Real Intimacy


“Seeing myself through the unblinking eyes of an intimate, intelligent other, an honest spouse, is humiliating beyond anticipation.” -Michael Novak

Over the past year, Trent and I took two group courses on marriage and sexuality from LDS therapist Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife (or, as we affectionately refer to her behind her back, JFF). She’s amazing. I can’t recommend her enough to any couple, happy or otherwise.

JFF’s perspective, and the introspection it’s incited, has completely changed the way I view real intimacy. It’s opened my eyes to the flaws in needing validation from your significant other and confusing that validation for real connection. We do this all the time, in all kinds of sneaky ways, and we sell our relationships short because of it.

We want our partners to see us at our worst and tell us they love all our imperfections as they are and wouldn’t want us to change a thing. We call that real love. So often when we’re dating, we fall in love, not with another person, but with the perfected view of ourselves we see reflected off them. And then we commit to them and they start to see us more clearly. They become a more accurate mirror. And often, that mirror is one we don’t want to see. It’s a mirror that causes shame in us and humiliation, and we hide from that reflection, however redemptive it might be.

Have you heard of the term differentiation? It’s my new rallying cry. It’s a process by which we become more content with who we are and less susceptible to social pressures. It’s a space where we can be fully known and stand solidly, even if it forces us to acknowledge the ugly parts of ourselves. It’s a state where we can learn about our faults in an honest way without feeling threatened by them. It’s a place in which we understand that we sometimes hurt people without letting that knowledge destroy us. Differentiation is my new goal in life. I want to become a more differentiated person, to be more capable of loving my husband and everyone else, not because they think I’m wonderful, but because I see them clearly—as they really are—and choose to love them in the face of that. I want to be able to face the reality of who I really am, as I learn it from my relationships, and use it to better myself. I want to cease to run away.

Am I making sense here? Probably not. JFF could clear it up for you. JFF is amazing.

Listening to: Sufjan Stevens, “The First Noel”


  • Alicia

    I love this. it helps clarify some vague thoughts I have had swimming in my head recently. Bryce and I discussed paying for JFF’s material, but ultimately decided we could not do it financially right now. But please continue to pass on the wisdom you have gained from her- this is awesome.

    This also reminded me of a line in song that I fell in love with when I was at the end of my pregnancy and miserable- “the way I tend to be” by frank turner. THe song does not apply so much (its about a man remembering the one healthy relationship he had and how she helped him be better and missing that), but the line I love is “Love is about all the changes you make and not just three small words.” This post reminded me of that line…

    Sorry for the long post. A clear sign that it has been too long since we talked.

  • Nate

    I have also just taken the classes from “JFF” and they were the most amazing courses I have ever taken. My wife and I have had longstanding issues in our marriage for decades and seem to have never made any progress towards resolving these issues. This is the first course/book that I actually feel some hope of a combination of me coming to accept differences with my wife, but also a hope for improvement.

    The courses are just SO insightful on the deepest level on what is going on in a relationship. Rather than focusing on your spouses issues, it helps you figure out what YOU are doing in the relationship better than anything I have ever heard or read.

    This should be a required class for every married couple after about 5 years of marriage.

  • Kristin Call

    I can’t afford her classes, but does she have a book? This completely spoke to me. I truly appreciate you taking the time to write this out.

  • Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

    Hi Kristin,
    I don’t have a book yet, although I’m planning to write one over the next couple of years. in the meantime, you can read more about differentiation from Dr. David Schnarch. He has written several books on the subject, including “Passionate Marriage” and “Intimacy and Desire” Much of my thinking on the subject comes from his work.

  • Angelique

    Amen to all shared…& the music listened to! 🙂 sufjan steven’s!

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