Advice columnist Carolyn Hax on Intimacy Today

When it comes to intimacy, are we facing different
issues today?

The need for intimacy is as old as humanity, and the loneliness
from not getting intimacy will be as old as humanity, too. I don’t
think that any generation is going to come up with the magic
solution to fear. But the fact that people are beginning to see
intimacy not as a weakness but as a normal need will, I hope, lead
to more fulfillment.

What is your take on the recent trend of cuddle
parties, which seem to give intimacy priority over
sex?

They make me think of the key parties of the ’70s, which
deliberately played up sex. We like to surprise ourselves with
little fads, but, again, our basic human urges are the same. In the
’70s, we were just beginning to admit, ‘Okay, we have sexual
urges.’ So some people on the cutting edge said, ‘Let’s put our
sexual urges onto a party invitation and have this party.’ We’ve
also always had intimacy urges and the need to be physical without
having sex. We all need to be touched. Now somebody on the cutting
edge is putting that on a party invitation.

What are the most common roadblocks to intimacy that
you see?

People are afraid to make themselves vulnerable. That’s the one
requirement of intimacy and that’s the thing that scares the hell
out of people.

What is the fate of traditional marriage, and what
effect does that have on intimacy?

If people are detaching their expectations from a traditional
bond, that’s a good thing. So many people go into marriage
expecting intimacy when, in fact, it’s only a legal state. If you
haven’t established the intimacy, no marriage is going to get it
for you. Of course, I just heard a traditionalist faint.

On the other side of it, if you’re just saying ‘Marriage isn’t
the answer, cuddle parties are,’ then you’re going to be just as
miserable as if you were married. If you haven’t made the
fundamental change inside you, you’re never going to find it. You
can be married and horribly lonely or you can be unmarried with
your best friend and happily intimate. As long as there’s been a
need for closeness, people have been finding closeness — wherever
it’s presented itself.

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