Category Archives: Intimacy

Intimacy vs. Agreement
“I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.”

“Fire ‘n Ice”—Mark Wood & Laura Kaye by Mimi Stuart ©

“Fire ‘n Ice”—Mark Wood & Laura Kaye by Mimi Stuart ©

Guessing game: The cycle of fusion

People often think they want more agreement in order to gain a feeling of intimacy. They often mistake intimacy with a feeling of closeness or “being one with their partner.” So in their quest for intimacy, they anticipate what their partner’s beliefs are in order avoid saying something incompatible or controversial. If they foresee disapproval, they screen themselves and limit their expression to what’s tried and true between them. Or they pressure their partner into agreeing with their own position.

Unfortunately, this kind of self-screening and manipulation starts the cycle of emotional fusion (co-dependence), which curtails growth and intimacy within a relationship. Fear of disapproval leads to one or both partners striving to be in complete agreement with the other and avoid rocking the boat. As a result, the relationship becomes tedious and lackluster.

How intimacy develops

Intimacy develops when people get to know each other more deeply. When two people conceal who they are and what they think in order to get along, they do not get to know one another well. Intimacy develops when two people are able to express who they are more fully, and when they are able to change and grow while within a relationship, even though this does not always lead to a feeling of oneness. Passion requires friction, albeit not hostile friction.

Tolerating the anxiety of intimacy

To be able to express who you are, what you feel, and what you believe requires being able to handle rejection, which often triggers anxiety. Thus, by developing a better tolerance for anxiety, you enhance your ability to deepen the intimacy in your relationship.

Of course there is a limit as to what you should express to others. You don’t need to share every thought and feeling, because you don’t want to become a bore. Moreover, there is a point where consideration and discretion count more than blunt honesty and openness.

Get comfortable with discomfort

When it comes to more significant thoughts and feelings, we need to learn to express ourselves despite the other person’s potentially-negative response. If we learn to handle discomfort, we no longer need to feign agreement, laugh at a poor joke, or dumb down our conversation to avoid upsetting another person. Our relationships can then be based on stimulating thoughts, growth, and authenticity, rather than sham consensus.

Respectful communication

Intimate relationships develop best when we express our honest opinions respectfully, and most importantly, when we really listen to another person’s message without shutting him or her down. This means not being reactive — sarcastic, angry, or cold — when someone has an opinion that we disagree with. When we “correct” or attack people aggressively for their ideas, we’re not encouraging them to be open and honest with us.

Respectful communication is different from acceptance and approval. Good communication does not necessarily make the other person feel his or her opinions are endorsed. Yet he or she will feel understood and respected.

“I understand what you’re saying. I see it a little differently though.”

“I’m interested to hear why you see it that way.”

“Interesting. I have a different perspective.”

Intimacy develops when we learn to listen with equanimity and to reveal ourselves, our opinions, and our feelings respectfully. Only by truly getting to know one another, do we develop meaningful, intimate relationships.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

The type of person to avoid falling in love with or becoming dependent on

"Volcano" by Mimi Stuart

“Height of Ecstacy” Mount Everest by Mimi Stuart

“Alison,
I met a spectacular woman a few months ago. But then began her impulsivity, changeable moods and rage outbursts against me. She seems highly functioning but doesn’t have self-control. Why am I attracted to people who are like that?”


The excitement of impulsivity

Impulsive people respond to their feelings without giving them much thought. They often express and respond to their emotions fervently and without fear of consequences. They tend to lack a filter or inner critic, which can result in their being exuberant, spontaneous and sometimes hotheaded.

Spontaneity and exuberance can be exciting and appealing. When two people are first attracted to each other, there are a lot of positive emotions, and someone who expresses desire and excitement impetuously can be quite seductive and exhilarating to be with.

The fantasy in new relationships

When two people first become captivated with one another whether as friends or potential lovers, there is always a bit of projection going on. They don’t really know each other, so they fill in the blanks by projecting their hopes and fantasies onto the other person.

Yet no one can really fulfill the expectations of another person. Eventually, reality sets in and will conflict with some of the fantasies each has about the other. When they find out that their expectations are inaccurate, they may be disappointed and even blame the other person for failing to fulfill their fantasy. Disappointment and blame can trigger further negative emotions and behavior in both people.

People who lack impulse control tend to follow their emotions, while ignoring reason based on observations of experience. They allow themselves to get carried away by their projections when they are infatuated with someone. They also experience disappointment in an exaggerated way without tempering their negative emotions with rational thought and restraint. When they express their negative emotions without a filter, they may become volatile, hostile and explosive.

How to avoid getting hurt by volatile people

It helps to develop your own self-control and avoid falling for someone too quickly. The word “falling” is appropriate here. It implies letting go of reason and caution while giving up any grounding in reality. This “letting go” or “falling” into your fantasy feels thrilling and intoxicating, but when you finally hit the ground, it can hurt.

So it helps to take your time before getting deeply involved with someone you’re attracted to. Take your time to get to know their true nature, qualities and character. By avoiding becoming emotionally enmeshed too quickly, i.e., by calling or seeing them everyday, you can retain some objectivity.

While it’s fine to enjoy people who are impulsive and exciting, know that such qualities can lead to moodiness, controlling behavior, dependency, manipulation, volatility and rage. Thus, make sure you remain independent and grounded on your own terms when engaging with impulsive people. Also try to avoid being controlling, possessive, overly impulsive, dependent, or manipulative yourself. None of these qualities bode well in the pursuit of a long-term relationship.

You can still enjoy the excitement of being captivated by or infatuated with a new person. But keep your eyes open and reason intact to be able to stay connected to reality.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: “He Wants Me To Have sex with Other Men. What’s Wrong with Him?”

"Tiffanys" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Tiffanys” by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR SAM VAKNIN writes:

The Lifestyle involves sexual acts performed by more than two participants whether in the same space, or separately. It is also known as “swinging”, “wife-, or spouse-swapping”, “wife-, or spouse-sharing”, “group sex” and, where multiple people interact with a single person, “gangbanging”. Swinging can be soft (engaging in sexual activity with one’s own intimate partner, but in the presence of others), or hard (having sex not with one’s spouse or mate.) Threesomes (mostly male-female-male or MFM) are the most common configuration.

The psychological background to such unusual pursuits is not clear and has never been studied in depth. Still, thousands of online chats between active and wannabe adherents and fans in various forums reveal 10 psychodynamic strands:

1. Latent and overt bisexuality and homosexuality: both men and women (but especially women) adopt swinging as a way to sample same-sex experiences in a tolerant, at times anonymous, and permissive environment;

2. The Slut-Madonna Complex: to be sexually attracted to their spouses, some men need to “debase” and “humiliate” them by witnessing their “sluttish” conduct with others. These men find it difficult to have regular, intimate sex with women to whom they are emotionally attached and whose probity is beyond doubt. Sex is “dirty” and demeaning, so it should be mechanical, the preserve of whorish and promiscuous partners;

3. Voyeurism and exhibitionism are both rampant in and satisfied by swinging. Oftentimes, those who partake in the Lifestyle document their exploits on video and share photos and saucy verbal descriptions. Amateur porn and public sex (“dogging”) are fixtures of swinging;

4. Vicarious gratification. “Cuckolds” are (typically male) swingers who masturbate to the sight of their partner having sex with another, usually without actually joining the fray. They derive gratification from and are sexually aroused by the evident pleasure experienced by their significant other: her vocalizations, body language, body fluids, enraptured movements, and orgasm and abandon;

5. Masochism is a prime motive for a minority of swingers. They relish in their own agony as they watch their spouse hooking up with others: envy, pain, anxiety, a sense of humiliation, an overpowering feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy, sinfulness, debauchery, depravity, and decadence all conspire to thrill the masochist and delight him;

6. Swinging is also a form of legitimized cheating. It spices up the stale sex lives of the players and neutralized the emotional and financial risks and threats associated with furtive extramarital escapades. Many swingers adopt the Lifestyle in order to alleviate boredom, counter routine, realise sexual fantasies, learn new techniques, feel desirable and attractive once more, and cope with discrepancies in sex drive. They insist: “swinging saved my marriage”;

7. Some swingers use the Lifestyle to “display” or “exhibit” their partners, casting them as desired and desirable trophies, or status symbols. Others present may sexually “sample the wife” but never own her, a form of restricted access which causes her suitors much envy and frustration. “I am the one who ends up going home with her” – these swingers brag, thus reaffirming their own irresistibility and attractiveness;

8. The Lifestyle is a rollercoaster of serial relationships, mostly with strangers. It is, therefore, thrilling, risky, and exciting and provokes anxiety, romantic jealousy, and guilt (for having dragged the partner into the Lifestyle, or for not having restrained her). There is also a recurrent fear of losing the partner owing to a growing emotional or sexual bond with one of her casual “F-buddies” or “friends with benefits”. Swinging results in an adrenaline rush, a high, and in addictive periods of calm after these self-inflicted psychosexual storms;

9. Swinging calls for the objectification of sexual partners. Many swingers prefer to remain anonymous in settings like Lifestyle retreats or group sex and orgies. They are thus reduced to genitalia and erogenous zones enmeshed in auto-erotic and narcissistic acts of masturbatory gratification with other people’s bodies as mere props. Women reported experiencing a new sense of empowerment and mastery as they can finally dictate the terms and conditions of sexual encounters, pick and choose partners, and realize hitherto suppressed sexual fantasies. Other practitioners actually prefer to swing only with close friends, using sex as a form of intimacy-enhancing recreation;

10. Nudity has a pronounced aesthetic dimension and when multiple naked bodies intertwine, the combination can amount to a work of art, a flesh-and-blood throbbing sculpture. Many swingers find sex to be the most supreme form of artistic experience, an interconnectedness that enhances empathy and communication and provides extreme sensual pleasure. It is also great fun: the ultimate in entertainment, where novelty and familiarity merge to yield a unique journey with each new entrant.

————————————–

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

“My boyfriend won’t schedule ahead. So I get all anxious wondering when I’ll see him next.”

"Jump"—Marylin by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Jump”—Marylin by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

You have given your boyfriend too much power in the relationship. By anxiously waiting to accommodate his desires and his schedule, you give him the power to determine when he gets to see you. It is time to stop that. Not only is this bad for your own wellbeing, it makes the relationship unbalanced, nonreciprocal, and unsustainable.

Many people in a non-committed relationship will wait until the last minute to make plans because they have the expectation that something better might come along. If you continue to be totally available at his whim and convenience, he will lose desire and respect for you.

Eliminate anxious questioning and nagging, which are worse than ineffective. If you feel like you’re being kept waiting by someone who doesn’t like to plan ahead, you should definitely make other plans — lots of other plans. In fact, fill up your schedule, despite the fact that you would prefer to be with him over going to the gym, going to a movie with a friend, or catching up on reading. What you’d actually prefer is that he’d want to be with you badly enough that he would be able to commit ahead of time.

Allow him to become the one who wonders when he will get to see you next. Eventually he will discover that you are not available unless he plans ahead. He’ll learn this through your specific actions and his own surprise and disappointment when you are already booked up. Uncertainty and respect fan the flames of desire.

If he cannot take the time to schedule time with you then you will know that he really is only interested in you as a default date. It would be better to find this out sooner rather than later and move forward with your dignity and self respect intact.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Is ‘playing hard to get’ just a game?”

Read “Sustaining Desire: ‘It doesn’t matter. Let’s just watch TV.’”

Watch “How to ask for more affection, intimacy and sex…and…how not to.”

“He promised me we’d spend time just the two of us together last night. Instead, he zoned out for two hours playing games. I tried to be as understanding as possible but felt stood up.”

"Tiffanys" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Tiffanys” by Mimi Stuart ©

When someone has promised to spend time with you but plays video games instead, don’t wait around for two hours and try to be understanding. While it is rarely effective to complain or get angry, it can be constructive to speak up when someone is disrespectful. You could remind him neutrally or even playfully, “Hey, I’m here. You said you wanted to do something fun… Well?”

If he doesn’t stop playing his game, then it is time for you to do something for yourself, on your own or with friends. Don’t wait around to be there at his convenience. Go to the movies, meet friends or go for a walk. Otherwise he will continue to take you for granted, and you will become resentful and less desirable.

While it would be quite easy for you to coerce him into stopping the game and doing something with you, he would feel irritated and would not truly desire and appreciate the time he does spend with you. No one likes to be manipulated.

So don’t be controlling. Yet you don’t want to stand by while he plays video games. Say, “have a good time, ssee you later,” and leave. You are less likely to become bitter if you do something you enjoy on your terms. If you stand by and do nothing, you give him all of the power in the relationship.

When he realizes you’re no longer there waiting for his attention, he will either regret ignoring you and avoid doing it in the future, or he won’t care, in which case, this may be the first step on your road to a more fulfilling life and possibly a new relationship.

If a pattern of disregard seems to be emerging, then you may want to sit down with him and state your needs and desires without being controlling. Explain that he is free to do what he wants. However, you want to be with someone who wants to spend some time together and who appreciates being with you. Let him know that you’re reconsidering if you are right for each other. If he doesn’t seem to care, then it’s time to move on.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

Read “Spending Time Together as a Couple.”

Watch “Seven keys to a great relationship.”

“I was diagnosed with cancer and my relationship fell into the Pursuer/Distancer dynamic, after which it ended.”

"Tempest" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Tempest” by Mimi Stuart ©

“I was diagnosed with cancer and my relationship fell into the Pursuer/Distancer dynamic. I needed more and more support, care, and demonstration of love while he grew colder. My relationship ended shortly afterwards, as I was unable to deal with the fact he distanced me in my time of greatest need. The same pattern occurred again in the relationship that followed this one.”

The effect of increased anxiety on relationship

A relationship should be able to withstand imbalances of need and support. However, people vary in how they handle increased stress from serious problems such as illness or job loss. The fact that someone is ill does not necessarily lead to their desiring more care, support and demonstration of love from their partner. Some people would become more emotionally closed.

A person’s illness or other challenge will intensify a person’s already existing tendencies. So the increased anxiety from an illness will tend to magnify any existing imbalance in the relationship, and may cause the relationship to become destabilized.

Emotionally self-contained vs emotionally open

Generally, people are attracted to those who balance out their own propensities. People who tend to desire support and connection are often drawn to emotionally-independent types. An unconscious need to become more emotionally self-sufficient causes them to be attracted to those who instantiate that characteristic. The opposite may also be true — self-contained people may initially be drawn to someone who has the ability to be emotionally open and express his or her needs.

However, people do not become emotionally contained by accident. Such a tendency is often promoted by the family of origin, which may have fostered self-reliance, toughness, and action, rather than feeling, connection, and interdependence. It may also be a defense mechanism to protect oneself from being disappointed, hurt, or criticized.

Because such inclinations are generally deeply ingrained, it would be best to contain your need for support from those uncomfortable in giving it. Ironically, when there’s less need of support, Distancers don’t recoil from giving it because they sense a limit to the need. What Distancers dread most is what feels to them like a devouring need that has no end.

Avoid one-sided caretaking

Also beware of allowing a great imbalance in caretaking to develop in a relationship. This may be difficult when you’re serious ill. However, when the primary way of relating in a relationship becomes focusing on one person’s needs, you will see passion and mutuality diminish or disappear. So it would be best to try to find additional support for your extra needs from outside the relationship. I recommend that you look for emotional support from people eager to give it, whether they are supportive friends, nurses, counselors, or support groups.

I’m sorry about your diagnosis, and hope that you feel better and that you get better soon.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “I am overwhelmed by worry.”

Read “Pursuing Connection with a Distancer? ‘We never spend time together.’”

Read “Opposites attract: ‘Can’t you ever stop and just sit down with me!’”