Sharing Importance in Intimacy
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | August 2018 (edited November 15, 2021)
Relationships create a feeling of importance by inclusion in a meaningful partnership. However, when self importance diminishes others, we fail.
We need to feel important—relevant. Outside of the home, we get lost in the crowd. The abundance of political and business agendas dwarf our role; we feel less than a single cog in an over-sized wheel. Our sense of importance diminishes as we dutifully play our part in a much larger world. Yet, the desire for self-importance aches for fulfillment, demanding a resolve. Unfulfilled, our need for self-importance leaves us empty and alone.
Our Important Role in Intimate Relationships
Intimate relationships, when supportive, lift perceptions of importance. In the small confines of a home, we fill a major role. We have an opportunity to be important as a spouse, as a parent, and as a child. Yet, too often, partners are neglected, spouses are ignored, and lovers overlooked. The one place where we can contribute the most, we routinely act indifferent.
We must honor these powerful opportunities, giving kind attention to our partners. Relationships need much more than a 'hello' and 'good-bye' kiss punctuating the beginning and end of the day. A natural cohort of filling an important role is responsibility to honor that role.
Desires for Belonging
The driving desire for self importance isn’t necessarily selfish, expecting an audience. We just need an interested listener, curious about our inner lives. We need someone to listen to more than our words. True listening is accompanied by interested—not that the story is always interesting but because the actor is important.
See Communicating with Our Hearts for more on this topic.
Unfortunate, too often, personal agendas interfere with connection. We are present physically but our attention fades. We may politely be present but are emotionally indifferent. Our indifference grates on the sense of importance of the presenter. Often indifferences is intuitively felt. The message sent is "your day is not all that interesting. You are not important."
During disagreements mindful listening becomes increasingly difficult, when images of importance are at stake, attention piques and emotions flow. The fragile self is shaken from powerful words that ignite fear. Listening becomes a burden, we want to disconnect or attack. We must respectfully honor our roles of importance, knowing our actions matter. Our behaviors have larger impacts.
Self-importance, instead of honoring important rolls where we have opportunity to lift others, diminishes others to lift our own sense of importance.
Relationships and Shared Importance
Contrary to the narcissistic perception, healthy intimate relationships include two people holding important roles. Both partners hold the mantle of importance. Both lovers can enjoy importance without demeaning the importance of the other.
When we disconnect during emotional disagreements, the moment of importance for the speaker is shattered, and the relationship is temporarily harmed. When we repeatedly do this, the relationships is permanently damaged.
See Building Trust for more on this topic.
Attention that expresses importance to the messenger requires listening with admiration. Their thoughts, feelings, and experiences matter. They are important. When we give respectful attention, we impart a message to our partner—what they say matters. We show them that their feelings have value. As we tune into their inner happenings, we see beyond the words and embrace their soul.
See Emotional Attunement for more on this topic.
In intimate relationships there is no room for aggrandized self-importance. Intimate connection reinforces the important role both partners have in the relationship.
Many relationships are not safe. By exposing vulnerabilities we invite hostility, giving the narcissist and sociopath weapons for future manipulation to enhance their unnatural needs for self-importance. These evils must be confronted, Unhealthy drives for self-importance destroy others in their path. When these 'self-important' monsters sleep in our bed or sit at our table, sometimes our only recourse is a planned protective flight.
See Dark Triad Personalities for more on this topic.
Fighting for Attention
We desire attention. The best relationships give and receive attention. Demanding, crying and scratching for kind nods and momentary glances signals a frayed and imbalanced connection. We start to repair these relationships by giving attention—not demanding attention. Once we give, we have the right to ask. If the relationship fails to give in return, we know we hold a diminished importance in our partner's view. Difficult decisions must be made, professional help sought, or painful existence as an unimportant possession of a self-important demon.
See Leaving a Narcissist for more on this topic.
Relationships Must Adjust to Dynamic Forces
Relationships will move through moments of closeness and disconnection. We will have moments where our sense of importance suffers. “Happiness ever after” is a fable, ignoring the strain of time and environments. These dynamic changes can transform the relationship. These changes are not warning of catastrophic movement, but a signal to re-engage in openness and disclosure. A signal to allow vulnerability back into the relationship and re-establish the important role of both partners.
We must reign in drives for self-importance than diminish the role of our partner. The true joy of intimacy doesn’t come from static closeness, but from movement, sharing and recreating the bond. Each day is another opportunity to engage in a progressive discovery of another person, and the wondrous unfolding of connection.
Love creates a path that can heal fear and establish a sense of importance. With the hope of love, we experience the amazements of intimacy, enduring the vulnerabilities, and sharing importance. Healthy relationships provide a perpetual unveiling of the self and the growing knowledge of another. We know and are known. We are important in the eyes of someone special that, by the way, is important to us.
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