Does Your Relationship Suffer From Intimacy Issues?
As a counsellor for relationships, Nancy Carbone has found that there are personalities types that struggle with intimacy:
‘Relationship Distancer’ – Prefer to be alone.
‘Relationship Clinger’ – Relationship dependent.
‘Relationship Devaluer’ – Devalues, stonewalls or discards the relationship when feeling under attack.
So what happens for these three personality structures when they become intimate and how do they sabotage connection by avoiding intimacy in relationships?
Counselling for Intimacy Fears
The ‘Relationship Distancer’ – Safety When Alone
The ‘Relationship Distancer’ can also be known as commitment phobic. These individuals who prefer being alone, do actually crave a connection, but only feel safe connecting when they are not too close. They avoid intense contact, but connect from a distance, where they can control the connection, so they feel safe.
The ‘Relationship Distancer’ does not show open expression of love or affection, even though they may feel it, so their partner often feels unloved. These individuals feel unsafe with being close since it evokes anxiety, so they will back away to relieve the tension. It is emotionally safer for them to go along with what others need, not registering how they feel, until they’ve had enough of giving up their self, then they want to distance, to take back control of their self. They can only be themselves when alone, not in a relationship. As a safe way for them to connect they do things for their partner, by being useful and helpful so they can feel needed. They feel connected when they are giving or focusing on their partner needs, but often it gets too much for them, where they cannot register their own needs in a relationship. So they feel consumed by their partners needs, feeling drained for their resources. Eventually they feel their needs do not count, as they lose their own self in relationships. They often want to be alone because it is the only way they can focus on their own needs or recharge by getting back in touch with themselves. They do not share their thoughts and feelings, it’s safer to keep it to themselves because it could arouse conflict. They will often want to get away, travel and have space. As children they learned that love ones couldn’t respond to their needs, so they turned inwards, towards themselves to meet their own needs. Not needing others, not feeling safe to do so.
When their partner wants more love, affection, communication and connection, they back away, feeling overwhelmed by their partners emotional needs. It can feel like pulling teeth to get them to open up, since they do not feel safe to let you in, yet. They do not know how to give their partner more of what they need, feeling they’re wanting too much from them. They misunderstand their partner’s emotional requests for connection, seeing it as demands, hostility or attacks, so they will want to distance for emotional safety. When the other pursues them or wants to get closer, they withdraw because they fear what they their reaction, by avoiding conflict.
When they’ve had enough of meeting others peoples needs, they want space to get back in touch with themselves. These men escape to their caves, office or shed. They appear aloof, cold and distant, once they get warn out. They have switched off from focusing on others and turned inwards, in order to meet their own needs. They do not share themselves or are not accessible to partners at this stage, since they have become detached, and escape inside their head where they create an imaginary fantasy life, that feels safe. Often these individuals, who feel unsafe relating, will attend marriage counselling because their partner asked them to attend. They operate in their own head, they think about their relationship without communicating with their partner. They do not see the point in communicating or know how they feel in order to express themselves. In their relationship, they try to work things out on their own, this is the issue. Their partner often feels unwanted, rejected ad ignored, with failed attempts at trying to connect with them, until they give up.
The Relationship Clinger – Fear of Separation or Abandonment.
The relationship dependent spouse feel’s great when close in a relationship but they feel abandoned, unwated or unworthy when their partner is not focusing on them or wants space. These insecure feelings can overwhelm them, causing distress, panic and worry. They try to recapture the feeling of closeness by pleasing their partners, giving up everything for them, even putting up with mistreatment. They get angry when the love is not reciprocated. They are so fixated on the relationship, not themselves. So they can cling to partners to avoid these anxieties. In order to avoid abandonment they will look out for signs of abandonment, sometimes pushing partners away with paranoid accusations or finding ways to test the relationship.
The relationship dependent partner fears that their partner will abandon them, because they feel not good enough and insecure in relationships. Clingy and possessive behaviours can drive partners away, further. Angry outbursts are used to defend against fears of getting hurt and abandonment. They will expect their partner to met all their needs, often draining relationships
Relationship Devaluer – Devalues or discards their partner when avoiding judgment and criticism
These individuals fear judgement, so they hide their vulnerable feelings. Maintaining a relationship can be difficult, because they showing themselves and avoid expressing their self. Once the honeymoon glow is over, the relationship loses it spark, feels dull or boring. Some may want to move on to find a more exciting partner, so they have brief romantic encounters and nothing more deeper. Opening up and getting close makes them feel vulnerable or exposed, so they discard their partner when injured by moving on with others , so they can feel special.
In longer relationships, these sensitive to criticism individuals spend all their time modulating their behaviour, so they can look good in others eyes and feel special to them. They often try hard to meet others expectations, tell them what they want to hear, to be impressive, but lack the emotional depth because they cover up who they really are. So they lack the emotional connection. Often they feel let down and disappointed, that others do not prioritise them but protect themselves by not letting themselves get hurt or avoid intimacy. So they hide their emotions and vulnerability to cover up how they feel. They are highly critical of themselves so they do not want to show any cracks, so they prevent themselves from having an emotional connection. The relationship can feel void of emotional connection.
When feeling injured or criticised, they will prove they are not that that bad, devalue their partners comments or turn it around so their partner is wrong. When each partner is no longer a source of excitement or does not validate how they feel, then marital affairs, addictions and other ways of self soothing are used to prompt up how they feel. When hurt, injured or disappointed, they will devalue the relationship, saying So they devalue the relationship to protect themselves from the pain or hurt.