I’ve noticed that men feel a sense of urgency to learn to be intimate with their partners as they progress through their reboot.
The years of porn addiction problems eroded their partner’s trust and made it increasingly difficult for them to open up. Developing intimacy is an important part of rebuilding that trust but how can you do that?
Just like your behavior destroyed your partner’s trust, it also affected your ability to be intimate. Before you can learn to rebuild intimacy with your partner you must learn why you struggle with intimacy in the first place. What is it that makes intimacy so difficult for men who are working through an out-of-control behavior?
1. You had no positive examples of what a healthy relationship looks like.
Even though I know my mom and dad loved each other, they never really demonstrated what a healthy relationship entailed. I watched them fight often. I saw him hit her sometimes. She hit him back, threw glasses, screamed. Neither of them provided an example of what a relationship should look like.
I know the same applies to lots of men in porn addiction counseling and our porn addiction recovery reboot program. Their parents didn’t serve as a good model of a healthy relationship. This might be the case for you, too. If you didn’t have a positive example of what a partnership should look like, you won’t inherently know how to build intimacy.
2. You experienced betrayal or inconsistent behavior from people you looked up to while younger.
When role models are absent or inconsistent during your developmental years it makes it difficult to learn how to build intimacy. You adopt negative views of people who are supposed to be taking care of you. Instead, you learn that depending on people leads to hurt and disappointment. You believe that people will never follow through on what they say they’ll do.
These betrayals and inconsistencies don’t create a strong foundation for building intimacy. Trust is a necessity for intimacy. If you can’t trust the people who are supposed to care for you, how can you possibly trust someone else? And if you can’t trust them, how can you build intimacy with them?
3. You believe that lying is the best way to avoid negative consequences.
There were times during my childhood when my parents punished me unjustly. Sometimes they hit me harder than they should have. Other times they were unnecessarily cruel. I didn’t understand why back then but looking back now it was likely because they were stressed out and exhausted. The last thing they wanted to do was deal with a kid who had made a mistake.
I soon learned to lie as a way to avoid those unfair punishments. It kept me somewhat safer while I was younger but it didn’t stay in my childhood. Unfortunately, that practice stuck with me through adolescence and into adulthood. It was easier to be dishonest and avoid discomfort than it was to tell the truth and deal with whatever the outcome was.
While lying may help you avoid those consequences, it’s not a useful practice to keep up as an adult. Eventually, you need to learn to tell the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. This is especially important if you have any hope of building intimacy with your partner.
4. You experienced abandonment.
Abandonment is a painful feeling to experience as a child. Maybe your parents got divorced and one of them left without looking back. When you were let down by those who were supposed to care for you, it often leads to the narrative that everyone you care about will eventually leave.
If you still carry this belief as an adult it will make it impossible to build intimacy. You’ll always be half-in/half-out because you believe your partner will eventually leave you. You must learn to work through these old feelings of abandonment so you can build an intimate relationship.
5. You survived some form of abuse.
Abuse occurs in all forms, from mental and physical to spiritual and sexual abuse. Being a victim of abuse is never your fault no matter what you were told or how it may feel. Abuse destroys your ability to develop intimacy. It causes deep, lasting damage to the psyche and takes time to overcome.
Experiencing abuse at the hands of someone who says they love you teaches you to associate abuse with intimacy. This is particularly true if it happened while you were a young child. Learning to identify and remove yourself from people who exhibit abusive behaviors is challenging but necessary if you want to overcome your struggles with intimacy.
How to Build Intimacy
Once you understand why you struggle with intimacy, learning to build intimate connections is the next step. I’ll dive into this topic on another day because it deserves its own post. Building intimate connections with your partner is crucial, but understanding intimacy is also important for building fulfilling relationships in general. Unless you can learn to overcome the stumbling blocks above, as well as any others you may experience, you’ll continue having a difficult time building intimate relationships with others.