As Meryl Streep has said,” It’s Complicated !” Yes, intimacy is complicated.
Each of us comes into relationships with patterns of attachment that we learned in our childhood.
How we attach is key in marriage and partnerships. We may ‘overly attach’ and not have a separate sense of self. This is someone who needs attention most of the time, in order to feel loved and secure. Normal separateness, will cause this individual to feel rejected, although they are not being rejected. This neediness creates enormous stress on any couple.
The other person always feel the burden of ‘taking care’ of the one who feels empty.
On the other hand, the person who does not attach very easily, and seeks to maintain a great deal of distance in every relationship, causes loneliness in their partner.
Someone who was not cared for nor given appropriate attention in their childhood, will use emotional distance and ambivalence to maintain a ‘very separate self ‘ in all of their relationships.
This ’emotional distancing’ serves to protect them form further pain and rejection.
My goal as a Psychotherapist, in couples counseling, is to teach, practice, model and learn these skills:
- Attachment and boundaries
- Sexual intimacy
- Empathy and expectations
- Healthy arguing and negotiation skills.
An alcoholic parent creates a sense of anxiety in a child due to their chaotic and unpredictable parenting. Later in our adult life, a man or woman who needs constant attention and reminders that they are special, has this need because of the insecurity that was created throughout their upbringing.
What tends to happen then, in their adult choice of a spouse, is that this insecure adult –A, finds someone- B, who is distant and emotionally unavailable. Their insecurity is experienced by –B, as extreme neediness, and so they pull away, causing the other partner- A, to feel abandoned,
…which is the drama of their childhood.
Some of the tools I use for improving intimacy and communication in a partnership are:
- Learning to not take everything so personally.
- Learning specific tools for developing empathy, so the other feel s genuinely heard.
- Tools for negotiating and actually resolving conflict, rather than having it never get resolved.
- Learning to accept what differences you can live with and which ones are not negotiable.
- Stop trying to convince your spouse of how you feel and how that specific behavior hurts you. Instead, learn to be consistent with consequences, which speaks louder than words.
These are just a few tools for developing greater intimacy. The goal being that we establish caring and fulfilling, and most of all, lasting relationships.