“Jon! So good to see you again man.” I said as I gave a hug to one of my Father’s best friends, and my mentor in areas of spiritual matters and finance. We stretched our legs, as we had both driven many miles to meet, and walked into the restaurant to grab a bite to eat and talk about life. He lives west of Seattle and I live south of Portland, so it took quite an effort to get together at a place somewhat in the middle on I-5, but we both look forward to our times together.
On this particular day, during the course of our typical conversation about family, business, faith and how we can encourage each other, we got to talking about intimacy. It likely came up because of my work with addiction and because I characterize addiction as an intimacy disorder – perhaps best defined as a low understanding and lack of capacity for engaging in emotionally close relationships. I’ll never forget this. He said, “I think that the intimacy problems our culture is experiencing is akin to the aids epidemic in Africa.” He went on to say, “Just as in some parts of Africa an entire generation has been lost, it seems to me that we are experiencing an entire generation at risk for not being able to initiate, build and maintain meaningful relationships.”
I have to say that for a number of reasons, I agree. Now, I don’t believe the sky is falling, but I do see some trends.
Reasons We are Less Capable of Intimacy
1 We avoid negative emotion. We are a quick fix culture; when it comes to negative emotions we use activities, our frenetic work habits, recreational drugs, alcohol, pornography, video games, prescription medications – a variety of anti-whatevers – to distract, escape or medicate our emotions.
2 Pornography. This reason itself is worthy of specific comment. Pornography distorts expectations of what relationships, particularly those with the opposite sex, are about and creates an objectification and self seeking attitude about being in a relationship.
3 Technological advances. We are more interconnected yet less connected than ever. We can text, tweet, post and link for hours a day yet never have a face to face conversation with someone. Never give or receive a hug or handshake. Ever notice how many people look at their cell phones to avoid making eye contact?
4 Family dysfunction and divorce is a growing problem. The fracturing of the family creates a bombshell of negative emotion that both parents and children seldom deal with adequately – this can create generational problems with intimacy. As children of divorce and/or dysfunction marry and have children, they perpetuate the problem.
Now you might be thinking, “Thanks Dr. Hosley, that was encouraging. (sarcasm noted).” Let me suggest a solution. Have a conversation with someone today and make it an honest, eye to eye, about something important, share an emotion conversation! You may not feel different right away, but if you do this every day, and stretch your comfort zone a little bit, you will start building intimacy in your life and with it reap a whole host of emotional, psychological and relational benefits. Do it! Even if you have to drive a bit to get together with someone who really gets you and can encourage you. You never know what can happen through a hug, conversation, and some good Mexican food.