The Five Areas of Intimacy: Spiritual


The fifth and final area of intimacy from Terry Real's work is spiritual: "The sharing of a spiritual life, however defined. Supporting each other's sense of purpose and meaning. Support for each other's devotion to a larger force (i.e., religious, artistic, social) beyond oneself."

When I broach this area of intimacy with couples it is not uncommon to hear something like, "He is a lapsed Catholic, I am agnostic, and my mother-in-law, a devout Catholic, gives us the guilt-trip for not going to Mass every week."

We all have a relationship to the ultimate. And that relationship is as personal and unique to us as our DNA. It is an area we want to share with our partner but only on our terms. Sometime we are spiritually close to our partner, two Lutherans cut from the same spiritual cloth. Other times we can be universes apart.

A book I recommend to any couple is Alain de Botton's The Course of Love. It is replete with wisdom and advice, but what I highlight, bold, fold the page, and bookmark is the page that says: “The partner truly best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and grace.” 

So valuable in every aspect of a relationship, navigating differences is invaluable and necessary to spiritual intimacy. We all, of course, want our partner to share our spiritual journey, but the best, strongest--able to withstand any force majeure--is the spiritual intimacy rooted in negotiation of differences.

So two happy Lutherans is amazing and uplifting, but a happy Lutheran and happy agnostic is even more so. How can people so different navigate these differences? It means they have successfully done what is hardest for all of us: to put me second and you first while at the same time staying me. And that movement is done not only by me but also by you, my partner. It is hard to do, but is that not what true spirituality is, putting yourself second to the ultimate? 

Begin again,

{Image courtesy of Joshua Earle.}