Do I Have Intimacy Issues?
All relationships go through natural ups and downs of intimacy, trust, vitality, mutual growth, and understanding. While popular culture would have us believe that love should always be fiery, spontaneous, romantic, and free from conflict, the truth is that building a relationship of any longevity requires compromise, grace, clear communication, and forgiveness. Our most intimate relationships often show us sides of ourselves we might wish we didn’t have to face, but doing the hard work with each other will bring you into a place of greater love, trust, and vulnerability, which are the keys to keeping any relationship together.
Fear of Intimacy
It can be scary to open the deepest parts of yourself to someone else, especially if in the past that was met with an absence of love and understanding. Many people feel uncomfortable with intimacy, and as it naturally deepens in relationships, oftentimes avoidance, confusion, and anger can arise from the expectation of a safe space when what you encounter is anything but safe.
When we don’t feel that our emotions are safe to express in a relationship, intimacy often erodes quite quickly. What is important to remember in any relationship is that your partner’s avoidance doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care about you. Nor does your avoidance of their more complex emotions mean you are an unfit partner. Many factors come into play when levels of intimacy deepen in relationships, including each person’s attachment style, past conditioning from parents, and larger cultural messaging about vulnerability and expressing emotions.
Attachment Styles & Relationships
As we discussed in a recent blog post, there are three main attachment styles that contribute to the success or failure of any relationship.
If you were raised in an environment where your emotional needs were always attended to and processed with your parent(s) or guardian, you will likely grow up feeling secure in your relationships and more likely to find joy and positive emotions in a new romance or friendship. If you have a secure attachment with primary caretakers resulting from a healthy childhood upbringing, you have a greater chance of being a stable and loving partner to anyone you’re in a relationship with. This is known as the Secure attachment style.
If you were brought up in an environment where your parents were dismissive of your strong emotions, or reactive against any show of feelings, you may have a Dismissive or Avoidant attachment style. This can spell danger in your relationship once it moves past the exciting first stages, as the tools to absorb and hold space for your partner’s complex emotions were not developed in childhood. When faced with conflict or complex emotional situations, your instinct may be to avoid the conflict at all costs to not “make a scene” or upset anyone. This, of course, leads to deeper conflict, and if unresolved, the deterioration or dissolution of the relationship.
The third common attachment style is the Preoccupied or Anxious style. People with preoccupied attachment often want love and sex just as much as anyone else but have trouble separating their own feelings and emotions from that of their partner, and often place the needs of their partner over their own, which creates subliminal resentment and can quickly destroy intimacy after the initial stages of the relationship progress into something more lasting.
How to Move Forward From Intimacy Issues
If you are experiencing intimacy issues in your relationship, the best place to start on your path to healing is with yourself.
Ask yourself what kind of emotional environment you were raised in as a child. When you expressed emotion to your parents, how did they respond? Were they dismissive and critical, telling you to deal with it on your own? Were they avoidant, changing the subject or leaving the room when you were upset? Or, did they allow you to experience your emotions fully, teaching you tools and language to move through the complex and difficult emotions that are to be expected as part of life?
Digging deep into that early conditioning can be helpful in understanding your own intimacy needs and communication styles. At Blair Wellness Group, we will help you through those difficult questions, with practical tools and non-judgmental therapeutic modalities.
How to Deepen Intimacy in Your Own Relationship
Once you begin exploring your own conditioning, you can begin to move forward with compassion and understanding with your partner. The good news is that this maladaptive conditioning and automatic responses can be unlearned through the rewiring of the brain and adaptive conditioning. Deeper trust and intimacy is more than possible in your relationship. Sadly, there are not many cultural messages advising us of the best ways to navigate struggles in maintaining intimacy, but there is a great deal of cultural shame around not being able to satisfy your partner. Even though your partner may not be equipped to help and support you through these issues, a greater level of intimacy, happiness, trust, and love can still be achieved through guidance and “reparenting” in a safe environment within the therapeutic relationship between a psychologist and a patient.
We’re Here to Help
At Blair Wellness Group, we are dedicated to helping you through the most challenging times in your relationship. The truth is that relationships that stand any chance of lasting require periods of hard work, self-reflection, vulnerability, and compromise. Moving through these challenges together with your partner builds trust, confidence, and greater intimacy. Do not shy away from the hard stuff, it will be what brings you closer together. Dr. Blair, can provide you with the tools and strategies to help you find balance, compassion, and increased satisfaction in your relationships.
If you feel ready to seek psychological treatment and address some of these issues that have been arising for you, at Blair Wellness Group, we are here to help you navigate and overcome these challenges. And they may seem insurmountable right now, but with perseverance, patience, persistence, repairing past traumas from childhood, or other relationships, and through our relationship coaching techniques, you can rebuild and repair any relationship to be the healthy, loving, and happy partnership you deserve.