Tag Archives: Intimacy

Turning a Complaint into Enticement
“We never go dancing or do anything fun anymore!”

"Dazzle" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So what I really meant was…

“Let’s go dancing!”

Exaggeration and blame make a person feel defensive instead of accommodating. Self-pity is unattractive—definitely not a seductive way to get someone to want to go dancing with you!

When people demonstrate personal authority and show excitement, they have a lot more magnetism than when they complain. Expressing desire is more effective than expressing discontent. So communicate in a positive, irresistible way:

“I’d love it if you came dancing with me tonight/next week/every Saturday!”

If the answer is “no,” find someone else to go dancing with, go on your own, or find something you both want to do together—but express yourself in a positive way, remembering that the goal is to enjoy your time together.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Spending Time Together as a Couple.”

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

"First Encounter" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“First Encounter” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guessing game: Cycle of fusion

People often mistake intimacy with a feeling of closeness and “being one” that comes from all-encompassing agreement and approval, similar to the feeling of falling in love. So in their quest for intimacy, they will anticipate the other person’s response to decide whether to avoid saying something controversial or to show a new side of themselves. If they foresee disapproval, they will screen themselves and limit their expression to what’s tried and true between them. Or they will pressure the other person into agreeing with them.

Unfortunately, too much self-screening and manipulation start the cycle of emotional fusion (co-dependence) and lead away from growth and intimacy in a relationship.

Agreement vs intimacy

People do not get to know one another intimately when they conceal who they are and what they think. When two people are always in complete agreement and busy soothing each other’s egos, their relationships become tedious.

Intimacy develops when people express who they are more fully, even when it does not lead to a feeling of oneness. People may say they want more intimacy, but in fact, real intimacy may be too much for many to tolerate.

Tolerating the anxiety of intimacy

To deepen intimacy, two people must get to know each other more deeply. They each have to be able to express who they are, what they feel, and what they believe. This requires being able to handle the possibility of not getting approval, and that can trigger anxiety. Thus, by developing a better tolerance for anxiety, you enhance your ability to deepen intimacy.

Of course there is some limit as to what you should express to others. You don’t need to share every thought and feeling. There is a point where consideration and discernment count more than blunt honesty and openness. You also don’t want to bore others by expressing every thought you have. It’s important, for example, to avoid expressing every criticism or self-criticism that comes to your mind.

Get comfortable with discomfort

If you get comfortable with discomfort, you no longer need to feign agreement, laugh at a poor joke, or dumb down your conversation to avoid upsetting another person. Your relationships will be based on stimulating thoughts, growth, and authenticity rather than sham consensus.

Respectful communication

Intimate relationships develop best when you express your honest opinions respectfully, and most importantly, when you 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 you disagree with. When you attack someone aggressively for their ideas, you are not encouraging them to be open and honest with you.

Respectful communication is different from acceptance and approval. Good communication does not necessarily make the other person feel his or her opinions are validated, but it also does not make the other person feel rejected or attacked.

Learn to reveal yourself, your opinions, and feelings respectfully, and to listen with equanimity. You will find that, with the right people, you will truly get to know one another, and develop meaningful, intimate relationships that are much more fulfilling than those based on self-screening and validation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Passion vs. Predictability: The Problem with Emotional Fusion.”

Read “Emotionally Volatile People: ‘He can be so charming and then so defiant.’”

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

Intimacy:
“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.

Codependence

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?”