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Defending Against Intimacy

Your survival depends on intimacy. As Thomas Lewis talks about in his book, "A General Theory of Love", an infant's life depends on intimacy with a caregiver to regulate basic physiological and emotional functioning. This regulation through connection continues throughout life.

However, if you are like most people, you had formative experiences in which you moved toward intimacy and got the message that it wasn't okay and possibly that it was dangerous.  At some point in becoming more and more intimate with your partner these previous experiences motivate you to defend against the very thing you need.

Defending against intimacy can take a lot of different forms.  Let's look at a couple of common patterns.

Mistrust & Suspicion

This has been the most pervasive pattern for me over the years.  Until I was able to see how it was preventing intimacy, I had a hard time letting go of it.  The basic scenario here is that the data shows your partner to be consistently trustworthy, but you continue to engage in suspicion and mistrust.  For me this looked like asking lots of questions:  Where were you?  Who were you with?  Was that person flirting with you?  Are you really committed to this relationship?  Why are you late?  Do you really love me?  Etc.

As long as I labeled my partner as a suspicious character and allowed myself to ask these kinds of questions from a place of fear, I could build a case for mistrust. In this way, I kept a distance between us.


This a second common pattern I have encountered in work with couples.  If this is your pattern of defending, you have likely heard yourself say things like, "That's just the way I am."  You also may find it had to give a definitive yes or no to decisions.  Instead you say things like, "I have to think it over.  Or, I could, I don't know.  Or,  That's a possibility, let me see how I feel."  Revealing what you really want or don't want and committing to an answer feels scary at some level. You prefer to stick with what is familiar both in your own behavior and in the things you and your partner do together. You likely take a long time to make a change and once you decide to do something you stick with it.

This pattern can help create security in a relationship up to a point.  When it keeps you from experimenting with your partner and saying yes to change, intimacy is the cost.

This week watch yourself closely as you interact with your partner.  Notice when you do something that disconnects you from your partner.  See if there is a pattern there. Do you notice some habitual way of behaving that keeps you defended against intimacy?

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Dissolving Reactivity
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Showing Your Partner that S/he is a Priority

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