The word intimacy is given various meanings. For many, it refers to the physical act of sex. For others, it has far more to do with emotional transparency and knowing each other on the deepest levels. For many of the thousands of couples we have worked with, it is has everything to do with how these two meanings interact — where blocks to emotional intimacy ultimately lead to struggles with physical intimacy.
Here is a stereotypical dilemma couples fall into. He complains that she never wants to have sex (the genders may be reversed, of course). But she complains back that he never is available to emotionally connect. She tries in vain to explain to him that if he could approach her and talk about feelings – or even just touch her without it seeming to suggest sex is his real goal – that could actually turn her on. But the very ways she tries to communicate this useful information only seems to trigger him and deepen their mutual reactive cycle. So both sexual and emotional intimacy deteriorate.
To some extent there is a stereotypical gender-based difference operating here. But it is far from uniform or that simple. And, in fact, sometimes we see the genders reversed. Regardless of the gender factor, the basic underlying problem is this. As couples try to iron out differences in what stimulates connection on the deepest levels, they unwittingly stir up emotional issues that they have no clue about how to resolve.
In other words, how each reaches out for connection unexpectedly triggers the other. Then they fall into an emotionally reactive cycle of some sort. And this negative cycle will damage their ability to relax into intimate connection, whether physical or emotional.
Luckily, in working with thousands of people suffering from such disconnection, regardless of the particulars, we have found some common solutions. And most of the couples we work with fall in love again once they realize what is really going on and how to resolve the true and underlying source of their disconnection.
Look at it from the simplest point of view. Intimacy is about being naked together. Certainly we can all understand this from the physical point of view. When a couple first meets and spends time together, there is a gradual progression (or sometimes quick) to undressing and connecting. There is a discovery process in coming to know each other in an intimate way, and experiencing the deep pleasure that comes from dancing together as sexual partners. The last thing anybody wants in that process is for either party to dress up in a suit of metal armor or to have to walk on eggshells.
Where things often start to go wrong is when couples do not know how to truly get naked with each other on the emotional level. In other words, they do not know how to take off their emotional armor and figure out what each needs to feel truly safe with the other. Most of us never learned how to express our deepest feelings or needs with an intimate partner. So emotional intimacy can get unwittingly blocked from the start.
This eventually leads to emotional distress, and miscommunication. But because most of us do not know the simple ways to get emotionally vulnerable and naked with each other, most people get frustrated and fall into some defensive pattern of upset. In neurobiological terms, these can escalate into states of fight-or-flight, or even freeze. They put on their suits of armor and out comes the sword and shield. None of these are compatible with the body state of mutually pleasurable physical intimacy, however. In fact, they block our ability to be vulnerable sexually.
So an emotional block is formed that eventually can block good sex. This has a biological basis, which is clear if you consider how animals are wired. Take a herd of gazelles. If they feel safe, they are grazing, mating, playing and resting. But if a cheetah (their neighbor and predator) suddenly appears, chasing them, they go into the fight-or-flight state. There will be no more grazing or mating until they escape and feel totally safe again. Similarly, as couples fall into primitive survival states of fight-or-flight (due to unresolved emotional upset), physical intimacy quite often deteriorates.
It turns out a frequent solution to sexual intimacy blocks is to develop better emotional intimacy. Which is what we have taught thousands of couples over the last 50 years of combined experience. Once you know the basic, simple and powerful tools we teach for creating emotional intimacy, you will not only be able to quickly resolve upsets and prevent arguments of all sorts — you will also create an atmosphere of such deep connection that physical intimacy is spontaneously felt as a way to celebrate this. And many couples who heal their emotional disconnection will start to experience better sex than ever.
Certainly great sex is based on a couple’s ability to tell each other what they are feeling and needing from moment to moment, in an atmosphere of mutual caring and acceptance. But if you cannot tell your partner things about your deeper emotional needs, how will you truly be able to express your deepest core needs or feelings in bed together? And, most importantly, this includes the uncomfortable ones which inevitably arise — things like anxiety over performance or the ability to feel fully connected with ones partner.
There is an old formula, that “intimacy = into + me + see.” Emotional intimacy is about being able to be fully transparent with one another — as well as being understanding of one another. This results in each of you feeling more truly known and accepted, feeling more safe to be who you truly are and communicating your core needs and feelings with each other as loving, caring partners. In essence, this is much like making love all the time, whether it is physical, emotional, or just figuring out all the typical things couples deal with all the time in daily life together. It’s about being able to be fully heard and felt and responded to in a loving way.
In our book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair, we offer tools to get transparent emotionally, and to see what is at the root of any issue (sexual or otherwise). Any unresolved differences or upsets can dampen a couple’s intimacy. We would like to share with you all the powerful communication techniques that are time-tested and proven to work with the thousands of couples we have seen.
With the information and tools you will get from our book, you can:
- Fully understand what the underlying causes of distress and disconnection are in your relationship.
- Discover the key solutions (which never dawned on you) that will resolve the underlying sources of walking on eggshells, conflict, and wall-building between you.
- Know how to express your core feelings and needs in a transparent way that will open your partner’s heart (instead of causing them to self-defend or shut down).
- Heal any reactive cycles that includes judgment, criticism, avoiding, withdrawing, and other reactive behaviors and increase loving behaviors.
- Know how to inspire sharing good feelings, and quickly resolve upsets and triggering in ways that bring you closer together.
- Rewire each other’s brains to feel more secure as partners working as a team, able to talk about anything and share more happiness than you ever thought possible.
We have taught these tools to thousands of couples. You can benefit from them as well. Whether you are in a partnership that is stuck or if you are single and want to know how to succeed in your next relationship, these tools can make an enormous difference to your love life.