On a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high), choose a number that represents how much closeness you’re comfortable with in an intimate relationship.
Many people are less than completely honest about this issue. They want closeness and intimacy, but not too much of it, not all the time and only in certain times and ways.
In truth, there are levels of closeness and intimacy, just like there are levels of emotional risk, and not all people desire the same amount. In order for each person to be happy in a relationship, both people have to be in approximate harmony in how close and connected they want their relationship to be. Along the way, they have to negotiate such questions as how close is too close—and how distant is too distant?
To determine how you might be pushing intimacy away, withdrawing or not letting someone get too close, explore the following questions: In which of the following areas are you less than open with your intimate partner? About your feelings? Ideas? Needs? Hopes and dreams? Finances? Your friends and family? Creativity? Your passions? What’s annoying you? Your hesitations or reservations about the relationship? Your fears? Opinions? History? Your sexuality? Your body? Work? Tastes? Spirituality? Requests you have of your partner so you can feel more comfortable or more yourself in the relationship?
You may be sleeping together, living together or married for many years, yet you may be strangers to each other in many ways, keeping huge chunks of yourselves hidden from each other. Intimate strangers.
This idea was taken from Steven Carter’s book This Is How Love Works ( M. Evans & Co.). He offers a variety of hiding places many of us use to keep our intimate relationships less intimate. Stop for a moment and think about the various “hiding places” that perhaps you have come to rely on.
Do you hide behind your job or hectic lifestyle? Behind newspapers, books and magazines? Behind your anger? Endless hobbies or projects? Your professional persona? Your bravado or well-practiced rap? Constant joking? Sex? Food? Alcohol? Your words? Money? Computer? Your friends, siblings, parents or kids? Pushing away when things get too close and intimate? Do you keep your heart held back, detached, reserved or protected? Do you hide behind your fierce need to be independent and not need anyone? Behind your fear of being controlled?
If you want this dynamic to change, the first thing you will need to do is access each person’s role in keeping things more distant. Although you are unlikely to succeed in forcing your intimate partner into more closeness than s/he is wanting, you can succeed in pinpointing where the problem seems to lie, and what solutions may work. Try the following:
As a couple, take turns addressing the following questions with each other openly: Which of the behaviors listed above fit you? Which do you think fit your partner? Are there any secrets from your past that could be negatively effecting your ability to be close? What areas of your life (interests, emotions, desires, wishes, etc.) are you keeping from your partner? How have you been protecting yourself in the relationship? How might all of this be shutting out your partner? What are some of the ways you withdraw from your relationship and distance from your partner? In what ways do you think your partner is distancing or withdrawing? How could you take more responsibility for making your relationship closer, more connected, more intimate? What would you like your partner to do that would assist you in feeling closer and more connected?