Tag Archives: Intimacy

Pursuing passions or partnership?
““You should spend more time with me instead of going fishing!””

"Long Drive" — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Long Drive” — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart ©

Should you push your partner to stop pursuing their passions?

People often push their partner to stop pursuing their interests in favor of spending more time together as a couple. The pursuing partner may genuinely want to spend more time together or he or she may be reacting to feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Feelings of insecurity in particular will cause someone to try to control the other person and become possessive.

Some partners find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. So they prefer to accommodate them. Often it is their own anxiety in face of a partner who is upset that they cannot tolerate. As a result, when their partner pressures them to give up their interests, they give in quickly in order to avoid conflict.

Long-term problems of appeasement

When your partner appeases you, you may feel temporary relief. However, ongoing appeasement will create long-term problems. The result of repressing one’s own desires can result in a gradual deadening of the soul, growing resentment, boredom, and a loss of passion within the relationship.

When your partner continuously appeases you at the expense of their own interests, they will lose some of their passion for life and for you. Moreover, as appeasement becomes the norm, you will both feel increasingly burdened by an obligation to appease each other. As a result, one or both of you will become more and more vulnerable to the other person’s manipulation.

Long-term intimacy and accommodation

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to accommodate your needs and desires. Long-term passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that each can spend time separately pursuing their own individual interests.

To sustain a long-term passionate relationship, you need to balance two primary drives — the desire for togetherness and the desire for autonomy. While everyone has a different ideal balance point, it is clear that the extremes of too much togetherness or too much independence each generate their own problems.

If you really love someone, you do not want that person to stop pursuing their passions and interests. Nor should you want to make that person feel guilty for pursuing them. It’s not much fun spending time with someone who feels stifled and held back. The very reason you love a person has a lot to do with their vitality and individual interests. So it is both wise and loving to encourage them to continue to pursue their interests.

Empower yourself

When you feel threatened by your partner spending time apart from you, rather than controlling your partner, find a way to empower yourself and the relationship.

1. Desire the best for your partner.

You will have a better relationship if your partner is happy. It reflects well on you and you will be more attracted to your partner if your partner is passionate about life rather than unhappy about it.

2. Be curious about your partner’s interests.

You don’t want to become a couple that has nothing to talk about. Don’t feel resentment about your partner’s fishing, golfing, or reading. Instead, ask about their interests, their progress, and other details. Find genuine joy in what they appreciate about their pursuits and passions.

3. Pursue something you enjoy.

Start pursuing your own passions. If you don’t have any, try out different activities, sports, or hobbies, or take some classes. The experience of trying new things will make your life richer. When you keep your life engaged, you enhance your life, which also makes you more interesting to be with. Taking on challenges builds a healthy confidence and joie de vivre. Even failed pursuits make for great stories. All of this will lead you to a more interesting and passionate relationship.

4. Make your time together more enjoyable.

Plan activities together that your partner will want to participate in. Spending some time together is important. Rather than spending that time complaining about your partner’s passions, think about pursuits that you can do together that may be interesting or pleasant for both of you. Talk to your partner about what your interests and passions are.

While it is important to spend some time together, couples keep their relationships alive when they do not spend all their time together. When you encourage your partner to pursue their passions, they will be grateful to be with someone who is truly loving.

Loving someone means respecting their autonomy and wanting them to be truly happy.

Alison Poulsen, PhD

“I want more intimacy, validation, and to feel closer to you.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Marilyn Silver Screen” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Some people claim they want more intimacy, but what they seem to really want is total agreement and constant validation, which are antithetical to intimacy. Long-term, passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that they can have differing opinions without expecting all-encompassing closeness and validation from each other.

Intimacy based on accommodation

People often find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. It is easier to simply appease them, agree with them, and validate them. So they often validate their partner simply to accommodate the partner’s fears and insecurities. It is often really their own anxiety that they cannot tolerate when their partner is under stress.

For example, you may choose to respond by nodding agreeably when you don’t agree rather than saying, “I think you could have handled this differently.” As a result of hiding your true thoughts, the result is a deadening of the soul, resentment, and a loss of passion within the relationship.


Validating your partner can temporarily improve your partner’s mood and functioning. However, it often creates long-term problems, such as increased codependency. Each partner feels increasingly burdened by an obligation to ease the other person’s anxiety. When couples become codependent, they are increasingly vulnerable to the other partner’s manipulation. They also become anxious about saying and doing the right thing in order to get a positive reaction.

Intimacy based on candor

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to validate you. When you don’t need your partner to accommodate your insecurities, it’s easier to show parts of yourself to your partner that he or she may not agree with or validate. The benefit is that your partner then truly sees you without feeling an obligation to shore up your insecurities.

This requires a certain discipline, confidence, and courage to look at yourself objectively and to accept your partner’s authentic response.

While it’s nice to be validated by others, you are more likely to get true validation when you are not trying to attain it. When you’re willing to accept a person’s honest response, then you can meet that person on a deeper, truly intimate level. Ironically, less push for validation means greater intimacy and the possibility of a long-term passionate relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

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

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

“Sex without affection is not working for me. But I don’t want to lose his friendship as he is such an interesting man.”

"R&B for Two" by Mimi Stuart ©

“R&B for Two” by Mimi Stuart ©

You need to have the courage to speak your mind to your friend, but you can do so in a positive and attractive way that will make you more appealing. Tell him how much you appreciate him, enjoy his company and care about him. Yet let him know what your specific needs are. You feel that a sexual relationship is more satisfying for you when there is a greater emotional and physical connection, shown through affection.

If he is not willing and happy to comply with your wishes, then tell him that you would like to continue on as friends, but not friends with privileges.

Such an clarification is not a demand or a criticism. It’s an honest expression of your own feelings and desires, and it is likely to make you more desirable to him either as a friend or a partner. If he really cares for you and is capable of it, he will become more affectionate. If not, you might retain him as a friend.

However, you should be prepared that he may abandon the relationship. If he backs away, then you’ll know where you stand. But continuing the relationship on the current terms will only leave you feeling jaded or insipid. It is important to honor your own self-worth rather than to compromise yourself in order to please another person’s desires. So honor the fact that it is not working for you to have casual sex which leaves you feeling empty.

If you lose his friendship because of your preference not to have uninspired sex, you will be better off. Remember that only you can determine what works for you and what kind of relationship is life-enhancing for you. Don’t leave that decision in someone else’s hands. Yet people have different capabilities and personalities, and they are rarely mind-readers. So it is worth the effort to express your desires before giving up on the possibilities of having a fulfilling relationship.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

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

Read “We broke up because of sexual incompatibility.”

Read “You never touch me! You’re not attracted to me anymore, are you?”

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

Click on the picture below to watch the short video:

To sustain a passionate, fulfilling relationship, a couple has to balance two primary drives — togethernesss and separateness. Often however individuals often end up polarizing into the Pursuer and the Distancer.

When pursuers pursue connection they tend to push the distancer away. Pursuers feel rejected when their partner needs space and they’ll often try to get any emotional reaction just to make some sort of connection. The distancer may finally respond with anger or with resentful accommodation. But neither is very satisfying for the couple.

Pursuers tend to come across as needy. Distancers feel smothered by the pursuer’s craving for more connection and often lose desire for the pursuer. Pursuers need to reduce the burden they are putting on to their partner to satisfy their needs. Instead of attacking and overwhelming your partner, start by appreciating your partner and appeal to him or her by expressing desires in a positive way.

Complaining, generalizing, and attacking put others on the defensive and does not make you desirable to be with. You want your partner to want to be with you not to feel obligated to be with you. Entice your partner with one specific positive request at a time. If there’s an entrenched problem, discuss it in a self-empowered and compassionate way, by expressing your needs and values, without complaining and attacking.

If your partner is always busy or doesn’t take you seriously, set an appointment to talk. Keep your conversation concise rather than long and draining.

Pursuers often look for others to satisfy their deepest needs to be heard, to feel validated and accepted, and to avoid feeling alone. Yet no one can truly fill that emptiness. Psychological duress only leads to coerced togetherness not passionate togetherness. Avoid being the victim and using guilt to manipulate someone to spend time with you.

Distancers have all the power in the relationship. Pursuers need to take back that power, not over the other person, not even over the relationship, but over their own lives, by becoming accountable for their own fulfillment rather than making their partner responsible.

Love means having the self-discipline to respect other people’s wishes and needs despite your own desires. Appreciate the other person’s autonomy. Give the other person the space and time apart necessary to desire being with you. Also enjoy your time without your partner. It makes you a more interesting and desirable person to be with.

In summary, allow there to be some space and even mystery between you and your partner. Be responsible for your own fulfillment. If you develop your ability to be independent and to accept yourself, you won’t need to coerce validation and support from someone else.

Strive for love out of fullness rather than out of need and emptiness. Fullness comes from leading a more full, balanced life with ongoing growth, as well as self-validation and self-acceptance. Give yourself and your partner the gift of having the space to desire you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


“At first he was the pursuer, but now he’s the distancer. When I asked him whether this relationship was going anywhere, he told me that for him our relationship has not developed into anything special yet, although it might in the future but it also might not….”

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

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

He is clearly telling you that he is not in love with you, while at the same time keeping his options open. Someone who says after nine months that “it has not developed into anything special yet” is saying that he is in this relationship for his convenience until something better comes along. You are selling yourself short by staying together with someone who views his relationship with you so lackadaisically.

A fulfilling relationship should be based on mutual desire and respect. Despite the intermittent fun and exciting dates together, mutual desire is replaced here by apathy and ambivalence. This is clear from his own words, his lack of curiosity about you, and the scarcity of his efforts to talk to you when you are in town, out of town, or out of the country.

His lack of desire for a deeper connection with you is likely to leave you feeling more and more frustrated and disappointed. Unless you are satisfied with a perpetual feeling of unrequited longing, I would get out of this relationship now before your self-esteem deteriorates. Stop seeking his occasional validation and hoping that he will change.

Beware though, when you do back away, he will probably re-double his efforts and start saying things that you may enjoy hearing. Although you might take pleasure in his pursuit of you once again, if you go back to him every time he pursues you, his pattern of avoiding intimacy by distancing himself will probably become more exaggerated.

In the future, beware of the person who pursues you hotly in the beginning and then loses energetic interest. People like that often are drawn to the chase, but retreat from emotional intimacy.

When someone’s interest in you becomes lackluster, it’s time to let go.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Pursuit and Distancing: Intimacy vs. Needing Space.”

Watch “Seven keys to a great relationship.”