When you connect with and experience your own feelings while, at the same time, taking in the feelings of the one you love, you are walking straight into the open heartspace of real romance. That’s where you find the special connections you make with one another, whether small and subtle or grand and brilliant.

The following story from our own courtship reveals much about the fear we all have of being truly intimate and surrendering to love. It also tells of the real romance that’s available whenever you open yourself and let someone in — even when limited by your own fears and resistance.

Jim: After we’d known each other little more than a month, we decided to spend Easter day in Laguna Beach. Judith drove. During the hour-long drive, I turned to her and said, “I’d like to know how you feel about me.”

Judith: I was taken back. And excited. After all, I was a psychologist and female, I was supposed to be the one who was more emotionally skilled. Yet it was Jim who was taking this dive into deeper emotional waters. I wanted to give him an honest answer, but I wasn’t ready to reveal too much. So, I said, “Well, I think the best way to say it is that I’m starting to find fault with you.”

What I meant was that the intimacy between us had developed to a point I was uncomfortable with, and it frightened me. But, instead of living with my fear, I slipped back into an old pattern of fault-finding as a way of keeping the intimacy at a comfortable distance.

Jim: After giving some thought to her remark I said, “If I hear you correctly, I should take that as a compliment.” I felt what she was doing and knew it had nothing to do with faults and everything to do with intimacy. She was impressed.

“Yes,” she replied, with a shy, embarrassed smile. “You should.”

That’s one of the most cherished moments of our early relationship. Yet, it’s not difficult to imagine what a disaster it could have been.

To fully receive the love you desire, don’t act out some fiction of how you think it’s supposed to be. If you do you’ll just be swept away by the fake drama of your imaginings, and you’ll lose any possibility for real intimacy.

The heart and soul of real romance is all about being honest in the moment. Express yourself as well as you possibly can, with respect and appreciation for your limitations and excellence and the imperfection and grace of being human.

Real romance is an example of practical spirituality. You don’t have to leap beyond this life to get what you want. Quite the contrary. You can have it by standing squarely at the center of who and what you are, with respect and pride, power and humility, personal authority and the wisdom to know that you are a living daily testament to the complexity, fullness and sacredness of life.

When we value life on earth and celebrate love on earth, the full breadth of who we are becomes conscious, and we are able to lovingly connect with one another.

When you feel accepted for who you actually are — for who you know yourself to be — you feel at home. You are alive, not as an instrument or a prop to be manipulated for pleasure or pain, but as a sacred expression of life, unique only to you.

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Excerpted from Judith & Jim’s first book, The New Intimacy.