Angela Hutton, LCSW, SEP - Inspired Somatic Psychotherapy

February 2014 - Love and Intimacy: The Point of Cupid’s Arrow

It’s February, and many people associate this month with love and romance. For those of you who are single, this can be an exciting time full of potential encounters and hopeful love liaisons. For other singles, this can just be a biting reminder of what you long for and don’t have. For couples, the experience of this month can vary just as divergently depending on the strength of the relationship and the expectation of each person in the duo. Many of us link love and intimacy. Love seems to be a natural by-product of intimacy in relationships. Intimacy has a variety of forms including emotional, intellectual, and physical. At first glance, intimacy and the desire to form intimate bonds with others may seem straight-forward and simple. Yet intimacy is often complicated by numerous factors and is elusive to some. It is often joked that “men fear intimacy.” While this may be cliché and stereotypical, it can be true for many men. But this is only part of the story. The other half is that women also fear intimacy depending on their formative experiences and history within relationships. In my psychotherapy practice, I regularly have both men and women present with issues and fears related to intimacy, bonding, and relationship problems.

For most of us, our model for intimate relationship is our parent(s). Our relationships with our caretakers are our original experiences of intimate attachment; if this experience was inadequate (as it is for many since parents are only human), then there may be issues later in life developing bonds with friends or love partners. Of course, there are experiences in life that can help repair these first lessons related to trust and vulnerability. These can be reparative friendships, positive experiences with other trustworthy adults, and therapy.

As an adolescent or an adult, it’s not unusual for someone to have a traumatic experience in a love relationship. It could be infidelity, a breech of trust, withholding of sex or affection, feeling forced to have sex, frequent fighting, or abuse. Often, these experiences are held in the body as well as the psyche, and negative associations/belief systems can be formed around relationships as a result. Intimacy requires trust and openness. If you’ve had an experience of deep betrayal on any level, this can negatively impact your willingness to trust in another person.

Many women find their fear of intimacy manifesting as a difficulty committing to a relationship, avoiding sexual encounters or numbing/freezing during sex, habitually “attracting” the wrong kind of partner, and chronically finding fault with their partners. In my practice, I help women to explore their relationship patterns and habits. Through this process, they can discover the underlying fears and blocks to creating truly intimate partnership. I can also help women explore what makes them feel wildly passionate in life. We can take a close look at communication patterns within the relationship and clarify needs and realistic expectations. Men and women experience intimacy in vastly different ways sometimes. For women who are in love relationships with men, this may require an understanding of the differences in how men experience closeness, companionship, and communication. I frequently find that women tend to connect through words and emotional expression, and that men connect through action. Men like to feel competent, and women like to feel important. These subtleties in need and expression play out in love relationships in dramatic ways. If you and your partner need assistance working through communication patterns or if you would like to explore your blocks to deeper intimacy, feel free to contact me for support in transforming this aspect of your life or go to my website for more information. 
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