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.