The Three Levels of Intimacy

Paul Dobransky MD's picture
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The Three Levels of Intimacy

It's something so subtle that most men don't know it's there, but it's top of mind and of highest concern to women: the "intimacy" part of physical intimacy. Men would generally rather ponder the aspects of the "physical" part of course, but some attention to what's going on between the ears would pay off enormously in your ways of getting closer to women through a physical connection.

Most men know about the first hurdle to jump in getting physical - the fear of even initiating it in the first place. Which explains how crystal clear it was the other night - when coaching a woman on her early dating process - that many women don't even know how much easier they can make it for a man just by giving him inviting body language, if not being the outright initiators of contact. The woman was fun and had a nice smile, but used body postures and position (such as having several chairs between her and men) that would make it difficult if not impossible to get to that all-important first bar to cross.

Those of you who are familiar with the Masculine Intelligence® WIth Women (Omega Male Program) already know that there is an absolute requirement for you to do at the second step of Sexual Attraction that we cover. There comes a time where the woman's brain absolutely expects you to initiate physical touch. If it doesn't happen, then she feels as if something is wrong on an unconscious level. She intuitively distances herself to a physical and mental place that one could say (at the very least) is unromantic.

Most men have experienced this process gone wrong. Admittedly or not, a man feels a powerlessness in the amount of interest, energy and time that he has already invested in the woman. In short, it had a lot of potential for romance, but alas, "I did something wrong."  Or in this case, the man failed "to do something right."

It's understandable. Rightfully, we are educated in workplaces (where we spend the most time) to not make any physical contact with those we are friendly with, let alone strangers.  We often forget that in fact, new people we meet in our social lives are in fact, essentially strangers, even when there is a romantic potential. Otherwise, we already call them a friend, not a lover. Still, for the man who has a hard time switching hats between the workplace and the romantic life - it will someday fall on him to recognize that an available woman romantically interested in him, the failure to connect physically is terribly disappointing.

In fact, unknown to you, your admirer might go off wondering what could be wrong with her.


Levels of Psychological Intimacy

While you like the physical in physical intimacy (and she does too), a woman's sense of being both safe and desired needs to also have the stress placed first on the intimacy part of the experience.

One of the connections between two of our courses - the miWomen (Omega Male Program), and the MindOS Mastery Program on general personal growth - is that it is our "personal boundary which is involved whenever there is a physical connection between people, a deep sharing of thoughts or emotions, or on the flipside - any lowered sense of safety, invasion of privacy, or otherwise insult, offensiveness, conflict or disagreement. All the things you might worry about as a man in terms of "how the woman will view me" after trying to first place your arm around her in the movie theater have everything to do with both of your qualities of the personal boundary, and how they interact.

When there is a mismatch in the maturity level of the couple's boundaries, or one person tries for a higher level of intimacy before the other is anywhere near ready - that's where all the confusion, miscommunication, false assumptions and rapid dissolving of the spirit of passion come from.

It will then serve you well to learn about the three levels involved with our Personal Boundaries when it comes to progressing forward romantically with a woman.


Do Talk To Strangers - The Power of Projection

The most impassioned, powerful time of a physical interaction with a woman is early on in dating, when you don't even know each other as more than strangers. Ironically, it is also the most fickle, fragile, and potentially confusing time - one of missteps and miscommunication because it is so much about the physicality of the body and less about conversation.

There is a reason for all of this, and for why it can be so enticing for men and women to indulge in everything from that romantic firts kiss on one end of the specturm, all the way up to a one-night stand on the other:

It's called Projection.

If you could imagine that your personal boundary is like a circle around you and the woman's is a circle around her. Then imagine a small hole carved in this circle. Inside each of you there is a wealth of life's happiest and satisfying moments of pleasure, as well as the big disappointments.

Now imagine those personal boundaries - those circles - being of quite a distance from each other. You might imagine it difficult to "send a message" to the other person that's both clear and accurate. You might see plenty of room for confusion simply because you are so very "far away" from each other psychologically.

There's a great deal of "missing information" about the nature and background of the other person, their personality style and life's story. Much of it is a question mark, and frankly, that's a good thing, since it is this missing information which allows us the experience of idealizing the other person - that "magic" of falling in love which psychologists call limerance.

Enter, Projection, a special survival skill that the brain naturally gives us.

Imagine what it would be like if you were to walk around always having to be worried about whether with each step there would still be ground under your feet. What would that be like? Maddening, right?  You would literally have to spend all day every day calculating the chances of danger to yourself with each step you take. You wouldn't be able to focus on anything else really, or plan for other useful things about your future. It would always be about the mundane concerns in the simple act of walking.

Luckily, we don't have to do that. Our brains do something miraculous for us instead of all that. They take past information about our history of walking, and basically fill in the missing parts of the story about the walk we are taking today, informing us that yes, floors and sidewalks are generally safe and can be counted on.  Our brains are storytellers which fill in the gaps of half-complete stories.

How about another example?  What would you call this shape below?

If you said a "circle," as my brain does too, I wouldn't fault you. But the fact of the matter is that it is only a broken line. Not a circle. A circle is a solid shape as below:

This is how projection works - it is your brain filling in the gaps in an otherwise incomplete story and the way it does that is through use of your own past history - positive or negative...

So you may literally see how this works now - Projection is a double-edged sword when it comes to starting out with strangers, and seeking to get to know them better.  The positive side is dealing with a positive person with a positive life's experience, who then "fills in the gaps" in the story of who you are with idealized positivity. (In fact, in a romance, this limerance or "falling in love" sees her project an actual ideal man onto you!) The down-side is very dark indeed - it is a negative person with a tragically negative life's history, projecting negative, derogatory information from her own past onto you to complete the story of "who you are."

This concept is heavily covered in the Omega Male Program on attracting and dating women, and covered in general for other areas of life in the MindOS Mastery Program - friends, business contacts, coworkers, family and others.

Its usefulness is so immense that it gives you predictive, "instant reads" on women - because in many cases, when what the woman says or thinks about you in speculation says far more about her past than about you.

Fair's fair though, and the point here is that when you get started in getting to know a woman you've just met, you will most certainly need to contend with projection, both positive hopefully, and negative at times. Don't feel hurt if she labels you something negative. It really is just her.

Maybe that knowledge alone could help you get over some of your fears of approaching them.


Best Friends, Hopefully Not Forever - The Power of "Being Voluntary"

If we have gotten over the hurdle of being strangers as far as the mindset of physical intimacy, it's time to wonder about something more in terms of boundaries.

Maybe you've been on a few dates now and actually had some chance to have deep conversations. Maybe you've been together for awhile and it's time to think about whether to call yourselves boyfriend and girlfriend (though certainly not man and wife yet.)

But maybe you are still on the first meeting or date. Being idealized, and projecting idealizations and fantasies are great, but you reach a certain point with women where you are allowed courteous, diplomatic touch, but no more.

Not without a sense of friendship or friendliness at the very least.

It's worth underlining in bold here what you likely already know: that women are the final word and decision-makers on whether physical intimacy of any kind will occur, and how far it will go. It's just worth stating and remembering. It falls on you to offer connection - a handshake, a brush of the shoulder, even a high five, a hug - but it is likely she will refuse anything further if she does not feel safe, content, interested, attracted and friendly with you.

But that's the beauty of seeing how these boundaries work hand in hand with physical intimacy.

Imagine that you have had a chance to really connect, to talk, to clarify, to dispel misconceptions, to correct the stories that you make up about each other.

Your boundaries come "closer in psychological space" so to speak. Which is to say that your stories about each other are more matching, accurate, and you "get each other."

If you look at this diagram closely you'll see that one of the psychological resources contained in our boundaries are Emotional Energy (which if positive, is called Self-Esteem) and whose action in its use is called Love, the core feature of friendship.

Alongside this you see another psychological resource - our ideas, or history, or story - who we are and what we think - our opinions and beliefs. Notice this communication has become very accurate, with very little chance for Projection, because we are so close - we are intimate - a "meeting of the minds."  We "get each other."

This is a man and woman who have started to become friends (not just lovers), and we could say that there is the beginnings of not just "falling in love" (which is closer to desire than love), while this above, is a couple that "loves each other."

A woman needs a sense of this, a promise of this and evidence of this to advance much further into physical intimacy. And I don't mean a marriage proposal. I mean some evidence that the connection is not dangerous, or sordid in a demeaning way, or trashy, shameful and the like. In other words it means that she is special to the man in his eyes. It is genuine and honest, and the boundaries of friendship help to guarantee this is true - with the accurate communication, expression of who we are, and the good emotions we send toward each other.

While it is much too long a discussion for here, there are more diagrams than you can possibly handle in the MindOS Mastery Program on personal growth and boundary maturity, and even moreso is it relevant here in the KWML Mastery Program on personality styles.


Because in the end, the thing that makes us BEST friends is a good match of complementary personality styles.

The sheer power of friendships also rests in the fact that the boundaries are touching, abutting each other in which either person can in fact back off. It is purely voluntary when we make friendships - all of your options are preserved here, which is part of what makes it so enticing for men to "just date."

None of their resources are tied up in a commitment yet.


Unstoppable Teammates - The Power of Shared Reality and True Privacy

The issue of escalating your physical intimacy with a woman "all the way" to the highest level (and the mindset that goes with it in terms of boundaries) is one which widely varies by lifestyle, culture, locality, maturity, personality, religious views, and just plain personal preference.

By now though, you ought to have done enough detective work to figure out what kind of person she is and vice versa.

If you were going to consider what the mindset difference is between "heavy petting" and going to bed together, you might consider some slightly more serious issues - STDs and pregnancy as possibilities which are definitely on her mind too.

Notice that in these "serious issues" there is something that gets "shared" and then becomes a major responsibility for both parties.  A shared control, shared ownership, and shared responsibility.

On the positive side, if you were talking about sharing something positive with a woman that becomes shared - a child, a house, marriage and the like - that all began with a big decision.

Decisions are the last psychological resource that we talk about in the MindOS Mastery Program.

Once a couple starts making joint decisions that impact their lives, even as small a thing as going on a vacation together, they have a measure of Commitment.  They are partners now, at least for a time.

This is the great reward to the woman's unconscious - the thing she has dreamt of since childhood - the wedding, the ring, safe in the arms of a man just like Dad. Depending on the woman's beliefs, she may prefer saving sex itself for marriage, or at the very least, expect and need more than just friendship - that wonderful, fully voluntary thing.  She will want clues of enduring commitment from the man - that he is reliable and that she can count on him. This process of courtship working itself out is all covered in the Omega in a way that makes sense how it evolved: if a woman were to become pregnant in ancient times, she would need assistance and protection in raising the child.

Here, the boundaries on intimacy do something very interesting. They cross.

So when you have started making joint decisions with a woman, including that to have sex or get to the highest physical intimacy, you do have some shared responsibility - that's what you see in the center of the diagram. It's going to be an expectation that goes along with this that you are reliable, can be counted on, and explains why Comedian Chris Rock can say that "Once men get to a certain level sexually, they start to always expect it to be that way - all the crazy stuff. But once women get to a certain level of income, they are always going to expect that too. Let up a bit and you're gone."

This is the commitment level of intimacy - beyond friends, you are actually partners responsible for each other on a team of sorts.

Notice that the amount of personal privacy is actually larger than the area of shared responsibility and ownership. Take heart in this, because it's a clue to you as a man that if you are overtaken in your privacy, denied it, interfered with, especially int he area of career, you may be getting into a codependent relationship where the privacy is minimal and the shared involvement completely dominates.

On the flipside you can see that a couple who has all privacy and not much shared doesn't have much of a chance either - including for a robust, intimate sex life. They have too cold a relationship and too weak a partnership for that.

So you can strike a balance as a man: know a woman to the core, but no further, and always have just a bit more you to you - more privacy than what is shared... just a little... it's the perfect ratio for a stable relationship.

There is much said about men being "commitment phobes," and I don't think that's fair or at all true. All people commit to something that is clearly a benefit to them, and brings pleasure, love, friendship, joy, happiness, and goes smoothly and without drama...

...because of the level of communication, collaboration and compromise the couple is capable of.

Lucky for us, the brain takes care of all this by having us walk through all the steps of courtship together.

These are the very same steps we cover in person, live, in class and out on the town when we teach our Men's Psychology Expeditions.

Be sure to check out our next one in a few weeks.