What's it like when it's nice?
July 13, 2011 2:42 AM   Subscribe

What are the nice aspects of becoming intimate with a "romantic partner"? What does it feel like when it's a healthy situation? Can you give me some examples of things that are nice about sharing your life in an intimate way with your partner?

I don't mean what's it like just to f*ck. I mean, what's it like to really get close to someone, open yourself up to them, really care about eachother (if that really does happen) etc.
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (24 answers total) 208 users marked this as a favorite
I can't remember where I heard this phrase, but it was in some article I read once discussing the pros and cons of marriage and the right and wrong reasons to marry. The author came to the conclusion that the most valuable part of marriage was having a "witness to your life" and the phrase has always stuck with me because it's so true. It makes a huge difference to look back on events and milestones with someone who can verify meaningfulness with you.
posted by Nixy at 4:03 AM on July 13, 2011 [55 favorites]

It's having someone who makes your life hugely better. So. if someone asks you whether, on balance, your partner improves or worsens your life, the response is laughter at the absurdity of the question - of course life is better with him/her. (As opposed to "well, I suppose" or "hmm, err, in general it's probably...")

It's being in a team of two, having someone on your side, even if that means from time to time telling you you're being an idiot.

It's having someone whose priority is your wellbeing, not scoring points or their own ego or a particular expectation of what a relationship is or what their friends/family think etc.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [19 favorites]

This doesn't directly answer your question, but perhaps check out the PBS series This Emotional Life (part 1). Try starting at 01:28:23 which discusses why marriages last. Also, in part 3 at 00:13:18 they say that according to research being married on average probably makes you happier.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

What Nixy said. I find my life is more meaningful when I share it with someone else. And it's nice to have someone you feel safe with, and who you know will understand when you talk about the things that matter to you.

Other nice things in no particular order:
- An incentive to cook dinner and look after myself because its not just for me any more
- Cuddling on the sofa whilst watching films
- Having someone to drag me out of bed at a reasonable hour in the morning
- He makes fantastic coffee
- I know he'll always have my back, so I feel more confident in every situation because I'm never truly alone in what I'm trying to achieve. Because he believes in me, I'm more willing to strike out and take risks in my life because I have someone to catch me if it all goes wrong.
- I'm a cold sleeper and he doesn't mind if I cuddle him in the middle of the night to keep warm
- When I'm too tired to do anything he's always willing to make me dinner or carry me downstairs to bed. When I fall asleep on the sofa he always tucks me up with a pillow and blanket so I don't wake up cold later.

I can honestly say he makes my life easier, and better. And I like feeling like I have a "partner in crime". YMMV of course if you are a particularly independent person, I am not.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:36 AM on July 13, 2011 [16 favorites]

Best answer: She uses her knowledge of my insecurities for good, not evil. I want her to know my weaknesses, instead of needing to hide them from her.
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:39 AM on July 13, 2011 [111 favorites]

posted by lollusc at 4:52 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really want to nail this answer but I'm not sure I can fully explain what my wife means to me. She knows all my most embarrassing secrets and terrible faults and loves me not just despite them, but in some measure because of them because she knows they are part of what makes me who I am. I know this to be true, because I feel the same about her.

When I am broken, she fixes me. She knows the man I want to be and she helps me in the endless quest to get there -- sometimes by ignoring my efforts, sometimes by encouraging them, sometimes by telling me I'm a idiot. She doesn't always do these things when I want them, but she always does them when she thinks I need them.

There is something endlessly comforting to me about knowing that I am part of an unshakable team. Together we are a formidable force and knowing that she is around to back me up when I'm on a quest or lead me when I don't know the way makes a thousand and one situations easier to deal with. It could be something small like feeling poorly after a long day and having her sit me down with a nice glass of wine and fix dinner and fuss over me or it could be something huge like taking care of me if I was deathly ill (which, thank god, hasn't happened -- but I know full well she'd make it as good as it could be). Its hard to explain, but I also really enjoy being that person for her. When she is sick or down or bored and I do just the right things to comfort her and make her feel better, the look that she gives me makes me feel like I'm the best man that ever walked the earth. I will try to my dying day to be that guy for her.

We have a private language of expressions and words that signify chapters and shorthand reminders of a million shared experiences that let us help and amuse and entertain each other. We can have as much fun planning our future adventures as remembering our past adventures.

And, at the risk of freaking some of my readers out, 28 years later I am still thrilled beyond measure when she takes off her clothes or raises that eyebrow or texts me that it would be in my interest to get some from work a little early. I would sex that woman every day for the rest of my life and die a very happy man.
posted by Lame_username at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2011 [170 favorites]

I'm presently in the first healthy, long-term relationship I've ever experienced. For me, a large part of it means losing all those little anxieties that otherwise add up to a lot of stress. Stuff like forgetting to shave my legs (this was a serious point of anxiety for me, as silly as it sounds now; my first boyfriend would act all repulsed if I was even a little prickly), or letting myself cry in front of him, and letting him comfort me. It's being able to trust him with my deepest fears and anxieties, as well as sharing happy things, and returning the favour for him. Of course, it's also the fact that seeing him is the best part of my day.
posted by torisaur at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

MrMoonPie: She uses her knowledge of my insecurities for good, not evil. I want her to know my weaknesses, instead of needing to hide them from her.

This is it 100% for me. In my marriage, whatever I shared inevitably came back to haunt me, usually during an argument when the ex would spit it back at me in anger. The home we shared was not a safe place to relax and let my guard down. (I should add that it was like that in my childhood home as well, so I did the classic skewed-logic thing of seeking out relationships that mirrored those that I grew up with.)

In my current relationship, it's safe to reveal my soft vulnerable underbelly to my partner. I am still somewhat skittish about it, but I know it's safe and the wall is coming down brick by brick. We tease each other about all kinds of things, but there's never any mocking or derision, and it's always done with affection. He is my friend.
posted by headnsouth at 6:48 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]

She uses her knowledge of my insecurities for good, not evil. I want her to know my weaknesses, instead of needing to hide them from her.

Well said.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of these answers are about romantic entanglements, but I want to talk about my best friend for a bit because not all intimate relationships have to be romantic.

Even though we don't talk every day, I know that if I ever needed to talk to him about anything, he'd be there for me. When we first met during a raucous party weekend, we talked about almost everything until 6 am; that's when I knew I'd made a friend for life. We've been lovers in the past, but he's just not boyfriend-material for me. So, we have this great and amazing friendship which has endured all of my break-ups and some of his as well.

Like as has been described by the others upthread, he knows most if not all of my secrets, and I know his as well. We've been there for each other during breakups and 3 am conversations across the country. Boyfriends came and went for me, but he was there the entire time. And if my current relationship continues to go well enough for there to be a wedding, I'd ask him to be my man of honor.
posted by TrishaLynn at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Burrowing into to the soft animal smell of my much-loved other. He smells like home and love.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have had three serious partners in the last ten years, and will be married in just under two months. Let me tell you, they say you'll know, and BOY do you know.

The best example I can come up with is that I'm a very... verbose person. (As if you can't tell from my posts :P) My family are all big talkers about big things, and I've always had to fight to get a word in edgewise or feel like what I say matters. Plus I'm curious and love to share, so I have a reputation of never shutting up. People make fun of me all. the. time. And it hurts, a lot. I've worked on it from every angle I can think of, and I never feel like I can make much of a dent.

When I got together with my fiance, I found that the air suddenly cleared. Eventually I realized that someone was finally listening to me. He proved it, too, by remembering things and reminding me later on that even the small things I considered important were important to him, too.

So our first anniversary came up, and I had no idea what to write on the card or say to him. It was so hard to say out loud. Finally, I said, "You gave me back my silences. I never had a choice before." Then I burst into tears.

People, I am an introvert. It's taken me 31 years to realize that, but I guess that's what happens when someone finally just lets you be who you are.

He magnifies the person I have always been. I could live without him, no doubt, but oh, I would never want to.
posted by Madamina at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [53 favorites]

So our first anniversary came up, and I had no idea what to write on the card or say to him. It was so hard to say out loud. Finally, I said, "You gave me back my silences. I never had a choice before." Then I burst into tears.

You made me teary-eyed. The listening thing is one of my key issues; both my boyfriend and my best friend are great listeners and that's why I trust both of them so much.
posted by TrishaLynn at 7:55 AM on July 13, 2011

When I'm playing my video game and my partner looks up at the screen from the book she's engrossed in to comment "Moonbeam? Isn't that the name from the recording you found at the destroyed hotel?" I am incredibly touched by her attention to my hobbies. She doesn't play games at all, but she pays attention to my storylines so that I have a receptive conversation partner to talk about something that interests me.

We're in a bit of a financial down right now, and focusing on eating frugally - so I have been employing all my culinary creativity to make us great meals from the ample food we already have at home. After a really good meal the other day, she told me "You make poverty bearable," and it stuck with me. I think I feel more intimacy in our relationship when we're going through tough times - when it's her and I against the world we know and are completely secure in the knowledge that we have each other. We can get through anything under those conditions. There is no bad time that isn't significantly mitigated just by having each other near.

Both of these anecdotes are small moments, and really, that's what intimacy is about for me.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:29 AM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]

I often feel that we can be like little kids together. In all other relationships (even with parents, siblings and very close friends), there's an element of holding back, being mature and serious, but not in an intimate relationship. We can go back to how we were as toddlers - crying when we're sad (even if it's irrational), being angry, and showing our anger, when we're mad (even if it's not justified), and most of all, being outrageously silly. Constantly making the worst jokes we can think of. We do not need to apologize for who we are, or put up a front. There's an element of childish innocence to it - you feel nothing you do will ever be held against you. This is very liberating.
posted by The Toad at 8:52 AM on July 13, 2011 [22 favorites]

We make each other stronger. We're both really focused on living healthy; I go with him on trips out of town to cycling events, he keeps me company in the garage when I exercise so I don't get bored, I cook us healthy food, etc. He encourages me to ask for what I need (I'm a "pleaser"). So we help each other work toward being the people we want to be.

In past relationships, men took advantage of my willingness to sacrifice my own needs for theirs. In this one--my first healthy one--we take care of each other.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm not a huge proponent of the Grand Romantic Gesture. Don't get me wrong, they're sweet and awesome when applied in appropriate and sparing conditions, but it's usually the small moments that sticks in my mind more.

How my boyfriend would ping me on GChat at 10 pm going "Hon, what's my address and postal code?" to order a pizza and know I'd have an answer and just go "LOL" at his poor memory, without denigrating him for it. How I can count on him herding his friends to go smoke in that corner, because I'm Super Sensitive to smoke with a capital S and can smell it a mile away (okay, not literally). How after a shitty, shitty day at work I can call him late at night and whine and the first thing he'd say is "Aw. Virtual hug?" How we can admit openly that there are certain things we're not good at and they're making life suck, and can count on the other listening without judgement and gently offering ways to help or concrete advice without steamrolling over each other. How we're both really young, relatively speaking, and we can speak candidly to each other about our dreams and careers--which may not point in the same direction!--and we'll both fully support each other in pursuing what we individually want to do, as these dreams change, because we know that's what's best for each other even if it may make our relationship difficult or end if we really think about it.

There's a million of these moments I can think of, and that list always keeps growing. I know he has my back, and he knows I have his. Intimacy, I think, is that certainty that we'll support each other, and the millions of small, quiet moments in between that proves it.
posted by Hakaisha at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

He tells me, "I love you broken as you are," and I believe him.
posted by Lexica at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

It's a healing vortex that sucks any poison from other parts of your life.

I liked this quote from Daphne Rose Kingma (about marriage, but still):

Marriage is the joining of two lives, the mystical, physical, and emotional union of two human beings who have separate families and histories, separate tragedies and destinies. Two individuals willingly choose to set aside the solitary exploration of themselves to discover who they are in the presence of another.

That which we become in the presence of another person -the person we love most deeply, the person we choose to marry and spend our whole life with, the person in whose presence we change and ultimately transform- brings us inescapably into the being of our highest selves. We become who we were meant to be.
posted by Jezebella at 8:00 PM on July 13, 2011 [17 favorites]

Having someone put lotion on your feet before you go to bed, and putting lotion on their feet too, and taking turns who gets to go first, so that each person gets to chance to drift directly off to sleep after having feet lotioned and rubbed.

Touching each other while naked, without having sex.

Learning how to really listen to someone. Especially learning to hear what they don't say.

Learning what it's like to really be listened to.

He's busy doing his thing, and I'm busy doing my thing, and we both want to see each other but we're both ok with not seeing each other.

Feeling a sense of surprise every now and again "Wow. This person is my favorite person in the whole planet. He's really great. I'm always interested in him. "
posted by Locochona at 8:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

I married this past fall and, shortly after that, I was robbed while in a foreign country. Among other things, the thief stole my camera, on which I had several irreplaceable pictures. My husband was away from me and, when I finally managed to call him, he couldn't do anything other than tell me how sorry he was, but just the fact that he was there for me, that I had him, made the loss so much lighter. At that point, I realized I'd never be alone in despair. I can't explain how it works, or why it's different than a friendship or family member (and I really love my family), but I feel that with my husband, my sorrows are divided and my joys multiplied.
posted by avagoyle at 12:27 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Three weeks after I started dating my husband - way before I loved him - I was on a long international flight, getting nervous about turbulence as I tend to do, and this image of him as my hammock popped into my mind and reassured me. That image of him as the being that supports and cradles me has stuck with me and still feels right.

Recently, on our honeymoon, we were walking down the chaotic streets of Delhi, where I had walked alone or with friends many times, and a rickshaw went careening next to him and I had this visceral feeling of terror, like I've only ever felt for my own safety. Sure, I would have been really, really upset if one of my friends were hit by a rickshaw, but this twinge of terror was animalistic - I need him to be safe and sound.

My husband often has horrific nightmares, and I can feel them coming on. If I do nothing they erupt, but if I gently hold his hand they subside.

I recently went to the ER, and he took total care of me. I could relax, because he was dealing with everything. And during and afterwards, he was much more upset about it than I was.

I can totally be myself around him - I can let my guard down completely and relax.

We're a team vis-a-vis the world - that means more to me than I would have thought.

This is what intimacy has meant in my life so far.
posted by semacd at 3:07 PM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Late to the party, but my sweetheart and I really enjoyed this thread, and wanted to come up with our own responses to the question, "What's it like when it's nice?"


It's awesome. I feel so safe, so safe. Never in my life have I felt so secure. It took some getting used to - coming to terms with the idea that she really could be trusted. But still, the 'getting used to' process was not too prolonged. That was what was really amazing - it felt so natural so quickly. It was as if we were two pieces of a puzzle, suddenly reunited for the first time since the puzzle factory. There was a whole lot of 'Is this really what I think it is? This seems too good to be true!' But even so - even as I grappled with that realisation - there was this undeniable fitting together.

It's still hard for me to completely comprehend. You wouldn't think this sort of thing would be so unusual - I mean, in principle it ought to be the default position for parents and siblings. After all, with them you literally are adjacent pieces of a puzzle. In my case, though, all that meant was confusion - these people are supposed to be closer to me than anyone else, yet I feel utterly alienated from them. So what a surprise, then, to find someone wholly unrelated to me (biologically), who fulfils all that I would have expected of my kin.

I don't know, though, whether its 'niceness' is a given for this type of relationship. Rather, I think it's dependent on the participants. I can't imagine another person working so well with me. She demonstrates a crucial interest in me that is unprecedented in my experience - and I've been married. I have parents. I've been in relationships with people who I would've thought would've had such an interest. But no. Hers, on the other hand, seems boundless. And incisive. I've been a troubled little fellow for many years, and have opened my heart to many would-be counselors. How is it that she is able to offer me such quality of counsel the likes of which others haven't even come close to? She has such keen insight! It's as if she was made to complement me - to fill in the gaps where my senses are wanting.

Yes, this has all been about how she's good for me - nothing, really, about how I'm good for her. But perhaps that's for her to tell. For me, the niceness is all about the security. I mean, I do nice things for her. But then again, I try to do nice things for everyone. But not everyone affects me the way she does. That's what makes the difference.


I am listened to, really listened to, and validated. There is a space for genuine communication. I'm allowed to express every little thing I'm thinking or feeling, not only without being judged, but being loved for doing so. And furthermore, he then wants to help me find solutions to things that need solving!

He stares at me with a depth in his eyes that makes me feel solid within the relationship. He is a person who is independent of me and can live without me, but we choose to come together and combine our colours. I love the rainbow we make.

He loves that I want to cuddle him or be cuddled all night and doesn't see it as 'smothering'.
All he wants from me is for me to be myself. Do you know how relaxing that is? He never gets mad at me, he just loves me.
He has real gratitude, and doesn't ever take me for granted.

Our differences complement each other, making us a powerful working machine. Life is not hard anymore. He carries me when I need to be carried and lets me walk when I need to. I like to think I do the same for him.

He never aggravates me, and this is very unusual for me as I don't really enjoy being around others for great lengths of time, even those I am close to, but he's so good at giving me alone time, even when he's sitting right next to me. I don't have that feeling of "Will you just go away, even though I know you're not saying anything".

We are best friends.
We tease the fuck out of each other and it's fun.

He lights up my minute, my hour, my day and my future. Every corner of our togetherness is a cosy, loving home where I love to just sit and be.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:33 AM on October 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

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