The Intimacy Dance

The Intimacy Dance

One minute the little six-year-old girl at our Children’s Village was giving me a hug. Moments later, she gave me a punch in the belly and challenged me to beat her in a race.

“Shauna” was acting out, in her own childlike way, the dance of intimacy. She wanted, to be close to someone she could trust. At the same time, she needed distance.

The spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, writes about the balance we all try to keep in our lives between closeness and distance. “ A perfect balance seldom occurs, but the honest and open search for that balance can give birth to a beautiful dance.”

Haven’t you found this to be true in your own life? We go through periods where we yearn to be close to a spouse or good friend but we no sooner seek that kind of intimacy when we back off. Wait a second. I’m revealing too much. I’m becoming too vulnerable.

In male-female relationships, it’s usually the guy who gets blamed for getting close then running away. But, my women friends tell me, that the female of the species battle the same demons. As many brides as bridegrooms have fled the altar as the time comes to make that life-long commitment. It’s our humanity rather than our gender that makes us teeter precariously between the need for intimacy and our fear of it.

I recall vividly how my late wife and I went through our own dance. Both divorced and wounded by spouses who had rejected us after long first marriages, Kathleen and I were both scared to get married again. First, I would be the one to back off from commitment. Then Kathleen would withdraw. Neither of us wanted to be hurt again. So we danced and danced some more until we finally knew that our yearning for love was stronger than our fear of intimacy. We took the plunge and our only regret was that we did not do it sooner.

I think there is good reason for us to have difficulty reaching the middle ground between our need for closeness and our equally human need to be separate. I like the words of Kahil Gibran describing the relationship between a husband and his wife. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” he says. “Stand together, yet not too near together. The oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” Couples who smother one another individuality in too much togetherness might ponder his words. So too may couples who live together under one roof but lead separate lives. That tension between apartness and togetherness is a part of our human condition.

In the end, we stand-alone before our God. We need to acknowledge that inviolable part of ourselves and hold it sacred. I can love you but can never BE you.; nor can you be me. At the same time, we hunger for the other. We need to love and be loved, more than wealth, more than status, more than power. We connect with one another or we perish.

Ah, the devil is in finding the balance isn’t it? Little Shauna showed she is already beginning that life-long search when she gave grandpa her own version of a “hug and run.” Leave it to a child to express one of life’s great mysteries with style. Good luck sweetheart. May your search, one day, “give birth to a beautiful dance.”