Intimacy as the #1 Path to Growth

by Michael Simmons on Jul 18, 2010

When I reflect on my life and what I’ve grown from the most, I look at many things…

…my father’s death when I was eight years old,

…being one of the best tennis players in my state for my age,

…finding the world of entrepreneurship,

…going to college and living on my own,

…becoming 100% financially independent,

…doing a 10-day silent meditation retreat,

…becoming a father.

But, what I really look at is my relationship with my wife, Sheena.

In a little over a month, we will celebrate our 10-year anniversary with each other (we met during freshman year orientation at NYU).

We can never experience more intimacy with another human like we can with our life partner.

There is not one secret about my past or who I am that I wouldn’t be willing to share with Sheena.

Sheena sees me at my best and worst times that no one else has ever seen me at.

She has known me in different phases in my life in many different ways (best friend, parent, lover, business partner, and spouse).

The institution of marriage when with the ‘right’ person and properly respected is extremely powerful. It means that I commit the rest of my life to this other person no matter what happens, I’ll die or die trying before the relationship ends.

In other relationships like a business partner, friend, or parents, it is much easier to walk away when things go down hill.

Our partner is the best window we have into our own lives. We can fake it with other people, but not the person we fall asleep with day in and day out.

I’ve also not experienced anything as challenging as intimacy. Almost every single day, we do something inadvertently to hurt each other whether it be a miscommunication, forgetting something, being too wrapped up in ourselves, being stressed, or being tired. They are the most inane things, but can trigger deeper insecurities that we each harbor. Oddly, each of our insecurities seem to spark the other person’s. At worst, these type of arguments can lead to both of us saying things that we never thought we’d be capable of.

When arguments happen, the easiest thing to do is to walk away or to go with the anger you’re feeling and to blame the other person.

These ‘arguments’ are gifts. They are opportunities to fully confront ourselves, to ask for and grant forgiveness…to be open to truly listening to the other person’s point of view without thinking of how to invalidate it. To realize that we’re on the same team aligned for the same purpose. It is an opportunity to take 100% responsibility for ourselves, which means that we stay present to our love no matter what the other person does or says.

Marriage takes work. It requires healing ourselves every single day. I have trouble seeing how intimacy could work over the long-run without both sides being absolutely committed to personal growth.

People often see marriage as something scary that ties us down. In reality, it gives us the opportunity to heal ourselves like nothing else. This healing gives us freedom to know ourselves a deeper level than we ever could have otherwise.

When we heal ourselves, we heal the world.

In the end, I just cherish the gift of being able to walk down the road of life with someone that I love unconditionally.


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I'm the co-founder of Empact, one of the leading entrepreneurship education organizations in the world. I'm obsessed with understanding how we all can lead meaningful lives that have a positive social impact. I love probing into the truth of how we experience life. I believe that challenges are what make us grow the most, and I openly share my experiences. Continue reading…