I’m a fan of the mundane. I know that might sound odd, but I am. And that extends to my friendships too. Ask my friends and they will tell you (I think) that I am quite easily pleased. Our friendships mainly consist of eating together (mundane food, obviously, I don’t like anything too fancy), playing with their kids, going for walks, and watching the occasional film or series. If you could be a fly on the wall observing one of my friendships, you would probably think it was rather boring. And yet, I love that. Some of our most mundane times together are actually, for me, the most precious.
I’ve never really thought about why that is. Then recently, I came across the concept of ‘domestic intimacy’ and suddenly, it started to make sense.
In his book All But Invisible, Nate Collins discusses several different types of intimacy. A couple of them were no surprise to me: affectionate intimacy is experienced through the demonstration of affection, whether physically or verbally, and unitive intimacy is experienced when we enjoy deep communion with another person. The most obvious example of this unitive intimacy is the sexual union of a husband and a wife, although it can also be experienced in non-sexual, even non-physical ways between close friends.
In simple terms, domestic intimacy is what you experience when you share family life with people.
Domestic intimacy is different. Domestic intimacy flows out of ‘the opportunity to unfold your life in the presence of trusted others in the steady rhythm of domestic living’.1 I guess put in simple terms, domestic intimacy is what you experience when you share family life with people.
This is what I try to do with my closest friends. We don’t live together, but we are deliberate about sharing life together and living as family. We see each other multiple times a week, I have a key to their house and come and go as I please, and we do lots of the very normal elements of daily family life together.
This might sound boring, but actually, for me, it’s life-giving, and it does foster a sense of intimacy. I don’t think I would ever have used that language for it before, but Nate is right, living normal life alongside and in relationship with close friends is one of the ways that I experience intimacy. I think that’s part of why I love the mundane in my friendships.
Finding the ways in which we can experience intimacy is vital for all of us, but for those of us who are single, it can perhaps feel even more important because we live in a culture where intimacy is often believed to be restricted only to romantic and sexual relationships.
Domestic intimacy is easily overlooked, but for lots of us it could be really important. Maybe you’re aware of a lack of intimacy in your own life and a longing for it. How could you start to seek to be family for others and to develop routines and ways of living that would foster intimacy? Maybe you already have a rich experience of domestic intimacy. How can you invite others in to experience that alongside you? Who could you invite into your home, your family, and your life to allow them to experience something of that intimacy with you? You too may find that there is power in the mundane.
- Nate Collins, All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions and the Intersection of Faith, Gender and Sexuality (Zondervan, 2017), p.163.