I hesitate to share "keys to intimacy." Relationships are always more complex than following an assembly line, but here are a few of the countless powerful principles I discovered from a book called Scary Close that I recently read (paraphrased in my own words).

These timeless principles can help you become a better spouse, a better friend, a better parent, and a better person.

(In no particular order):

1. Secrecy is an enemy of intimacy

Intimacy is built on honesty. The strength of a relationship will never be greater than the level of transparency and honesty we give to the relationship.

2. Don't try to impress people; just love them

Social media lets us live in a world where we can just show off our "highlight reels," but intimacy requires letting people behind the scenes to see our struggles and imperfections. Don't focus on building your brand or your reputation; focus on building healthy relationships instead.

3. Be yourself

It can be tempting to play a role instead of being authentic, but we have to take off our masks and let down our guard if we want to experience real intimacy. Otherwise, people won't' really love you, because they'll never truly know you. They'll only love a character you play.

4. Never prioritize pursuits or possessions over people

When you get to the end of your life, your relationships (not your trophies or money) will be what matters to you. Don't wait until then to make them a priority. Any "success" you achieve at the expense of your loved ones isn't real success!

5. You can't change people

Bring out the best in people, but don't try to change them. Just love them. Love is what changes us.

6. Healthy relationships require healthy people

If someone is a manipulator or prone to co-dependency, protect yourself by creating distance until they develop healthier relationship habits. The book's chapter on "5 types of manipulators" is one of the most insightful explanations I've seen on the various types of dysfunctional personalities.

7. Swallow your pride

Pride is the soil where most relational dysfunction takes root. Be humble enough to admit fault, seek forgiveness and give up the need to control or manipulate. You can't be "in charge" and "in love" at the same time.

8. Forgiveness can be given, but trust must be earned

There's a huge difference between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness is a free gift (which is "Grace"), but trust must be earned back slowly over time (which is "Wisdom"). If trust has been broken, work hard to rebuild it, because it's the foundation for intimacy.

9. Don't expect another person to "complete you."

It's a romantic notion to think someone else could be the other half of our soul, but it's actually a warped view of relationships which cultivates co-dependency. Love each other, support each other, serve each other, and bring out the best in each other, but don't try to "complete" each other.

10. Love is a commitment, not a fickle feeling

Love, by its very nature, is a commitment. When we base our relationships on our commitments, our feelings usually have a way of catching up. Never treat people as if they're disposable. Don't give up on yourself and don't give up on the people you love.

This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.

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