Overcome the barriers to intimacy with intimacy counselling in Melbourne.
Overcome the barriers to intimacy with intimacy counselling in Melbourne. Often our underlying fears or repressed emotions can get in the way and create barriers to intimacy, according to Katie and Gay Hendricks. Whether you fear abandonment, fear judgement or fear being unsafe in relationships, the way that individuals protect themselves from these feelings or fears can actually push away intimacy.
For instance a woman might feel so afraid of abandonment that she keeps testing her relationship to see if her partner wants her, looking for signs of him leaving (surprised someone could possible want her). She may act possessive and clingy in order to keep him there, that it pushes him away. She may even accuse him of not loving her, when he doesn’t return her calls straight away, pushing him to end the relationship. In this case, intimacy and closeness is scary because it brings up fears of abandonment.
It is the way that individuals keep pushing away their feelings, by protecting themselves from them, that creates disconnection in their relationships. Once you have access to your unconscious fears or underlying feelings, you can transform your relationship in order to have intimate connections.
Many individuals who are not in touch with their own feelings, will not be able to handle the feelings of others, by misreading them or misattuning to them. The other main reason for a breakdown in intimacy is not tolerating or accepting the feelings of others, by dismissing them. They will often complain that their partner is nagging or too emotional, when they’re bringing up issues. In fact, they ignore the feelings of others, when they’re opening up how they feel. Therefore they miss opportunities to build a deeper connection, by not accepting and responding to the feelings of others. Often they disengage from the conversation or react instead, by being defensive when feeling judged. As a result, they create moments of disconnection and misattunement, causing their partner to gradually shut down and avoid opening up, often pushing them away. John Bowlby showed how individuals can easily feel despair and detachment, where their emotional needs have not been heard. In worse case scenarios, some seek out others, outside of the marriage, in order to feel heard or accepted for who they are.
There are certain personality types that have each adopted certain ways to avoid feelings, while sabotaging intimacy. Our relationship counselling services has identified certain personality profiles that suffer with intimacy issues:
‘The Distancer’ – They distance themselves when their partner attempts to get close (fears closeness as it is unsafe or impinging )
‘The Pursuer’ – The pursuer seeks closeness and struggles when partners want space – (fear abandonment or rejection).
‘The Devaluer’ – Attacks or discards the relationship when feeling criticised – ( fear judgement).
So, what happens for these three personality types when they become intimate, and how do they sabotage intimacy in relationships?
Fear of Intimacy Counselling in Melbourne
The ‘Distancer‘ is the typical person in a relationship who pulls away or withdraws when their partner seeks closeness. When their partner tries to get closer, they distance themselves and cannot respond to their partner’s requests for emotional connection. As children their carers couldn’t respond to their attachment needs, so they’ve become shut off from needing others. They turned inwards, relying on themselves, in order to meet their own needs. They do not need others, in fact, needing others makes them feel unsafe. They have disavowed their attachment needs or emotional needs for connection, because it felt unsafe getting their needs met or getting close. So, in turn, they cannot respond to the attachment needs of their spouse, ignoring their feelings or bids for connection, pushing them away.
The ‘Distancer‘ does not openly display love or affection, even though they may feel it. They keep their feelings to themselves. They get close by doing things for their partner, by being useful or resourceful, but that’s as far as they connect. They eventually feel enslaved to their partners needs and lose their ‘self’ in relationships, as they feel relationships can actually demand too much from them. They often want to be alone, because it is the only way they can get their needs met.
When their partner requests more affection and communication, they do not know how to do this. They can feel interrogated when asked about themselves. They do not know how to express their own feelings or how to get them out, not knowing what to say. They are so used to giving others what they want, that they cannot register themselves in a relationship. They really do not know how to connect, because their own attachment system has become de-activated. They misread their partner’s needs for connection, interpreting them as demands, hostility or attacks; so they withdraw to avoid conflict. They find communication or interactions too anxiety provoking or unsafe. When their spouse becomes upset, they can easily feel overwhelmed or flooded with emotions; so they shut off by stonewalling or saying nothing. They detach themselves from the conflict and go back inside their head, where it feels safer. They become emotionally unavailable to their spouse, in these moments. They will ignore their partners’ requests for closeness, appearing aloof, cold and distant.
Distancing helps them to recharge, so they can get back in touch with themselves, finding it a safe retreat and the only space that they can get for themselves. These individuals withdraw in their study, sheds or stay at work late. They can appear disinterested in their partner by keeping their thoughts or feelings inside. They work hard to figure out what is safe to say or not say. They spend a lot of time worrying about other’s reactions, so they say little. In conflict, they can appear to be listening, but they have switched off from focusing on others and turned inwards. They are not accessible to loved ones at this point. They tell partners what they want to hear, but it is often not what they feel. They feel unsafe sharing themselves. They do not communicate their needs or feelings because it feels terrifying, so often they will flee a argument, or walk off. Often this leaves partners bewildered, in terms of how to reach or connect with them. The more a partner attempts to understand them or request answers, the more they distance themselves or retreat inside, where it feels safer.
Often these individuals will attend marriage counselling because their partner asks them to attend, because their partner cannot connect with them and wants to learn how to build a stronger connection with them. Sometimes they come to psychotherapy because their partner has left them and they do not understand why, they felt everything was fine. They live in their own head, they often think about their relationship without saying anything to their partner. They do not see the point in communicating. In their relationships, they try to resolve things on their own; this is the issue. While being alone offers a safe retreat initially, escaping inside can cause them to feel the despair of a deep depression, feeling disconnection caused by psychic aloneness. Counselling can be the lifeline that reconnects them again.
At Melbourne’s intimacy counselling service, these individuals can be known as relationship phobic or commitment phobic, they fear commitment because it causes them to feel controlled, where they lose themselves to the needs of the other. Often they stay in relationships, but they have gone somewhere else in their heads, so they cannot be reached. They tend to relate to their spouse in their head, without interacting or conversing very much. They like to have long distance relationships, online relationships or fly in and fly out, where they have less interaction. They can be seen to be living in their own world of fantasy relationships, rather than engaging in a real way. So, they often imagine what their relationships are like, without actually communicating how they feel. Intimacy counselling in Melbourne makes it safe for these individuals to get closer, overcoming intimacy issues.
The Pursuer – Fear of Separation or Abandonment.
The ‘pursuer’ feel’s good when loved and they feel unwanted or abandoned when their partner wants space or does things separately from them. They have separation anxiety as they fear losing their partner. When their partner is not there, they feel abandoned or left behind. In intimacy counseling services, these insecure feelings overwhelm them, causing distress, depression, and anxiety. They try to create the feeling of closeness by pleasing their partners, sacrificing themselves for them, even putting up with mistreatment. They get angry when the effort is not reciprocated.
They fear situations that are a threat to the relationship by becoming jealous, often appearing clingy or possessive over their partner. They can develop paranoid fantasies of their partner leaving them or finding someone better, often becoming insecure by reading into things that are not there. So, they need partners to feel good about themselves and cling to partners to avoid these anxieties, coming across as controlling over their partner, by wanting to keep them to themselves. They can be angry at their partner for perceived feelings of abandonment. They may even guilt their partner to stay home. They can become hostile, accusatory and mistrustful due to their own insecurities . They fear abandonment, because they feel worthless without love.
The ‘pursuer’ fears that their partner will reject them, because they do not good enough and insecure in relationships. Clingy and possessive behaviours can push partners away, perpetuating the feeling of abandonment. Often angry outbursts are used to defend against fears of abandonment. These individuals usually enter marriage counselling when their partner has had enough or about to leave. If their partner decides to break up, some become suicidal, as a last desperate attempt to draw them back into the relationship.
Sometimes the fear of abandonment is so powerful, they will leave their partner before they can reject them. They often move on to the next partner, so they’re not alone. So, they often end relationships when finding someone else. These individuals always want someone to be there, to avoid feeling worthless and unloved. Sometimes, to avoid abandonment, they will please their partners, but end up bitter and resentful at them, when they expect others to meet their own needs. So trying to preserve the relationship actually ends up working against them. Intimacy counselling services in Melbourne overcomes the abandonment feelings, so they do not get in the way of intimacy.
The Devaluer – Devalues their partner to shield them from feeling injured or wounded by them.
The ‘Devaluer‘ avoids feeling criticised and judged, so they protect themselves from hurt feelings by devaluing their partner, so that they can feel better. Devaluation can be put downs, jokes that hurt, turning the problems around to be their fault, discarding partners by finding someone else or cutting off to avoid feelings. These individuals easily feel injured or disappointed by their spouse. They want the relationship to boost how they feel. They become so wounded that they push down the pain, preferring to discard the partner or have an affair to modulate their fragile self-esteem. So they ward off the injuring threat to their self esteem by finding things wrong in their partner, devaluing them, by making the relationship appear not very important to them. The devaluation masks the real pain. So, sometimes they avoid couple issues as they arise. Often they dismiss their partner’s complaints, deflecting blame, not being able to listen. Once the honeymoon phase is over, the cracks appear, as the relationship loses it excitement, it feels dull or boring. So they question if their partner is the right person for them, or compatible, often finding fault with them, not realising that these inadequate feelings are within themselves. Some may want a more exciting partner. When each partner is no longer a source of excitement or does not validate how they feel, they begin to devalue to prop up how they feel. When hurt, injured or disappointed, they will devalue the relationship, saying “she wasn’t the right one, “we were not compatible’, when they feel the pain of the other not being on the same page or mirroring them perfectly. This leaves them sitting with their inadequate feelings, which, underlies their real self. So they devalue the relationship to protect themselves from the pain or hurt.
The ‘Devaluer’ protects themselves by not expressing when they are sad, hurt or lonely etc. So they do not feel understood or acknowledged for how they really feel. They hope that their partner can read their mind and know how they feel, without saying anything. They push down their hurt, sometimes unaware of it because it is too painful. So they can feel let down and disappointed, but protect themselves from feeling vulnerable by not getting attached or avoiding intimacy. They often do not express their needs for emotional connection, avoiding emotional closeness. Sex can become a release or source of pleasure, not about being intimate with ones partner.
Having emotional intimacy leaves them feeling vulnerable to getting hurt and exposes how they really feel. So they protect themselves from feeling vulnerable by being emotionally guarded, having their walls up, so no one sees who they really are. They wear a mask to cover up who they are. This means they avoid having a deep emotional connection with their partner, so their partner cannot connect with who they really are. So the relationship can fall into an emotionless, empty vacuum, with no real deep connection. The relationship can feel void of emotional connection, feeling empty or disconnected. Counselling for intimacy can help these individuals to manage the underlying hurt feelings to overcome barriers to intimacy.
Resolve Intimacy Issues with Intimacy Counselling in Melbourne
If you recognize any of these fears of intimacy in yourself or your partner, then intimacy for couples counselling and psychotherapy can resolve these intimacy issues.
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