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Opinion | 'We could all slow down a bit more when we approach relationships': thoughts on quick intimacy

Elizabeth Abbott explores the 21st century obsession with intimacy and why we desire it so quickly in our relationships.

By Elizabeth Abbott, English and History, Second year

Dan Whitlam. Do you know him? That ginger poet who records poems sat on a train. Tattooed arms, wistful gazes, and phrases like ‘I don’t want quick intimacy. I want someone to lean into me for a lifetime’. He has captured the attention of thousands. This quote is from his poem ‘Quick Intimacy’, in which he explores a yearning for a steady progression into closeness with another, instead of something rushed and forced. Beautiful, right?

This poem made me reflect on my own journeys into relationships, and those of those around me. I realised that, despite admiring Dan’s desire for steadiness, often mine and my friends’ journeys towards closeness have been slightly hurried. I thought of an analogy for the two approaches towards intimacy. Let’s call it 'The Train Versus Motor-Bike Conundrum'. Number 1. Sometimes, getting closer to another can feel like you’re riding an old-fashioned, slightly broken train that takes hours to reach the destination. It’s a slow and slightly cumbersome journey, but you stay on the train because you recognise that you’ll eventually get to the end point that you’re after. Number 2. Other times, it is like you’re riding a shiny, new motor bike. It is speedy and you can go at it head-first – no need to go on the convoluted train journey, with a bike you can get where you want direct. But…you don’t quite know how to ride the bike. Surely, you’d chose the first option. Yes, it is longer and a bit painful but engage your rational mind! It is the safest, most reliable choice.

Then, why are so many of us drawn to the second? Is there something tantalizing and exciting about the rapidity of the motor-bike drive instead of the slog of the train (oh and motorbikes make you look like you’re Danny from Grease so that’s definitely the right option!!) Is the moto-bike ride alluring and, dare I say it, sexy? Until…it’s not. It’s just all too much. Applying this to relationships, I find that we are so desperate for quickness when it comes to intimacy that we often trade in reliability and steadiness for the thrill. We think, ‘if they are the right person we shouldn’t have to try…it should never be awkward. We should never have silent pauses in conversation. We should never have awkward hugs etc.’. We have been fed this age-old, supposedly romantic notion of a ‘spark’, telling us that we are instantly bound to another by a mere glance, removing any notion that intimacy takes time to build, suggesting instead it is somehow innate between two people.

two persons holding hands
Image credit: Duong Huhu// Unsplash

People seem obsessed with getting close to someone quickly. I recently came across an article which was titled ‘How to create instant intimacy’ and a YouTube video trying to get people to fall in love by asking just 36 questions. Generation Z has even been said to swap out longer, more ‘real’ phone calls, for quick texts and video-sharing instead of steady effort towards intimacy. Do we want closeness without injecting the necessary time and effort into it? I must be clear: this is not an article about wanting to return to ‘yee gold ol’ past’ but it is some pondering on whether we could all slow down a bit more when we approach relationships. True closeness with another takes time to flourish.

A report in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships pointed that it takes more than 200 hours before you can consider someone your ‘close friend’. That’s 8.3 days without sleeping! And on average, it takes women 133 days for someone to say ‘I love you’. Moreover, Sabrina Zohar argued skipping the foundational stages in a relationship may make people less aware that they are just falling back into old habits, potentially forming a relationship just like one they’ve had before. Ultimately, whilst rapidity can be exciting, I think a slow progression into closeness is the most beautiful kind. I wish you luck on this journey towards intimacy.

Feature image by Hannah Busing // Unsplash

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