Sometimes we’re totally unaware of the most damaging intimacy-breaking behaviors. Reclaim your relationship health by breaking the patterns for good.
Why do men and women dive into relationship, then do everything to avoid intimacy?
Q: What are intimacy breaking behaviors?
A: They are behaviors that get in the way of you and your partner feeling connected.
Q: Why do we indulge in intimacy breaking behaviors?
A: Often, we engage in these behaviors because the movement towards intimacy can be confronting and bring up internal experiences that are uncomfortable.
My experience suggests that we can stand only a certain level of intimacy based on our sense of self. As the level of intimacy rises toward our set point regarding self-esteem, we become uncomfortable and will unconsciously sabotage the process of increasing intimacy.
“But I love being intimate.” Yes, many of us say this, but what we say and what we do are often contradictory. I have some friends who do not even know what it means when their partners’ say they want more intimacy.
For those of you who do know what it is, but notice you or your partner sometimes feel disconnected, being able to identify intimacy breaking behavior is the first step in re-establishing the bridge towards intimacy.
Here are 10 common intimacy-breaking behaviors. Which ones do you use?
1) Getting lost in thinking about work, success, or just getting down on yourself and being in a bad mood. These are preemptive actions that block connecting before it even gets started. A variation on this is being connected, then bringing up topics you know (when you think about it) your partner is not interested in.
2) When your partner is sharing with you something that is emotional or makes you uncomfortable, you change the subject.
3) Getting into an argument with your partner. This is a guaranteed intimacy-breaker for most of us. And since it is so common, being able to work through arguments in a constructive way is essential for the long-term health of your relationship. On the other hand, it is possible to argue and increase intimacy. Arguments can make you appreciate your partner’s intellect, tenacity, and wisdom. Arguing can lead you to a deeper understanding of the other person.
4) Criticizing your partner (when think you are “helping”). If you have ever been on the receiving end of “helpful” criticism, you know that it is building walls and resentment, not bridges.
5) Complaining about your partner. This is similar to—but slightly different than—criticizing, as in the above case, where you genuinely think you are helping. When complaining, you are not trying to help, you are venting your anger and trying to modify your partner’s behavior.
6) Attacking your partner with anger. This just plain sucks—for you and your partner. Uncontrolled anger is bad for your physical and emotional health; it’s rough on your partner as well. Destructive anger creates hurt, distrust, and wall-building for self-protection.
7) Not giving your partner your full attention. You do this by glancing at the computer, TV, or phone while having a conversation (sort of).
In the old days, it was reading the newspaper at the table. Nowadays, we have multiple electronic devices to keep us distanced from our partner.
8) Not sharing your experience of life. This could be how your day went, an interesting article you read, or a new restaurant a friend told you about.
Some of us “forget” to share, or are “too tired,” or don’t think it is important. It is SO important! A relationship is built on shared experiences. The sooner you start sharing, the sooner the relationship will improve. Stay connected.
9) Excessive use of pornography, drugs, alcohol, or work. Any addictive behavior will negatively impact the relationship by taking you away from the person you love.
10) Withholding kindness, affection, or sex. If you are doing this, you are not only engaged in intimacy breaking behavior, but are in the process of creating hell on earth for you and your partner. Not recommended.
If you do any of these behaviors, or others not listed here, becoming aware is the first step to re-establishing your bond. Once you have identified these behaviors, you can create a plan to stop doing them. Enlisting your partner’s aid is helpful. The rest is practice and commitment to staying the course until the behavior is extinguished.
Replacing old habits with new ones is generally recognized as a three week long process. However, you may discover that there are psychological issues interfering with attaining the new behavioral patterns. Understanding and working through these issues may take longer and you may need outside support (therapy/coaching).
For me, being in a relationship is a constant opportunity to learn about myself and my partner. Seeing how I interrupt and limit the amount of joy I allow in our relationship has been a staggering realization. Becoming aware of and decreasing intimacy-breaking behavior has energized the relationship and opened our eyes to what is possible.
This article was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission.
About the Author
Steven Lake is an author, speaker and relationship coach. He has a private counseling practice, works for the BC Society of Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, and is an adjunct professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. His latest book in hard cover, talk2ME: How to communicate with women, tune up your relationship, tone down the fights, dodge divorce, and have sex more than once a year, can be found on Amazon.com. For a short, fun read Dr. Lake has an ebook, The Sex Formula: How to Calculate Sexual Compatibility (also found on Amazon). You can contact the author at TheRelationshipGuy.ca.