One of the keys to more intimacy in your relationships and your life is to be open to the other people in your life.
In Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the seven habits is to “seek first to understand and then be understood.”
We think this is a great principle and we have recommended this idea to many people.
We also think that when it comes to the idea of creating more intimacy in your relationships, there is another “first” idea that we think you’ll find to be equally important.
It’s called “open first.”
What do we mean by “open first” and how can you use this idea to create better communication and deeper intimacy in your relationships and lives?
In every relationship, one person always has to be the initiator in every situation.
One person is always the initiator of asking for the first date, the first kiss, and to suggest an activity or choose a restaurant. One person has to be the one to ask the other to marry them or to at least suggest it. Even if both people want the same thing, one person is always first.
So if one of the keys to more intimacy and deeper intimacy in your relationship is to open, then be the initiator and open first if you want to create something greater than you are experiencing right now. If it’s a new relationship and you’d like to go deeper with this person, then open first.
If you’re in a long-term relationship or marriage, and you would like to feel closer and more connected, one of the keys to more intimacy is opening. If you’re not sure whether your partner will open to you first, go ahead and do it yourself. Open first. It’s sort of like walking into a building–one person has to be the first to go in.
This can also be a little bit like sticking a toe in the water. When you go into the ocean in the off-season, as we did during our recent vacation, to see whether you want to put your whole body in, you usually just stick a toe in as we did.
When you do this, you are seeing how much you can open to going into the ocean with your whole body. In the case of our recent visit to Folly Beach, the ocean was too cold to go in very far.
It’s the same way when you are in a relationship with another person. One person has to be the first person to stick his/her toe in the water–and then invite the other person to come in.
In relationship, if you are the first to be warm, open and inviting, then the other person you are in relationship with will likely join you and open as well.
You might be saying well that’s all well and good but what if the other person ignores me? Where do I start?
A typical scenario might go something like this…
“I just want my husband to open to me. He comes home sits down in front of the tv and doesn’t move until bedtime. What can I do?”
“My wife talks on the phone for hours with her sister but she rarely even looks at me when I talk with her. What can I do to get closer to her?
In both of these cases, the place to start if you want more intimacy is not to wait on your partner to open. You open first.
We suggest that you start revealing feelings, not from a place of blame or judgment or complaining but from a place of revealing who you truly are.
You can ask for attention from a place of wanting to connect deeper rather than taking an opportunity to chastise the other person.
When there is a disconnection and you want more connection, one person has to make the decision to open first. There has to be a softening and an opening of space between the two people so that healing, connection and understanding can happen.
Does that mean that you have to be a doormat and always cave in to the other person?
Softening and opening means simply pulling yourself away from blame, righteousness, or punishing. It means stopping the mental chatter and stories and allowing love to live between the two of you.
One of the important aspects of “opening first” is learning to receive love as well as to give it. Don’t confuse giving love and kindness or “doing” with true intimacy. True intimacy asks that you learn to receive love, connection and intimacy as well as to give it–and that might be very hard for people who show love by “doing.”
If you think about this idea of opening first–what we’re really saying is be proactive instead of passive in creating more
of what you want for your relationship.
A question to ask yourself this week is this…
If there is ANY place in any relationship where there is a problem, challenge or distance, how can I open first to connection and intimacy, either to give or receive love?