3 Ways We Are Taught to Avoid Intimacy
Let’s face it — we all really do want to be loved.
We want to feel that there are people out there who can love us in our flaws — all the messy, gritty, beautiful, brilliant and insecure pieces of who we are — so we can finally abandon the hopeless and draining pursuit of perfection.
What greater gift could there be? The gift of realizing we are 100% worthy of love, attention and deeply gratifying sexual pleasure, exactly as we are.
Unfortunately, the way most of us have been taught to attract, pursue and maintain intimate relationships does the exact opposite of what we want — the want we’ve been taught to create relationship pushes away intimacy.
As a culture, America is hungry for intimacy. We are taught by the media, pick-up artists and Reality TV that we need to change or hide who we are in order to find and keep the love we’re told we should want.
In a culture that profits off of products that exploit our insecurity (e.g. the diet industry, pornography, and plastic surgery), we are taught to confuse surface infatuation with love, and empty sex with connection.
We are taught that in order to find and keep a relationship, we need to play into roles that have us hide who we actually are, because if we were to simply “be ourself, we would surely scare the other person away.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll illustrate three basic ways we push away the intimacy we are actually yearning for. And then offer some simple practices and perspective shifts how you can instantly attract and create more of the connection you desire, that have nothing do anyone but you.
#1 Way We’ve Been Taught to Avoid Intimacy:
We manipulate or play games to create connection.
Consider this scenario.
You go out on a date with someone, you feel a great mutual chemistry, perhaps even share a kiss at the end of the date, and leave with an open-ended desire to meet again.
The next day you wake up, hoping to see a text from your new connection, but there isn’t a message to be found.
All of a sudden, what was once a delicious feeling of intimacy, fades into a distant and distorted memory that is now ripe with insecurity, distrust of your experience, and perhaps even some resentment.
You want to reach out, but you’ve been told countless times that to reach out too soon after the first date comes off as needy and desperate, and that in order to be attractive and desirable, you need to withhold connection for a distinct period of time so as to not make yourself too available.
While this may be a great practice to hook someone who’s got an avoidant attachment style, we are setting a standard in a new potential relationship where we believe we need to hide our intentions and authentic feelings.
(By the way, the book Attached is an great resource to learn about the different attachment styles and how they impact how we pursue love).
We are essentially taught to manipulate another person into desiring us by withholding attention and affection that we might otherwise be naturally inspired to give.
Well that blows, doesn’t it?
And all of this happens before we even go out on a second date.
Now let’s take a look at how withholding our feelings can play into an on-going connection with a romantic interest.
#2 Way We’ve Been Taught to Avoid Intimacy:
We hide our desires and don’t ask for what we want.
We as human beings are passionate by nature. We have natural and innate desires for pleasure, sex, sweetness and satisfaction.
Yet the risk of expressing our desire to a potential or even long-standing romantic partner often produce fear and inner-turmoil similar to what a person might feel facing the approach of going under the knife for surgery.
We fear the threat of being irreparably scarred, or not making it out alive, when it comes to asking for what we want — especially when it comes to sex, intimacy and connection.
Why? Because desire has gotten a bad wrap in our culture — especially in conscious and spiritual communities.
Women are afraid of being perceived as a sex-hungry “slut”, and men are afraid of being accused of violating a woman’s boundaries.
Men and women are walking on eggshells when it comes to expressing our desires in the intimate and sexual arena — but that in itself is a conversation for an entirely different article.
There are billions of people on this planet, and yet the reasons any of us fear speaking a desire usually fall under one of three categories:
- Fear of being too much or too intense
- Fear of being judged or rejected
- Fear of not getting what we want
Man, woman, transgender, straight, bi-sexual, homosexual, any other type of gender or sexuality — these fears run across the board.
And the challenge is, if we don’t start off our relationships being honest about our desires, we get farther away from who we are, we feel more pressure to play a role, and it becomes harder and more challenging to bring it back to a point of transparency and connection.
Withholding our desires from a romantic partner is an excellent way to create resentment and the hidden belief that our partner(s) can’t meet our needs, because we are unwilling to be honest and ask for what we want.
Which leads us to the third way we’ve been taught to avoid intimacy. Now we get to look at the roles men and women have learned to play in order to attract a member of the opposite sex and “make a relationship work”.
#3 Way We’ve Been Taught to Avoid Intimacy:
We play into roles that disempower our relationship.
Think back to childhood. What movies did you watch? Most likely a Disney movie or ten crossed your path. What is the story we were told?
There is a princess in danger or distress, and the prince must come and rescue her from circumstances she couldn’t save herself from.
Think about most modern day adventure-romance movies. There is a woman who is in grave danger, and a heroic man who must save her.
How does the movie end? It usually ends with the man and woman riding off into the sunset, never to tell us about the quality of relationship satisfaction orpower dynamics that ensued after they rode into the sunset.
Here’s the problem:
These movies prescribe an archetypal relationship-dynamic that box men and women into disempowering roles. Namely, women are trained to be victims, and men are trained to be saviors/rescuers.
Women are trained to believe that in order to be attractive and valuable to men, they must play into a Victim role, which can show up as:
- Needing to be saved by a man from their own life circumstances.
- Invalidating our doubting their emotional/intuitive experience.
- Shutting down their sexual desire to avoid being intimidating to men.
- Losing connection to herself and getting lost in the man’s reality.
Men are trained to believe that in order to be attractive and valuable to women, they must play into a Savior role, which can show up as:
- Shutting down their desire for sex to make women feel comfortable.
- Rushing in to save women from their material and financial struggles.
- Hiding their emotions and vulnerability to appear “strong” and stoic.
- Care-taking a woman’s emotions and validating their feeling helpless.
Now let me clarify — for the most part, women and men do not consciously choosing or realize they are play out these roles.
These habits and programmings run so deep in our culture, that most of us don’t even realize we are playing into the role of the victim or savior.
There is no need for any shame, anger or accusation in these realizations — just a williness to take responsibility and make a change.
It is essential that we bring awareness about the unconscious roles we play that have us shut down our power, and rob us of the richness, arousal and intimacy that can only occur when we show up whole, aware and awake.
If you want to learn more about Victim-Savior dymanic, read about the Drama Triangle by Lynne Forrest (she refers to the Savior as the Rescuer): https://www.lynneforrest.com/articles/2008/06/the-faces-of-victim/
The Truth Behind Intimacy & Attraction
Here’s the thing, the mistake I find most people make when it comes to creating the type of relationships they desire..is that we make it about the other person, and not themselves.
Who we attract into our lives has everything to do with the beliefs and stories we hold about who we are, what we want, and what we deserve.
How our partners act and respond to us in relationship has everything to do with what we want, what we believe and what we tolerate.
Meaning, if we want to attract intimate partners into our lives who are honest about their feelings and intentions, who are turned on by and curious about our desires, and are confident and grounded in who they are…then we need to be and do all these things first.
That doesn’t mean that we need to hold off on dating or relationship until we’ve achieved a state of enlightened perfection — because frankly, as we’ve already determined, that’s never going to happen.
The only way to…
- become the type of person we want to be in relationship…
- attract the type of person(s) we want to be in relationship with…
- create the type of relationship with the person(s) we desire…
…is to practice. We need to get in the game, and start having the real conversations and doing the inner work to see where we settle for less than what we want, or play into roles that have us play small in relationship.
In order to have the intimacy in relationship we desire, it is essential that we bring our whole self to the table.
Anything less, makes more mediocre relationships — and let’s face it, that’s not the game you’re playing. You wouldn’t still be reading if it was.
This article lays the groundwork for how to bring our full power, awareness, and desire into our relationships. These are the pieces to the gameboard, it’s your job and invitation to create the game.
If we choose to consciously engage in how we create intimacy in our relationships, we can systematically transform every area of our lives.
About the Author:
Arielle Brown is a Relationship Coach and Intimacy Educator.
In her private and experiential coaching work with men, women and couples, she supports individuals in crafting fulfilling relationships by conscious design (rather than by default) — relationship rooted in the unique needs and desires of all parties involved. She specializes in supporting those exploring non-monogamy and other alternative forms of relating and intimacy.
She also facilitates groups and workshops focused on cultivating deeper levels of connection in relationship with others through conscious communication, embodied intimacy and sensory awareness.