and the garden of eve, offering its ample and delicious fruits.