Intimacy requires the authenticity of disagreement, conflict and sharing the painful bits of life.
It is impossible to be close to anyone without the truths that emerge from conflict. How can you really know anyone if you just settle for the superficial? Facebook & texting are tailor-made to keep things “light”. Who has 600 friends?
Two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker have published a new book “Premarital Sex in America”. They make an observation in the introduction that I find appalling:
In fact, American parents’ oversight of their teenage and young-adult children tends to be wide but shallow, resulting in children who long for- but seldom experience -real intimacy with their parents. Instead of pursuing a deeper relationship, many parents settle for just knowing their kids are “safe”.
Why would this be true? Because it’s the easy way out. Go along to get along. Keep a shallow focus on safety, then you can feel as if you did your job. That’s good enough, isn’t it?
No, it isn’t. Do the work of knowing who your kids really are. Be willing to hear things you won’t like. You will have to cope with values collisions.
Protecting parents from hard truths is another part of the lack of intimacy. Families avoid and deflect real problems on a regular basis. A sister calls a brother to say their brother is getting a divorce but it’s a secret. My sister-in-law has never told her mother she has the precursor symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
I prefer the courage to face what my kids or son-in-law might be struggling with. To know their pain is to know them. To learn what they care about, that I find surprising. Animal Planet, really? I respect that all three really value being physical and am ashamed I don’t follow their example. Who knows, that pinch of shame might help me take action. The true test of respect is being influenced by someone else.
Knowing the truth makes relationships three dimensional. Shallow keeps things too simple. We all have choices to risk greater complexity with vulnerability, disagreement or sharing things that makes your nose wrinkle. Avoiding the differences or deflecting topics is heartbreaking.
With those you love the most, “Don’t Rock the Boat” is not a choice that should be made. That is a choice for distance. Stop hiding out in the “safety” of shallow, it’s so not worth it.