Insights: Building Authentic Relationships

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shellyThe best relationships assist in making us a better person, without the need to make us anyone else, except ourselves. 

How do we help each other be better?  Before I answer that question, let me share with you a wonderful story. 

About 17 years ago, twins were born, both weighing about two pounds each.  One was doing fine physically while the other one was struggling with little hope of survival. 

A nurse decided to put the healthier twin in the same crib as the critically sick one. Years later, the twins are thriving and healthy. The belief is that the power of touch and the power of love are sometimes beyond what we can understand from a scientific perspective. 

The opposite is also true—people who are isolated have weakened immune systems, are more prone to depression and anxiety, and live shorter lives. 

We need relationships, they’re at the core of who we are-and I’m talking about all types of relationships: friends, lovers, partners, and acquaintances. 

Just looking someone in the eyes increases the release of dopamine, which is a “feel good” chemical in the brain. Sadly, the more we get to know someone, it seems the less eye contact we give him or her. A really easy way to improve your relationships is to give more eye contact and more touch. It’s that simple.

We need to be present, mindful, and pay attention to these relationships. One of the reasons relationships struggle is we do not invest enough into them. We take them for granted. We are so busy multi-tasking, or being distracted by shiny things in our life. We have to make a conscious decision to make our relationships a priority. 

Author and relationship coach Barbara de Angelis wrote: “The more connections you and your lover make – not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls – the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together”. 

And in turn you’ll have a healthier, longer lasting relationship. 

Intimacy is key for all relationships. Intimacy is about connection, about being known by another. Being known is about feeling seen, heard and understood.  This takes effort, and commitment to the relationship. It is easy to do in the beginning or when things are going well, not so easy when we are stressed, tired, or upset. 

One of my favorite books is “The Seven Levels of Intimacy” by Matthew Kelly. In the book, he shares what it means to be known by someone, which progresses through seven levels.

Level One: Clichés – Small talk, day-to-day transactions.

Level Two: Facts – Sharing impersonal information about yourself.

Level Three: Opinions – Sharing more about yourself and accepting the opinions of the other.

Level Four: Hopes and Dreams – Sharing hopes and dreams with the goal of building a future together.

Level Five: Feelings – being vulnerable by sharing who we are and how we feel, our pains, our humanity, our deep needs.

Level Six: Faults, Fears and Failures – exposing our woundedness, our story, our core selves.

Level Seven: Legitimate Needs – This is where we truly feel known, and know another person. Physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs are focused on, talked about, and met.

Not all relationships will or should go to level seven. Different relationships will be at different levels at different times. That is okay.

Author and motivational speaker Matthew Kelly said: “The journey through the seven levels of intimacy is a journey from the shallow to the deep, from irrelevant to relevant, from illegitimate desires to legitimate needs, from judgment to acceptance, from fear to courage, from false self to true self, from isolation to unity, and from loneliness to profound companionship” 

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].


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