By Manis Friedman

I think we can all agree that in our world today, in the "free" world certainly, there is an intimacy crisis. We have a problem with intimacy. We're afraid of intimacy, yet we agonize over the lack of it. What better indication of this than our use of euphemisms to describe what should be very intimate relationships.

It used to be that "dating" described intimate relationships. But we don't call it "dating" anymore. That sounds too much like something out of a geology class. "I am dating Lucy."

So then it became "going out." Remember when people used to go out? Again, that was often used to describe an intimate relationship. Everybody was "going out."

The ultimate euphemism is the one in vogue today. Today, intimate relationships are "seeing someone." It's part of casual conversation: "Are you seeing anyone?" "I'm seeing someone..." One of these days, somebody's going to say to me, "I'm seeing a very, very nice woman," and I'm going to say, "Can I see her too?"

Why the euphemisms? Probably because if you identify the relationship as an attachment, if you consider this a commitment, if you think of this as an investment of yourself in a relationship and then the relationship ends, it will hurt too much. You will have to say to yourself, "This relationship fell apart." And that's too painful, so instead, what you say is, "Oh, I'm seeing someone." Should this not work out — "Okay, so I'm not seeing him." It sounds a lot less painful. So we put this buffer around our relationship to keep a distance, to prevent it from becoming too painfully intimate.

Now obviously, intimacy implies vulnerability. If you're going to be intimate, you're going to allow someone to see parts of yourself that you'd rather not have people see. You're going to allow someone into that part of your existence, into that part of your mind and heart that you yourself are not exactly comfortable with. And you don't know how the other person is going to treat it. And you don't know how it's going to feel to have someone else scrutinize that part of you that you're a bit ashamed of. But that is the whole meaning of a relationship.

The whole idea of a relationship is that we stop being alone. And the only way you stop being alone is if all of you, particularly that part of your self that you're sensitive about, is no longer alone. If you can share that with another person, you have ended your loneliness. As long as that part of you is still alone, then you're alone. Intimacy is supposed to be the antidote to loneliness, and I think it would be safe to say that with all of our social skills and with all of our partying, we are basically a lonely people.

Intimacy means that you become attached. You become joined. You belong together. There are difficulties. There is embarrassment. But it's a shared embarrassment. Whatever happens after that connection takes place, it's shared. It brings you closer together, not further apart. Intimacy means loyalty. Loyalty to an identity. If we run away from the identity, then we're ruining the relationship. We're undoing what is most precious to us.

If we abandon that sense of identification, the next thing that begins to suffer is our sexuality. For most human beings, at some stage in life, sexuality cannot and will not exist without intimacy. Rarely do you find a human being who prefers to separate the two. Certainly a sensitive human being cannot separate them.

Sexuality, properly understood, is connected to intimacy. Intimacy means that you put aside this fear of exposure, that you overcome this resistance to being known, and you allow a person into that part of your life that is maybe not so comfortable. Then maybe you have entered into an intimacy.