Hi There! Whether you're single or in a relationship, emotional intimacy can be a challenge. You may be in a relationship and feeling disconnected. Or you may be single and having a hard time imagining yourself having a relationship where you feel emotional intimacy; or finding someone who can provide that for you.
What is emotional intimacy? It's feeling safe, seen, and connected with our partners. In this safety we can bring our secrets, we can trust, we can give feedback and disagree. When we're seen we feel empathy from our partners, we feel understood, not judged, and have our thoughts and experiences mirrored back to us. When we feel connected with our partners we are holding space for each other, we are present, and even if we or they are upset, we know that connection is still there.
Emotional intimacy comes from having what attachment theory calls "secure attachment." This means you know that your partner will be there for you (reliability & consistency), there's mutual vulnerability, fun and play, and reciprocity (give and take).
There's many reasons why we can feel emotionally blocked with our loved ones. Attachment wounds, emotional neglect, not having the nurturing and attention we needed, past relationships gone badly are just a few examples of what's keeping us blocked. I'm going to break down a few of these for you today.
(keep reading for 3 blocks to intimacy)
#1: We aren't feeling safe.
When we aren't feeling safe, we first need to distinguish between actual threat and danger vs. our own past wounds that could have led to feeling not safe, regardless of actual lack of danger. This is also known as having a "hypervigilant" response and is a symptom of PTSD.
Action step: write down what actually may have led to feeling unsafe or distrusting. There may be legitimate reasons you don't feel safe in a relationship or that you can let your guard down. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, this is called "reality testing." If after you write down your list you're finding no actual reason to feel unsafe in a situation, it may be past wounding that needs to heal.
#2: We aren't asking for what we want and need
There's a saying I like that "expectations are premeditated resentments." There's nothing wrong with having expectations or standards, but when we aren't verbalizing them, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and disconnection. To be frank, we can't be irritated or feeling let down by someone and want to be intimate.
Action step: Write out your expectations of your partner/future partner in a relationship. Have you clearly articulated these in a kind and direct way? Most of my clients are not communicating clearly (or at all) about their wants, needs, and desires in relationships.
#3: We have difficulty receiving
Emotional intimacy means there's reciprocity, or give and take. Not just who does the dishes, but an emotional, caretaking give and take. If you were parentified, had to grow up too soon, or had some other experience where parent-child boundaries weren't upheld, you may have difficulty allowing yourself to let people in.
Action step: Be curious about your relationship with receiving. Do you feel safe to allow others in? To let others help you? To even let a date buy dinner? What comes up for you when you think about letting yourself receive more? Identify one area of your life where you can let yourself receive more: connection, support, money, help, etc. and take one small step towards healing your relationship with receiving.
I hope if you identify with any of these common blocks that you find the tips I've included here useful!
And if you're ready to go deeper in healing your past wounds keeping you stuck in love, reach out to me! I currently have one opening for a new 1:1 client in my deep dive 1:1 Four month program, "Thrive in Love" details HERE.
Sending you so much love,
Cassandra Solano, LCSW