Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Intimacy issues

Welcome to my pity party. I've entered a mild funk brought on by the sudden exit of Friendster Guy from my apartment to go fight a fire. The hazard of dating a public servant I guess. I know I shouldn't take it personally but for some reason I am. It's very stupid I know. Logically I am very happy, and even proud, that 1) he's around to go save people and their property and 2) he really enjoys his job. I wish I enjoyed mine half as much as he does. However, illogically, I'm disappointed he had to leave. I guess really that's not illogical. Disappointment is a valid response. I'm not sure exactly why I've been swept into a funk though. No, that's not true either. I'm disappointed in myself. I was trying to work up the nerve to tell him about my blog and some other topics of conversation and I just got all stupid and self-conscious instead. And then the call came for him to leave so I didn't get an opportunity to finish working up the nerve. I was left in the middle of my uncomfortable moment without the ability to get out of it. No closure on my stupidity if you will.

I think I have intimacy issues. I'm sure we all do on some level but mine are currently coming to the fore and affecting the way I am interacting with the person I would like to be intimate with.

If you'd like to see the following intimacy related information without my color commentary, go here. (Thank you Coping.org.) Otherwise, procede with caution. I'm doing a little self therapy for the benefit of myself and anyone who is reading this. My comments are in this color.

Table of Contents
What is intimacy in a relationship?
How can you recognize intimacy in a relationship?
Obstacles to establishing intimacy in a relationship
Negative consequences inability to handle intimacy
Beliefs which prevent establishing intimacy
Behavior traits needed to handle healthy intimacy in a relationship
Steps to improve intimacy in a relationship
What is intimacy in a relationship?

Intimacy with another person is the:
Unmasking of yourself in order to make yourself vulnerable in a trusting, loving, secure relationship.
Sense that you have a special, unique, and distinct bond joining you and another person.
Sense of closeness, proximity, and being "in tight.''
Sense of oneness, unity, and uniqueness.
Sense of being exposed, undefended, and fragile.
Sharing of tenderness, caring, and affection.
Sharing of secrets, hidden tales, and private thoughts.
Free will offering and receiving of each others' generosity, giving and sharing.
Sense of being in a non-punitive, non-abusive and non-coercive environment.
Mutual respect, recognition, and approval of each other's need to be a sexual being. In a marital relationship this shared sexuality ultimately results in loving sexual intercourse. We'll ignore the antiquated notion that only those in a marital relationship have loving sexual intercourse and get to the good stuff.

How can you recognize intimacy in a relationship?
The following ten statements describe intimate relationships:
1. Continuous, honest communication and contact with one another exists even if the contact is not in person but is by phone, mail, or some other form. So far so good re: Friendster Guy and I.
2. A mutual task to carry out at home, school, or on a job is willingly shared, discussed, and enjoyed together.
3. An affinity or attraction to one another exists to the exclusion of others. So far so good.
4. The company of one another is sought even when you both have a wide selection of other individuals from which to choose. Yes. At least I think so.
5. A sixth sense, ESP, or other extra perceptual facility develops with which you can communicate at a nonverbal level, with no need for words to clutter or detract from the communication. Not yet.
6. A sense of humor, sense of play and casualness develops in which you enjoy "give and take'' and are relaxed in each other's company. Yes
7. A protective sense of privacy and guardedness about your relationship exists; it is not subjected to public scrutiny, criticism, or judgment. Um, no. I've got a secret blog for Pete's sake.
8. The relationship is a productive enterprise resulting in mutual satisfaction, reward, and reinforcement for each other.
9. The relationship has a purpose, direction, and order to it that is reasonable, realistic, and healthy for both of you. This is a problem. I don't know the answer to this because I'm not sure our direction or purpose quite yet. Or at least it hasn't been verbalized.
10. A firm commitment, agreement, or contract exists with each other to be mutually supportive, understanding, and accepting of one another. I definitely trust him and he's been supportive and understanding. I think the crux of the isue is the word "accepting." He probably accepts the heck out of me but I'm too self-conscious and self-deprecating to be aware of it.

Obstacles to establishing intimacy in a relationship
The following behavior patterns or feelings are barriers to establishing healthy intimacy in a relationship:
Inability to develop trust in one another Fine
Chronic sense of insecurity It's not chronic. I often think I'm fabulous. But when it comes to intimacy I am insecure as all get out because...
Fear of failure A little
Fear of being vulnerable to being hurt or subjected to pain You betcha!
Inability to take a risk Sort of. I took many risks at the start of the relationship - asking him out, doing so again after I'd told him I just wanted to be friends - but now that I'm settling in to a relationship I'm unable to take a risk because I feel too vulnerable.
Inability to let go of hurts and fears from previous relationships I'm perfectly willing to let them go but they aren't letting me go.
Lack of role models for healthy intimacy Interesting question. Divorced parents who have been married to other people for over 20 years. I don't see a lot of intimacy in their relationships. I see it more in friends of mine.
Inability to recognize or accept one's own problem in handling intimacy I'm trying!
Inability to control the impact of anger, hostility, or resentment in the relationship This is not an issue.
Fear of losing the other in death or some other calamity Nope
Fear of being successful in the attainment of intimacy Hmm...no. I'd love to get all intimate with someone.
Inability to accept one's own responsibility in developing intimacy in the relationship No.
Inability to handle conflict within the relationship No.
Poor problem solving between the partners Nope. At least not yet.
Fear of loss of approval; fear of rejection Yessiree Bob. Absofreakinlutely. Fear of rejection! Ding ding ding. We have a winner.
Chronic defensiveness No
Over aggressiveness or passivity between the parties No
Power struggles between the parties for control of the relationship No
Competition between the parties No
Poor communication No - except for when I am unable to talk because I am afraid of rejection or am feeling insecure.
Blaming each other for problems in the relationship No
Fear of being too exposed or being found out for whom you "really are'' No. More of a disappointment at myself for not being who I really am.
Fear of claustrophobia or being smothered in the relationship No.
Desire to be left alone, isolated, and ignored No.
Mental or physical health problems that impede the relationship's growth No.
Fear that the relationship will become sexual in nature (especially if the parties are not married) No. Crossed that bridge already.
Fear of loss of identity No.
Inability to show affection, tenderness, or caring No. More like an inability to accept or feel I deserve affection, tenderness, or caring.
Inability to be open, honest, and forthright Yes and No. Depends on the subject. Being in denial about needing help No
If the parties are married or are sexual partners, other obstacles include:
Fear of sexual intercourse No
Fear of impotency, premature ejaculation, or no ejaculation No
Physically based sexual problems No
Lack of candor, openness, or honesty concerning sexuality maybe
Unwillingness to be creative, explorative, or imaginative sexually No, but there is fear of rejection when bringing up the topic. It happened with X. When you finally get up the nerve to talk about sex and you are shot down point blank, it doesn't exactly make you willing to do it again.
Embarrassment with one another in the sexual arena No
Poor body image and discomfort with nudity Yes.
Hang ups due to moral, religious, or value beliefs No.
Lack of appropriate education regarding sexuality Hmm...The older I get the more I realize that I got a heck of a lot of sex education but no sexuality education. I knew the parts and how things worked physically but not mentally. I'm still working on that part.
Unwillingness to establish a healing environment No

Negative consequences inability to handle intimacy
If a person has a problem securing, establishing, or maintaining intimacy in a relationship (in or out of marriage) that person is most likely going to feel (I changed the color of the ones I am currently experiencing on one level or another):
unwanted, pessimistic about the future, uncared for, depressed, undesirable, anxious over personal performance, lonely, inadequate, isolated, confused about sexual identity or adequacy, abandoned, not "good enough.'' rejected, left alone, unloved, low in self-belief, unattractive, unwilling to get involved, angry, resentful, or hostile

Beliefs which prevent establishing intimacy

  • If I open myself up to another person, I am bound to get hurt and/or taken advantage of. I agree. I disagree with pretty much everything else below unless otherwise noted.
  • People with whom I have been involved with in the past have abused, neglected, and mistreated me. How can I expect it to be different in the future?
  • People have said to me "I love you'' and "I hate you'' in the same breath. I get so confused. How can I ever believe anyone?
  • If you open yourself up to trust someone, they will always take advantage of you.
  • I am a worthless, useless, piece of junk. How could anyone ever care about me?
  • You are a slut, a whore, or a pig if you delight in sexual escapades with your husband.
  • You are a failure as a man and a husband if you ever fail to satisfy your wife sexually.
  • A women's role is to be subservient to men in all respects.
  • All men are out to rape or violate you.
  • All women are out to seduce, grab, or chain you into a "jail'' called marriage.
  • It is impossible to have a close friend of the opposite sex without the relationship becoming sexual in nature.
  • Married men and married women should never seek out friendships with married or single people of the opposite sex. It doesn't look good and people will never understand.
  • People who have close friendships in which they exchange signs of physical affection (like hugging and kissing) with partners of the same sex must be homosexual.
  • It is a feminine trait to be openly affectionate with another.
  • No one can keep a secret, so keep your personal business to yourself.
  • Intimacy always means sexuality and sexuality always means sexual intercourse.
  • It is impossible for men (or women) to remain faithful in a relationship.
  • Never get close to the people you work with!
  • Whenever you open yourself up to intimacy, you are bound to lose your friend through death or some other form of disaster.
  • I can take care of myself just fine. I don't need anyone else to clutter up my life.

Behavior traits needed to handle healthy intimacy in a relationship

In order to secure, establish, and maintain healthy intimacy in a relationship you must:
Develop self-confidence in your ability to handle a relationship
Believe in your self-worth, your goodness and abilities Easier said than done.
Let go of your fears Ok. I'll click my heals together and do that.
Open yourself up to trust in the goodness of others
Accept your body and body image Getting there
Learn to take a chance, take a risk
Have knowledge of the required attributes of a healthy relationship
Resolve feelings about past hurts, pains, and failures Working on it.
Handle disagreements, conflicts, or fights
Forgive and forget past hurts
Work out anger, resentment, and hostility over the past
Work out blocking irrational beliefs about relationships
Maintain mutual assertiveness in the relationship
Problem solve, make decisions, and execute plans to correct, rectify, and enhance the relationship
Reduce competition and the struggle for power and control in the relationship
Loosen up and show signs of physical affection and love to others This is not bad advice.
Improve communication to an open, honest, and productive level I'm trying. I really am.
Address the sexual issues in the relationship
Recognize the need for professional help and obtain such assistance Maybe.
Work out hang ups, resistance, and objections to healthy, normal sexual relationship with your partner How do you do that without making the other person you've only known for 3 months run screaming from the room? Baby steps.

Steps to improve intimacy in a relationship

Step 1: Before you can improve the level of intimacy in a relationship, you need to identify those with whom you already have an intimate relationship and those with whom you desire to develop a relationship. Answer the following questions in your journal (or your blog if you have no shame.):
a. In reviewing the ten statements which describe an intimate relationship, identify which people in your current life you (1) have an intimate relationship with at home, on the job, at school, or in the community, and (2) have the desire to establish an intimate relationship with (but to this point have been unable to do so).
b. For each of the persons identified above, review the obstacles to establishing intimacy, and identify the obstacles present that impede the intimacy between you and each person.
c. For each of the persons identified, review the negative consequences. Identify those negative consequences present due to the lack of intimacy you have with each person.
Step 2: Once you have identified the persons with whom you have intimacy problems and those with whom you desire to be intimate, identify those beliefs blocking your growth in intimacy with each of the people. Develop a replacement belief for each of the irrational ones.
Step 3: Once you have developed the replacement beliefs, identify those behavior traits you need to develop to correct your intimacy problems. To do this, review the behavior traits; list them in your journal.
Step 4: Now that you know you have problems in intimacy that need correcting, review the Tools for Coping Series tools and identify the ones that will be useful in correcting your intimacy problems.
Step 5: To help you overcome problems or enrich your intimacy with a person, try one or both of the following activities with the person:

Activity 1: Secret Telling Game
Directions: With a person who is in an intimate relationship with you, sit back to back on the floor with backs touching. You are to alternate turns.
First: You share a secret you have been told by the other. In telling your partner the secret, relate when it was told to you, how you felt and reacted once you were given the secret, and how well you have kept the secret to yourself. Each of you shares secrets with one another until you have exhausted the secrets shared between you two.
Second: Face each other knee to knee while sitting on the floor and discuss the following questions:
1. How confidential have we kept each other's secrets?
2. How freely have we shared our secrets with one another?
3. What hinders our ability to share secrets in this relationship?
4. What can we do to improve that sharing of secrets in this relationship?
5. How comfortable were we sitting back to back in this exercise? What made us nervous?
6. How comfortable are we sitting face to face, knee to knee discussing this activity?
7. Why is sharing secrets so important in establishing intimacy in a relationship?
8. How have our past lives affected our ability to share secrets in a relationship? 9. What other areas of our relationship do we need to address in order to improve our level of intimacy?
10. What are we willing to do for each other to encourage mutual growth and intimacy?


Activity 2: Draw A Person Game (This one scares me. Telling perhaps.)
Directions: With a person who is in an intimate relationship with you, sit back to back on the floor.
First: Each of you should have a big sheet of clean paper and crayons. While sitting in that position each of you is to draw a full body picture of the other person. Be as true to life in the picture as possible. Make it a front view of the person standing up. Be very exact in all details in drawing the body parts, face, eyes, mouth, etc.
Second: Once the pictures are completed, you are ready to take turns describing the pictures to each other. Face each other sitting knee to knee on the floor. In sharing your descriptions, discuss the following:
1. Why I think you look this way.
2. How I see you in comparison to me.
3. What parts of your face and body are attractive or appealing to others.
4. Why you are an appealing and attractive person to me.
5. What I would change on your body if I could.
Third: Once each of you has shared your pictures with these descriptions, discuss the following questions and record your responses in your journal:
1.How comfortable was I when you described my body in such intimate detail?
2.How accurately did we picture and describe one another?
3.How open and willing were we to listen and accept the descriptions of our bodies?
4.What did this exercise tell us about each other's body image?
5.How important is body image to intimacy in a relationship?
6.How comfortable are we with our bodies touching during this exercise?
7.Were we anxious in doing this exercise? Why?
8.What does each of us need to change concerning our personal body image?
9. What are we willing to do to help the other with body image?
10. What did this activity tell us about the level of intimacy in our relationship?
Step 6: If you still have problems developing intimacy with specific people, return to Step 1 and begin again.

There you have it. My issues are insecurity and fear of rejection. Now figure yours out, then go and get all intimate with each other.

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