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May 22, 2015

Emotional Intimacy and Dating: What You Need to Know

It is a mystery and a miracle how two people ever get together and stay together. Why is real and lasting love so hard to find?

Perhaps it has something to do with how we handle emotional intimacy, that is, how comfortable we are with getting close to another person—or not.

Hopefully, as we progress through the stages of a relationship, our conversations go deeper and lead to increasing feelings of closeness. When we go from the level of a stranger to an acquaintance, from a friend to a close friend, and then into a dating relationship, we say and do different things. We get more emotionally attached.

Or do we?

I’ve learned that just because we are near someone in proximity—just because we spend time together—doesn’t always mean we’ve grown closer in familiarity and friendship. Sure, it takes time to build trust with another person. And, yes, we need to be watchful of how attached we get to someone (and keep the emotional and physical levels of intimacy appropriate for a dating relationship).

But what happens when a guy is too afraid of getting rejected that he never takes the chance to ask a girl out?

What happens when a woman doesn’t want to share her true self or her past—because she’s afraid he will breakup with her?

What happens when a couple has been dating for months or years, and one of them wants to get engaged and the other keeps putting on the brakes?

Nothing happens.

And both people end up frustrated and alone, when what they really want is peace and connection.

Donald Miller has known his share of heartaches. In fact, the New York Times bestselling author writes about his dating foibles and life blunders in most of his books.

After too many epic fails in relationships, he realized something had to change.

His new book, Scary Close (Thomas Nelson) relates his personal journey out of loneliness and into true love. In it, he tells how he learned to move beyond his pretense and showiness when he made a key decision: to be himself—no matter what.

 Here’s what Donald Miller says:

“Somebody once told me we will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.

When I heard that I knew it was true. I’d spent a good bit of my life as an actor, getting people to clap—but the applause only made me want more applause. I didn’t act in a theater or anything. I’m talking about real life.

The thought of not acting pressed on me like a terror. Can we really trust people to love us just as we are?”

Yes, we need to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We need to have healthy boundaries in emotional and physical aspects while we are dating. But, we also need to learn to grow closer to others in healthy ways, not hide and stay isolated or put on a façade and pretend.

Instead, we can use God-given wisdom and discernment about when to shield and when to open our hearts to those who have proven themselves trustworthy.

Of course, getting close to others means being vulnerable. But don’t think for one minute that being vulnerable is being weak; it’s just the opposite. It takes courage to share your true feelings. It is a risk to:

Be open…

Be honest…

Be vulnerable…

And be your true self.

Getting close to someone doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, as Donald Miller learned, the risk can sometimes be exceptionally rewarding.

A few years ago, at age 42, he got married.

Congratulations Don and Betsy!

Imagine what could happen in your dating life—in the rest of your life—if you took a risk and started to live the real you.

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