Open Or Shut? Asks The Bathroom Door
How to discover your partner's real level of intimacy
When you go to the bathroom, and your partner is in your house, do you shut the bathroom door?
Lock the bathroom door?
Or even put on music so they can't hear what you're doing in there?
Or does your bathroom door stay wide open the whole time, never closed?
Perhaps you're somewhere in the middle. It might all depend on the situation. But your level of intimacy, what you're comfortable sharing with your partner, is up to you.
This is intimacy.
It's more than sex. It's about how close your relationship truly is. It's about how far you're willing to let a partner into your life.
But we have a few problems with intimacy. First is the new relationship problem. Now you're in a new relationship, how do discover your partner's level of intimacy? What are they comfortable sharing with you?
Second is the intimacy change in a relationship. How do you change the intimacy in your relationship when you don't like where it is now?
How do you begin leaving the bathroom door open, for example, without judgement, or worse, your partner deciding this is too much for them?
Let's work through how to approach shifting intimacy in a relationship.
Steps to discovering how intimate they can be with you
Before I begin, I need to stress something I've learned from my myriad of relationships. We all know two relationships aren't created equal.
The same logic applies to intimacy.
What constitutes intimacy between you and your ex isn't what will constitute intimacy with your new partner.
They might value intimacy in a different way. Or they might have experienced extreme intimacy with their last relationship and not want to go down that path again.
Intimacy is a trait that sits alongside trust and values, for example. It means something different to everyone.
For many, you can't define it. They won't be able to articulate; this is the level of intimacy I'm willing to give our relationship.
It changes over time, too. You can grow your intimacy, or it can fade away.
To put boundaries or definitions on it seems counterintuitive to me. It's not predictable, so why put it into a box.
Whilst this is all well and good to say, I appreciate that leaves you wondering; how do I know whether to leave the bathroom door open or not? How do I know if my partner can't stand my feet being near their body? Can I ask them to squeeze a pimple for me?
I won't keep you guessing any longer.
1. Tell stories about other people and pause for reaction
One of the easiest methods to discover your partner's perception of any facet of life is through a hypothetical conversation.
You talk about someone else you know, or a celebrity, or something you read in a book, and gauge their reaction. You tell them about your friend who doesn't close the bathroom door in front of their husband, and you see how your partner reacts.
There will always be the physical reactions they give you. These include:
- Laughter - They find the situation funny.
- Anger - They get angry at even hearing the story.
- Sadness - The story seems to evoke a traumatic or highly emotional response.
- Frustration - Annoyance at the story or the idea that you're talking about it.
- Avoidance - Shuts down the conversation with you.
1 + 1 = 3
In the process, reading physical reactions is one thing. We can learn to a certain extent about what our partner feels from this reaction. But we never know everything.
You can read between the lines if you want, but you will make assumptions rather than know it as a fact. If you can, remove the assumptions and replace them with clarity.
Before reaching conclusions from this method, I suggest asking your partner if this is their opinion about the topic. And clarify whether this applies to your situation.
Don't rely on this practice, though. It's a Hollywood method for testing your partner's reaction because it comes with potentially many negative consequences. These could be:
- Your partner sees through this - If they feel as if you're testing them, even harmlessly, you can break their trust.
- Your partner's reaction is about the people you're talking about - They are laughing at the story, but that's because you sold it as a funny story. Or it's genuinely a funny anecdote. It doesn't mean that's how they feel about you and them. It was hypothetical, after all.
- Your partner doesn't give you any reaction - You run the risk of finding out nothing because their apathetic reaction provides futile.
2. Test the waters
What we're trying to understand with this intimacy discovery is how much can we share with our partner. Sometimes, the only way to know this is to push the boundaries and be damned.
But I can understand this all-or-nothing approach isn't for everyone, nor does it work. We know some people will naturally run away from the relationship because of reasons outside of our control.
It's because there are those who people need to ease into certain levels of intimacy. It could be because:
- They've never experienced intimacy like this before - Anything new will feel strange.
- They aren't sure about the relationship yet - They don't want to become intimate with someone they aren't 100% sure about yet. Even if you're sure about the relationship, it doesn't mean they are.
- They think it's moving too fast - It's not that they object to this intimacy altogether, but they feel rushed into it. They have to be ready.
To cater for people who need to ease into intimacy, you can try testing the waters. In the example of leaving the bathroom door open, you can try:
- Closing the door but leaving it a crack open - It's not fully closed all the way.
- Invite them into the bathroom with you - To carry on a conversation, for example.
- Ask them if they would like you to close the door all the way - It's a gentle way of approaching the subject without being too pushy. It's polite without being invasive.
3. Mine their friends for tips
If you don't seem to get anything from your partner, and you can't gauge how intimate they might want to be with you, friends and family help. These resources help you gauge if pursuing a level of intimacy with your partner is even possible.
Friends and family will give you some sort of indication about how intimate they can possibly be.
- Are they comfortable around people they've known all their life?
- Have they shared intimacy with an ex that their friends/family have seen?
- Is intimacy something they speak about, in varying ways?
Call it 'research', or call it a little moral support, but mining their loved ones for an understanding helps you feel a little less in the dark. And it also helps you gain the confidence to take the next steps in your intimacy.
Or turn you around the other way.
A grain of salt
Like most things, there is a downside to this approach I have to warn you about. When someone tells you about the person you're dating, they are sharing their experiences with them. It means what they are telling you is:
- Biased - It's not a negative or positive thing. It is what it is. They can't help acting biased because it's their experience with someone they care about.
- Their experience - We said it earlier, but no two relationships are the same. What they share with family, for example, they never share with a lover.
- Agenda driven - They might not want you to get closer to their friend/family member. They might deliberately put you off because they don't like you. We can't pretend all these people are here to help you.
4. Have the painful conversation
At some point, all your hints, subtle investigation and testing the waters only get you to a certain place. If you want to understand how intimate your partner is willing to be with you, a conversation is the only option.
Perhaps this is a problem with you. The idea of talking doesn't even reach your lips because you don't have that level of intimacy.
It's a tricky spot to be in. But the conversation between you might spark the trust and confidence to grow the intimacy you're looking for.
On the flip side, the conversation might drive your partner away, or cause a fight/tension between you. If this was the reaction in my relationship, I would see this as a sign of what's coming.
That's where my values come into play. If I can't even talk about something with my partner, it's never going to get any better. And that's not a relationship I want to be in.
I can't make that evaluation for you. But I can say this situation won't improve if you can't talk about it.
5. Throw yourself into the deep end
Ok, so here is the sledgehammer approach. Screw the conversation and everything else. You go and leave the bathroom door open. Screw the consequences.
It could be the best idea ever. It's what you want to do, it's what you want, so you got for it.
If it doesn't work out, it's a lesson for the history books. And if it doesn't work out, they weren't meant to be.
I'm sure some people out there won't like this approach. They won't warm to the idea of intimacy thrust upon them without warning or ease.
But as you get older, wiser, and life becomes continually more complicated, these tender approaches to relationships don't guarantee to work.
We don't always have the luxury of time to get used to how our relationship changes, either.
Those with children will explain how quickly you become intimate with one another when you do whatever it takes to get through sleepless nights. Or when you're covered in baby excretion, uttering undignified frustrations at the world.
Leaving the bathroom door open seems like the least of your issues.
It doesn't mean this is the best approach on the list, though. But sometimes intimacy needs to happen without conversation or preparation.
Sometimes it's the only approach that works. Only you know your relationship to know if that's true.