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Excerpted from The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Goldhor Lerner. Copyright 1989 by Harriet Goldhor Lerner. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"And as my poem illustrates, intense togetherness can easily flip into intense distance - or intense conflict, for that matter."

Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Intimacy, Part 2

Nor is intimacy the same as intensity, although we are a culture that confuses these two words. Intense feelings - no matter how positive - are hardly a measure of true and enduring closeness. In fact, intense feelings may block us from taking a careful and objective look at the dance we are doing with significant people in our lives. And as my poem illustrates, intense togetherness can easily flip into intense distance - or intense conflict, for that matter.

Finally, the challenge of intimacy is by no means limited to the subject of men, marriage, or romantic encounters, although some of us, may equate "intimacy" I with images of blissful heterosexual pairings. A primary commitment to a man reflects only one opportunity for intimacy in a world that is rich with possibilities for connectedness and attachment.

Whatever your own definition of intimacy, this book is de-signed to challenge and enlarge it. It will not teach you things to do to make him (or her) admire you. It does not provide guidelines for a love-in. It is not even about feeling close in the usual and immediate sense of the word. And certainly it is not about changing the other person, which is not possible. Instead, it is a book about making responsible and lasting changes that enhance our capacity for genuine closeness over the long haul.

Toward Defining Our Terms

Let's attempt a working definition of an intimate relationship. What does it require of us?

For starters, intimacy means that we can be who we are in a relationship, and allow the other person to do the same. "Being who we are" requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship.  "Allowing the other person to do the same" means that we can stay emotionally connected to that other party who thinks, feels, and believes differently, with-out needing to change, convince, or fix the other.

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