Thursday, 1 August 2013

Fear, the intimacy killer

Intimacy and vulnerability seem to go hand in hand.  Physical intimacy requires making ourselves physically vulnerable to our partner, trusting that they will seek our pleasure.  Likewise with emotional intimacy, it requires we make ourselves emotionally vulnerable.  For some reason emotional hurts go much deeper and last much longer than the physical kind.  They are also much easier to cause, unintentionally or not.  This can create fear that will limit our closeness and fear is the intimacy killer.

I confess that have given in to that fear a lot.  There were things my wife did that hurt or bothered me and I never discussed them with her in order to avoid conflict.  Because I stayed silent, she didn't know she had hurt me and had no reason to change her behavior.  There were things I wanted to try in the bedroom that I was afraid to ask for in case she thought less of me for wanting them, or in case asking would make her feel inadequate or think that I was ungrateful for what she was already doing.  My wife has done the same thing too.  She happens to love hard rock music but she hid that from me for many years fearing I would disapprove and look down on her for it.

Giving into that fear makes bottle up feelings and desires and personality.  We hide who we are and start playing a role rather than being ourselves. Secret hurts are never resolved, secret desires are never fulfilled, secret interests are never fully explored, and you can`t get to really know somebody who is not being genuine.  Those secrets create a barrier to intimacy, and they can also make us vulnerable to temptation when we encounter somebody who accepts the parts of us we are afraid to show our spouse.

Years ago my wife and I were in the process of working out longstanding issues in our marriage and just starting to really open up to each other.  At the start of that journey I though the only thing that needed to change was our sex life, but soon found that I needed to change and stop letting fear shut me down and isolate me from her.

On our anniversary that year we wound up going places we never went before, doing things we never did before, trying foods we never tried before.  Nothing wild or crazy, we just crossed off a few easy bucket list items.  It became a night of firsts.  When we got home to conclude our celebration, I mustered the courage to ask for something I've always wanted to do with her.  I was prepared for the worst, but to my joy and amazement she was perfectly happy to go ahead and it became the perfect end to the night and a new entry on our intimacy menu.  I now kick myself for waiting so many years to ask.

On the other end of the scale, learning I needed to open up to my wife also meant letting her know about some deep wounds inflicted long ago that had not healed.  That was the start of a painful emotional process of reconciliation.  Tearful conversations late at night behind closed doors, struggles to turn feelings into words, questions that were hard to ask and harder to answer.  None of it was fun but opening up and facing it together has deepened our attachment and cleared the air on things that hung around unsaid for far too long.

It is also important that we do not give our spouse good reason to fear being open with us.  If we have a habit of reacting in judgmental and critical ways it discourages our spouse from letting us see who they really are.  Likewise if your spouse can`t be trusted to handle your heart with care, focus on resolving that.

Empathy and charity for our spouse will invite them to be open with us.  They create a warm loving atmosphere where it feels safe to let down the defenses and expose our true, weak self.  Opening up to ours spouse is something else that can encourage them to respond in kind. 

There is nothing so wonderful and so powerful as to know that your spouse really knows who you are, warts and all, and still loves you deeply.

No comments:

Post a Comment