I recently got naked with a lover. Not the physical kind. We actually never met in real life. But we had more intimacy than I’d had with some past lovers, which is proof that emotional nudity is way more revealing than the physical parts we keep hidden from most of the world.
I actually haven’t gotten physically naked with someone in over 6 months. It’s been a conscious choice. In the past, the physical always made feelings develop more quickly and perhaps inorganically. The oxytocin released during sex and physical connection isn’t real love — at least not for me.
Since January I’ve been on a quest to find real intimacy sans sex. I’m a physical person. You might call physical touch my top love language — or a close second next to words of affection (the writer in me can’t let words go, even in the bedroom).
My quest for non-physical intimacy was born from diving into the sheets before I dove deeply into the head and heart of the person I had a romantic sort of kinship with. Once those love hormones started firing, my judgment became poor. “Oh you hate your mother and you can barely communicate what you want for breakfast, let alone your feelings” observations went out the window after a good orgasm.
The man I recently got emotionally naked with lives hundreds of miles away. We toyed with the idea of meeting in person but in a coy sort of way. “I enjoy you this way,” he said to me one night. “I enjoy you this way too. It’s safe. It’s honest. It’s comfortable,” I said to him with a smile he couldn’t see on the other end of the phone.
“It’s just right for me right now,” he said with a hint of pain. “I’ve had such a physical focus on women I’ve dated that it’s distracted me from really knowing them on an emotional and intellectual level. I need this. I want this to be a constant for me. I’m scared it’s going to vanish if we meet in person.”
I was lying on a blanket in the grass as we talked, looking up at the clear night sky. After his words trailed off, I saw a shooting star.
“I saw a shooting star!” I said with childlike excitement.
“I wonder what that means?’ he echoed back with that same childlike energy. I think we both hoped it meant this was something meaningful.
We spoke for hours. We revealed our hearts. It was like sharing stories with a human journal. It was the kind of journal I always wished I’d had. The kind that reflected back in loving and sometimes challenging ways. It was the kind of journal that wouldn’t hang up on you unless your topic got too heavy and too intense for you, not for him.
I always felt refreshed after our conversations. He heard me in ways I’d never heard myself and reflected that back to me in supportive statements: That must have been so hard to go through that; Seems like you’ve had a lot of difficult relationship endings; Wow, no wonder it’s difficult for you to trust.
And he said the things I’ve always wanted a man to say: I’m feeling raw sharing this; Wow I just go really vulnerable with you, it feels uncomfortable, but I kind of like it — the feeling is so new for me; I feel like I can’t hide anything from you — I feel comfortable being honest and open and I love that.
He felt comfortable until he didn’t.
Maybe the writers in us jinxed it by talking about how great our connection was. He felt it was so great he had to write about how right it was. The night he wrote about all the ways our connection might be the connection he’d been seeking his whole life, I felt him pull away.
Was it self-sabotage? Why did he express that he was biting his nails all day because he thought I’d hate the article and never talk to him again?
After I read it, I texted him that I loved the article and I wasn’t scared. And then he changed the topic. Instead of savoring the moment with me, he used a distraction technique. Instead of being an authentic exchange, it all the sudden felt like a game. I’d made the wrong move and suddenly the flow between us felt choked. Our words became broken and misunderstood.
Did he want me to run?
I couldn’t. And I wouldn’t.
But I made the mistake of trying to get him to open up and share why he had closed down. Suddenly it felt like we’d slept together after all. Our banter went from sophisticated, intellectual musings to primal, simplistic utterings. I stuttered trying to express my words in a phone call until I gave up. Then there was a defensive text exchange.
We didn’t speak for almost a week, during which time I played and re-played the conversations in my head. What went wrong? What shifted? The questions were nonstop.
Then I went to a yoga class and something inside of me just let go.
With one heaving sigh of breath, I released my expectations of him. Who knows why he responded that way. It wasn’t up to my psychoanalytical self to figure it out. The realization that I didn’t need to exhaust myself by doing someone else’s work for them set me free.
Instead, I turned my awareness back inside, where it needed to be.
What was going on with me?
I felt hurt. I got really emotionally naked with a man who’d never even laid eyes on my physical body. I shared many parts of my story. I spent many hours of my life engaging in soulful dialogue. I had the expectation that our connection would lead to something. Maybe long-time friendship. Maybe a romantic partnership. Maybe as ongoing writing muses. I didn’t entertain that our connection might be for a reason or a season.
A friend asked: Did I really and truly give up a part of myself in my emotional connection with this man?
I thought deeply about that question. At first, it felt like I had. I felt like my story is sacred and only to be shared with people that I trust. Then I thought about my writing. I don’t know many of you that may read this post, but I share my story anyway.
I share my story because I feel a yearning, burning mission to do so.
I share it because I know that it may touch someone who needs it at just the right time. I share my story because I know that something will be received by each reader, even if it’s just a fleeting thought or an inkling or a hmm moment. I share my story as a form of connection. Sharing my story is an energy exchange. I give a bit of me as a writer; you give me a bit of you as a reader.
My writer self realized instead of giving something up to this man, I gained something from our exchange. I gained a deeper connection with another human. I gained hours and hours of meaningful exchange looking up at the stars (and we saw three shooting stars between us!). I gained a new perspective on my story. I received deep healing from sharing parts of my story.
My hurt at the abrupt shift in our interactions stemmed from the expectations I put upon him. I liked things the way they were. I wanted them to remain the same. Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?
The human in me knows this is the dance. The trial and error — can I trust you dance. I feel comfortable with another human, so I start to undress a bit; I open myself up a bit more. And if they’re receptive, I strip off another layer. And then another. And then another. But when they shut down, I scramble for my clothes. I want to take it all back. I want to hide behind my protective layers again. But I can’t.
And it’s okay that I can’t.
They’ve seen me naked. They know what my emotional body looks like. Do I really need to cover it up just because I’m feeling reactive? If I feel like I do, that’s okay. I’ve gotta meet myself where I’m at with compassion.
I’m still trying to untangle my clothes and run for cover from this man. And that’s okay. That’s where I’m at. Perhaps the shooting star truly was a symbol of us: romantic, fleeting, and meaningful.
I’m not scared to get emotionally naked with another human again. I’m not scared to meet another shooting star.
In the end, human connection is what matters the most. When my naked body turns to dust, the connections I’ve made on this planet will keep me alive. I’m honored to think another human has gotten emotionally naked with me.
I hope to have many more opportunities to get emotionally naked with no regrets.
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This post previously published in P.S., I Love You and is republished with the author’s permission.
Photo courtesy iStock Photo.