In last week’s blog, I explained the different types of intimacy: Intellectual, Energetic or experiential, Emotional, and Sexual. Today, I will share the top 4 culprits of intimacy erosion in relationships:
4 Main Culprits To Eroding Relationship Intimacy
1. Unintentionally hurting each other
Unless you or your partner has tendencies of passive aggressive or sociopathic behaviors, you really don’t intend to hurt one another. In fact, you probably have the same relationship goals of happiness, peace and joy. Then why do couples hurt each other? The answer is that one or both of you are in fear or pain. In fact, the amount of unresolved fear or pain that you feel is the amount of pain that you inflict or project onto one another. For example, I worked with a client who had a childhood history of sexual molestation. It left her feeling trapped and overwhelmed for years. She unintentionally carried these fears into her adult romantic relationships. It wasn’t unusual for her to suddenly announce, without too much provocation from her partner, that the relationship was over, leaving the poor guy confused and left wondering, “What the heck just happened?!” When her fears were triggered, this ‘coping mechanism’ of fleeing the relationship felt mighty powerful. However, with professional help and a ton of inner work, she finally resolved her fears of being trapped and overwhelmed and now has a thriving and loving marriage.
2. Over-reactivity or drama
When triggered, do you and/or your partner fight or flee, or both?
Let me explain why the fight or flight phenomena exists. You have more than one almond-shaped area of your brain called the Amygdala. Its job is to sense, prepare and deal with perceived danger via fight or flight. The Amygdala stores memories of trauma and upset from your past. Therefore, 99.9% of the time, the pattern that’s being set off has nothing to do with what’s actually happening between you and your partner in the present moment. As soon as “danger” is perceived, your Amygdala takes over your sensible frontal cortex section of your brain.
In romantic relationships, it usually doesn’t take much for the Amygdala to become triggered. Before your rational mind has a chance to engage, the Amygdala has already done its quick and dirty work (slammed doors, screamed obscenities, given threats to leave and even verbal and physical abuse). And if that’s not enough, the Amygdala gets addicted to the flood of emotional chemicals that course through your body. So, each time you have to get angrier, scream louder or become more abusive to get that rush of chemical soup throughout your system.
In the end, the only real danger is that of losing your wonderful relationship!
3. Turning away or the White Elephant Syndrome
Couples who don’t authentically communicate regularly often experience this particular kind of intimacy erosion. They avoid difficult topics and steer clear of disturbing the apple cart. It’s as if there’s a white elephant in the middle of the living room, but no one’s talking about it because it’ll upset the relationship status quo. For example, I have worked with a number of clients who try to avoid the topic of their partner’s addiction problem. They fear that if they bring it up, it’ll either shatter their loved one or their relationship. It takes courage to talk about difficult subjects, but in the end, it’s the only chance for a happy partnership. My job with these clients is to support them through their fears of speaking up and to stop tiptoeing around the issue. No one ever moved an elephant by walking around it. No, you have to walk right up to it and confront it to get it to move.
4. Taking each other for granted
How many times have I seen relationships fail because they take each other for granted. Appreciating the little things that your partner does is vitally important for you to recognize and acknowledge, preferably everyday. Not doing so is a relationship killer. Couples who have a practice of gratitude never take each other for granted.
Homework for the week:
For the next 7 days, be in the practice of sitting with your fears and pain. Take 10 deep breaths whenever you feel triggered in any way. Complement yourself for sitting with your feelings because this is not easy to do.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, The Holiday Survival Guide For Couples: Part 3- How Do I Get Some Of That Intimacy?
Need relationship advice right away, even before the holidays are over? Take advantage of Tamara’s free 45-minute guidance session where you will finally get clarity and relief from your heartbreak. By clicking here you no longer have to figure this out alone anymore. Yay!
The fastest road to delicious intimacy is to give your partner exactly what it is that you desire. – Tamara Green, LCSW