Overcoming Emotional Distance

Being More Emotionally Open and Available

Dear Neil: I would appreciate very much if you would offer some recommendations on how I could overcome being emotionally distant.

Distant in Oceanside, California

Dear Distant: Here are several ideas:

  • Examine your feelings about not feeling worthy of a close relationship; your fears that if your partner really gets to know you, he or she won’t want you and will eventually reject you.
  • Address the question with your mate: “My fears of getting closer and more vulnerable to you are….”
  • Ask your partner on a regular basis “Are you getting your needs met in this relationship? If not, what would you like differently?” Commit to doing what is asked of you if you can.
  • Talk to your mate about your wishes, hopes, dreams and fears. Ask your mate to share his or hers as well.
  • Explore your fears of being hurt, rejected, abandoned and betrayed.
  • Improve your intimacy skills and behaviors. Intimacy skills include: conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiating, affection, endearments, benefit of the doubt, absence of malice, quality time spent together, compassion, trusting someone and acting trustworthy, listening well, communicating effectively, fidelity, having fun together, good sex, forgiveness, shared endeavors and friendship.
  • Have you been using sex, money, work, chores or your job to demonstrate your love? If so, try adding more heartfulness, vulnerability and affection.
  • Is there a competition between the two of you concerning who’s needs are going to be honored the most, and which one of you is going to get more nurtured or validated?  If so, change this, because both of you will lose this competition.
  • Offer your mate more connection, engagement,  acceptance, approval, empathy, respect, validation, nurturance and TLC.
  • Do you push away intimacy, pampering or closeness when it’s offered to you, because it’s foreign and you don’t know what to do with it?
  • Quit being passive. Take the initiative for making your relationship better.

Learn to identify your needs and wants, and learn to address them with your mate. You will earn a lot of credit and good will by just making more of an effort. Try it.

Dear Neil: I’m in a real dilemma. I am a 42 year old woman, who for the past twelve months has been involved with a 33 year old man. He is extremely selfish and self-centered, and continuously puts his own needs and desires first. I know I need to let go and get out of this destructive relationship, but I’m finding it very hard to do. It is hard for me to let go of a guy who says he loves me. How do I do it?

Staying in Waikuku, New Zealand

Dear Staying: There’s a reason why you’re feeling so blocked about this question. Perhaps there’s more to this relationship and what you’re getting from it than you think. Or perhaps you’re very afraid of being lonely or without someone special in your life.

People stay with an intimate partner they’re not especially happy with usually out of fear, not because of love. Fear of being alone, without sex, that you won’t find someone better—or worse, that you won’t find anyone else at all—fear of admitting failure to yourself and to others, or fear that you’re not worthy of a good, reciprocal intimate relationship.

Your task is to identify what your fears are about leaving this relationship. The real work is between you and your fears, not between you and the gentleman you’re involved with.

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