Ryan Chartrand

Look around campus on any given day (except during midterms or finals) and you will have visual confirmation that love does indeed exist at Cal Poly.

There’s a couple I see every other morning walking hand-in-hand on their way to class. Another couple frequents The Avenue, and the young man sits rapt by his beloved’s effusive expression. Another young gentleman faithfully visits his lady at Julian’s, where she works.

These happy-go-lucky pairs should serve as beacons of hope for the single among us. right?

Right . and while we’re being blinded by these beacons’ disgusting PDAs we can find the nearest bathroom and relieve ourselves of our nausea. At the end of the day when classes are done, homework is a futile endeavor, and nothing stands between us and our beloved weekly serials, we can bask in the melancholy of being without a special someone with whom to share that rare, unique connection.

We are reminded daily that love is there, within our reach but at the same time always just beyond our grasp. As someone once said (in jest, I presume), the question becomes: “. if THOSE morons can get it, why can’t I?”

Elusive love. Why is it so hard to find? Rather, why is emotional intimacy so difficult to achieve?

Emotional intimacy is a, if not the, necessary component for a real, lasting connection to develop in a relationship. What is it to begin with? Before we go crazy-technical with psych jargon, let’s define this already abstract concept.

Even Wikipedia’s definition (the layman’s resource, no?) seems obscure: “The degree of comfort and effectiveness of the communicative process can be seen as an indicator of the emotional intimacy between two individuals. depends primarily on trust. involves individuals discussing their feelings and emotions with each other in order to gain understanding and offer mutual support.”

The article concludes thusly: “It is necessary for human beings to have this form of intimacy on a regular basis for them to develop and maintain good mental health.”

Since it’s week eight and most of our intellectual capacities are on the brink of oblivion, let’s paraphrase.

During the initial butterfly stage of a relationship, you monitor every single word that escapes your lips, so as not to completely frighten away your love interest with your potentially-repellent idiosyncrasies.

But – if you want to achieve that “degree of comfort and effectiveness” in communication – if you want to get “real” – you must get to the point where you stop monitoring yourself and begin to test the waters, to see if it’s OK to wade deeper and further out.

Here is the crux; here, the relationship can either diminish into nothingness or progress into somethingness. Many of us are afraid to wade into waters that deep, because it means endangering our sense of emotional security.

Naturally, self-preservation is our number one instinct; however, emotional intimacy works in opposition of that instinct. When you talk with anyone about your personal history, your emotions and all that touchy-feely stuff, that information is at risk of being misinterpreted. This isn’t good news, considering the objective is to be understood by another human being.

To protect our fragile emotional well-being from the dangers inherent in emotional intimacy, we erect barriers to keep out inquisition and to keep under wraps certain tendencies we fear exposing. These barriers we hide behind take the form of masks – or sometimes, even full costumes.

For example, two common facades are: 1) “The Stoic,” perpetually poker-faced, who operates under the faulty impression “If-I-don’t-care-I-won’t-get-hurt”; and 2) “The Goofball,” who treats all matters with humor – should you wish to have “the talk” (i.e., “So, where are we headed with this?”), he or she may reduce it to an amusing situation to deflect the seriousness at hand.

So, how do you break down the barriers, develop that sense of trust, and “gain understanding” and “mutual support?”

Ultimately, this isn’t a test you can study for. The only way to see how you’ll fare is to put yourself in the situation.

To be sure, the waters can be rough. But if your goal is to overcome your fears or troubles with emotional intimacy, there are a few general things you can keep in mind. Think of them, if you will, as insurance – floaties, perhaps.

No one knows you better than yourself. It may take some digging, but figuring out why you have trouble connecting on a deeper level is the first step in overcoming it.

Recognize your behavior. Do you change the subject every time someone questions your romantic past? Do you avoid emotion-laden conversations altogether, and restrict the topics to small-talk on classes and the (ever-unpredictable) SLO weather?

Make a conscious effort; watch yourself. Be honest, and ask yourself why you feel so uncomfortable when emotions run too high, or when others get too close. You’ll be at an advantage if you know (or begin to know) what you bring to the relationship before you enter one.

In all this, understand that for someone to understand you, you have to understand (and be understanding of) yourself. Emotional intimacy is a coming-together of two distinct personalities that have hitherto existed as individuals. It isn’t a miracle pill or cosmetic surgery – it’s a process.

So, arm yourself with those floaties and jump in. The water’s fine – or soon will be.

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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