Recognizing and Overcoming Intimacy Barriers

Intimacy Barriers in Relationships

Intimacy barriers in relationships are all too common these days. And a big reason for that is that character dysfunction is so prevalent. Over the years, many folks have shared with me how unsafe they felt in their relationships. They tried to get close. And they tried to open up. But every time they did, they were hurt. So, they learned it just wasn’t safe to be intimate. And worse, they often unjustly felt like it was solely their fault.

There’s nothing we crave more than a secure intimate relationship. But such relationships are impossible in the absence of healthy character. Each partner needs to be healthy emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually for intimacy to develop and be sustained. And that’s a real challenge these days.

Intimacy barriers are the major reason so many relationships fail. They cause many marriages to end in divorce. And when the root cause of the barriers lies in character, relationships can easily become abuse, exploitative, or even toxic. (For more on this see: How Did We End Up Here?)

Few folks even know how to achieve true intimacy. And sadly, there are those who find no real use for it. Such folks are content to get what they can out of a relationship and then simply move on. But most of us crave intimacy. Too bad so few of us seem able to secure it.

The Psychology of Intimacy

The psychology of intimacy is an inherently complex topic. That’s because intimacy itself is a complex enterprise. There are many types of intimacy. Physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy are just a few. But intimacy is something we universally need and crave. Infants deprived of it will simply fail to thrive. And adults deprived of it, while they might not physically die, rarely feel genuinely alive.

There’s a sociology of intimacy, too. A healthy environment can foster a sense of community and interconnection. But some environments only foster isolation and estrangement. It’s hard to develop the psychological capacity for intimacy in a detached and antagonistic world.

All the factors mentioned above impact our overall character development. Of course, our innate predispositions and traits impact our character development, too. But whatever the reasons, when we fail to sufficiently develop our emotional, psychological, and spiritual capacities for intimacy, we create big problems for our relationships.

Intimacy barriers are the biggest reason couples seek counseling. And when counseling fails it’s usually because the true impediments to intimacy weren’t properly identified or dealt with. There can be many reasons for this. But sometimes it has to do with how the therapist assesses the issues. That’s particularly important when one partner has a character disturbance. A person with a diminished capacity for empathy or shame might well invade your space, but that doesn’t mean they can be safely intimate with you.(For more on this see:  Character Disturbance: Getting the Right Kind of Help.)

A Deeper Look

In the coming weeks we’ll be taking a deeper look at intimacy barriers and the reasons for them. We’ll also be discussing the various types of intimacy and how the capacity for them develops. We’ll take a look at how relationships with intimacy-impaired individuals understandably eventually become toxic. And we’ll explore what toxic relationship survivors need to do to help ensure they eventually secure the intimacy they crave.

 

2 thoughts on “Recognizing and Overcoming Intimacy Barriers

  1. “In the coming weeks we’ll be taking a deeper look at intimacy barriers and the reasons for them. We’ll also be discussing the various types of intimacy and how the capacity for them develops. We’ll take a look at how relationships with intimacy-impaired individuals understandably eventually become toxic. And we’ll explore what toxic relationship survivors need to do to help ensure they eventually secure the intimacy they crave.”

    I’m looking forward to this topic. I do want an intimate relationship.

    After divorce of a long-term marriage and going immediately into a three year relationship, I’ve decided to take time off from relationships, the reason being is I need to figure out who I am without a partner. I know I’ve got a lot of self-work to do.
    The last relationship was with a very kind man, who was open to intimacy (I’m talking about emotional intimacy). I started out the relationship open, but found myself closing off whenever issues would arise that were uncomfortable. I went back to my old habit of looking the other way, trying to ignore it, not speaking up. The relationship has ended and I’m now finally concentrating on my own well being, have shed some pounds, have a clearer mind, and trying hard to work on the things that have broke.
    I don’t want a shallow relationship again. Until I know I can open up freely and serve myself and potential partner with an open heart, I’m just going to stay with myself. And I’m finding I love this time to myself. I’ve really not been “alone” for 30 years except for these past several months.
    I often wonder if I’ll ever want a partner again.

  2. I’m also looking forward to the up coming articles. I find myself very wary of people now. I know I’m not ready for a relationship right now. Even friendships, I’m taking lots of time and different circumstances before I start opening up. Thankfully now I’m more aware of the flags and can back out quickly. Getting good at gray rock.

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