MANAGING INTIMACY

relationship difficulties

“My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem, but they don’t really know me”

Love Songs, Ballads & Bullshit…

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” With this opening lyric of a cover song made famous by Three Dog Night, reminds us in a vividly emotional way of the incredibly deep need to be seen, recognized, valued and connected with others, and in particularly, our choice of a paired mate. In fact, the need, desire and ambition of experiencing this level of intimacy is driving a multi-billion dollar segment of the music industry. While we can guffaw at love songs and ballads as bullshit, we wouldn’t be human without them. Love songs are not the only art form to recognize the power of intimacy and the primacy of touch; Michelangelo deftly depicted this when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where he chose to showcase God extending his hand and touch towards Adam to depict touch as the gift of life.

Our Biological Nature

We are a social creature by nature. It is part of our mammalian heritage to exhibit non-independent organizational patterns and to act in a social cooperative manner, seeking companionship, refuge and rejuvenation amongst members of their own kind. As a social species, we are ill-equipped to deal with all of life’s ordeals in a solitary manner and in its absence, it will adversely impact the quality and nature of one’s physical health, welfare and longevity, as many highly public health studies have pointed out.

Babies who wither and die and other not so happy-endings

Touch is a deep primal need. It is reflected in the manner in which we raise our young and while science is just getting around to formally recognizing this, it has long been understood that babies who are held, touched and caressed thrive, those that are denied tactile stimulation wither and die, as 13th Century German Emperor Frederick III, so callously observed in conducting empirical research during that time. While we appreciate an infant’s need to be held and touched in order to appropriately grow and develop emotionally and physically, we fail to realize that the need for connection and physical tactile stimulation never goes away, but don’t take my word for it. Even for the Manosphere this post struck a deep chord that resonated with many of us, because we know it to be true. We know of the dark places and of the abyss of isolation, alienation and desolation. Even if we’ve never been there ourselves, we know it exists, but never has it so openly been addressed, so directly within the community from someone who has journeyed there and returned. “Misogyny. No child was ever born with it”. Misogyny isn’t the worst that happens when we send our boys along this path. We should be lucky if misogyny is the only result.

In a world of 7 Billion people

In a world of 7 Billion people we are awfully alone. Technology has provided us ways in which to stay informed and abreast with society and culture at large and to create and to tap into social networks globally and locally, all the while increasing the rate of personal autonomy. Strangely the Information Age and Service Economies within it are driving and vastly increasing the emotional quotient requirements and proficiencies needed to succeed in them, yet we are progressively feeling more alienated and isolated from each other all the time, because we have not appreciated the fundamental shift taking place. Furthermore our criteria for intimate relationship development has shifted generationally from security, stability and child rearing and has moved into meeting our base emotional, physical and psychological needs for love and intimacy, with all things being equal with regards to attraction. If that wasn’t enough, there is a sexual based differentials in regards to needs when it comes to men and women; men are more visually, tactile and sexually based having an emphasis on physical intimacy and women have more need for emotional, intellectual and spiritual connection with their partner. All these factors are putting men squarely behind the power and learning curve and at a major deficit for dealing with relationships and women in their lives.

Primary Meaning

The quality of our closest relationships is often what gives life its primary meaning. There are few gifts more precious than listening to another person with empathy, especially during times of stress, anxiety, loss and uncertainty. While it is easy to recognize the value of close trusted relationship during hardships, we fail to appreciate that having the skills of empathy, understanding and compassion, in addition to managing those on a regular basis, actively plays a protective role in reducing stress, anxiety, anger and frustration within our partners. A lot of us avoid intimacy for any number of a variety of reasons, justifications and simple omissions. It’s natural to focus upon oneself, the issues at hand and the obligations of life, but when we do, we lose connectedness and intimacy with our partner. Done chronically and it can cost us more than just our relationship; it can cost us our families, our homes, our projected futures and can be the difference between a life of middle class and poverty for us and our children.

The Onion Theory

There’s a theory that intimacy is very much like an onion with five major wedge segments;

Intellectual– the sharing of thoughts, ideas, concepts and beliefs.

Social– the act of spending time together. Consider this portion to be a ‘verb’ , these are the things you do together. Focus on the ‘doing’.

Emotional– This is the sharing of the emotional responses we go through within our lives. How you feel about something.

Spiritual – While this is the least researched, it does pose significant impact and relationship with the other major segments of intimacy and thus overall relationship health and success. A mutual agreement with regards to spirituality isn’t a requirement, but an understanding and acceptance of your partner’s beliefs are.

Physical – sex will reign supreme here, but it is about all of our senses, their psychological and psychological responses and not just physical stimulation.

These segments researchers will consider the ‘breadth’ of intimacy when looking at the range of topics in which people share understanding and compassion with each other. This would be the ‘outside’ skin of the onion. The layers of the onion would be described as the degree of which trust and depth of sentiment that has been shared within a major segment and subject matter. When evaluating the degree of intimacy shared, this is commonly referred to as of ‘penetration’ which ranges from the superficial, intermediate, personal and finally to the core of one’s beliefs and being.

Infinite Possibilities

Intimacy therefore is not just a single element, but a range of major segments with infinite possibilities of subject matter and the depth for each is variable as well. We may open up about one subject deeply and on another subject, with the same person, not nearly as much. It is important to not to make sure that we’re intimate with our partners evenly across each wedge segment, but that we are intimate with our partners in the segment and manner of their preference and your partner should be attempting to meet your intimacy needs within the range in which you need and desire. Generally speaking men tend to value physical intimacy, which means our partners should focus upon the sensual feminine nature of the five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch & taste (hear that ladies?). Women generally tend to value emotional intimacy and the bonding and companionship that develops when we hear, comprehend and understand what they are experiencing, it’s impact on them and how that makes them feel. As men we’d do well to channel our inner Dr. Phil here.

Beware of the ‘Over Share’…

As with most elements within relationship building, we need to understand that there is an acceptable tempo at developing these relationships and levels of intimacy. Worse than having a deficient of intimacy (a lack of sharing) will be the dreaded ‘Over-share’, when someone advances the speed and depth of intimacy in too great of detail that we are comfortable with and accepting of. It will cause rejection, alienation and isolation as a result. We must fine tune our ability to read not only our partners, but the context and situation, as well, to give us clues as to the degree of appropriateness for disclosure. A supplicating beta male for example will have no problem over sharing emotionally with an immediate willingness to commit and as a consequence lose whatever attraction and desirability he may have had going for him. Likewise when a woman over shares sensually and physically she’s relegated to slut-dom.

Developing Respect

japanese-garden

“Respect is a carefully tended garden”

Emotional Contagions and the Power of the Negative

Emotional contagion is the human tendency to synchronize and converge to emotional states and behavioral attitudes that are associated with those of others. Two simple observations of this are the susceptibility to catching and patterning other people’s yawns or a change of mood associated with a given venue or crowd. This observation and study goes back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, observed that “hysteria” was transferred from some women to others. Modern research and study into the subject confirms that negative emotions have a disproportionate impact to people’s emotional and behavioral states as compared to the power of the positive. In fact, negative emotions typically are four times contagious than positive emotions, which gives rise to the principal to offset a negative emotion, positive experiences have to be increased four times, just to break even to a neutral state. Research also confers indications that to change a negative to a clear positive requires eight or more incidents of positive experiences. This is one of the reasons why good managers initially remove negatives out of situations they are managing rather than trying to add a positive element and if we are attempting to foster respect with our partners we need to be clearly in a position not to damage, demean, or dismiss the respect we’ve already gain from our partners. We have the power to build respect in the manner in which we conduct our life or ruin it faster than it take to build it. Just as Hippocrates established the medical oath to first do no harm, so too shall we, in our attempts to foster respect, do no harm to the respect we’ve already been given and earned by carrying ourselves and behaving in a manner that displays our sense of self-respect, worth and dignity to others, by telling the truth, honoring our commitments and exemplifying in our actions the values we profess to hold.

Projecting Emotional Contagions

Research into the study of emotional contagions indicate that the process is a deeply rooted, primitive, automatic and unconscious behavior with the emotional trait of empathy being central to the receiver’s ability to emotional converge with the sender’s expressions. Women who tend to be more empathic are thus more likely to be susceptible to emotional contagions whether they are unconsciously delivered or consciously intended. As such there is no better case group for deliberately transferring emotional contagions to and gives rise in general to this notion of Western Karma; ‘that which you put out, will be returned’. Simply put, if we are attempting to foster respect, giving respect to others will be the initial step we take after internalizing it ourselves. Furthermore, an individual who encompasses expressive and dramatic personal qualities tend to send strong signals and if that personality is grounded in high self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect, an empathetic observer is vastly more likely to pick up and emulate those emotional displays and overt acts of respect given to them. By deliberately linking congruent subconscious actions with overt conscious actions we are creating an emotional resonance that is greater than the individual action summation with the recipient.

Recognize their Worth

In my previous post I noted that each of us have accomplished something monumental in the sheer act of coming into existence and that we should honor ourselves in acknowledgement and acceptance of that fact. I will double down with that notion and further expand it to recognizing at a grand level we are in fact the results of 4 billion years of evolutionary success and as such we should approach others in recognition and acknowledgement of that fact. On the surface we take for granted in an extreme way our acknowledgement of others. Modifying that approach in each interaction with others is an incredible step in fostering respect through validating their existence by seeing and recognizing their existence as having value to us.

Recognize their Abilities

As we explore who they are through our engagement with them, we need to become focused upon their accomplishments, contributions and achievements that have occurred and mattered in their lives and how that relates to their sense of pride of achievement and being. We need to be cognizant of not only the benchmarks or milestones of achievements, but also of their life skills and abilities, as they choose to display them. Recognizing their ability to be self-reliant, cope, exercise initiative and think their way through life’s circumstances are the low-hanging fruit of expressing respect to others in transcending their self-doubt, insecurities and defensiveness when it comes to interacting with us and fostering an emotional connection. It is through a combination of validating, empathic listening and providing praise in seeing them for who they are, what they’ve done and what they’ve learned that we show them individual respect.

Recognizing their Authentic Self

Too often our public persona is a result of external pressures and influences to conform to something and someone we’re not through a series of beliefs, obligations, servitude and social tact. It can be on a grand or minor scale, but our internalized private self tends to differ from who we are in public or who we want the public to believe us to be. In our attempts to develop and foster respect, discovering, understanding and accepting people for who they truly are, their authentic self is an immense transformational element for doing so. It is then that true and deep mutual respect can begin to arise. In relationships we will be exposed to and become aware of our partner’s authentic self. It is only within healthy relationships is this authentic self freely given and embraced. It’s called emotional intimacy. In unhealthy and emotionally toxic relationships do the public facades stay up shielding us from our partners.

Manage your Boundaries

People with a strong sense of self, their values and beliefs tend to have as a consequence strong boundaries and personal power. As a result they tend not to be victims of circumstances over which they have little or no control. They do not invite others through their own lack of behavior to take control of their choices and thus their life. They are explicit and assertive in their informing others as to how to be treated, respected and loved. It is through this display of boundary management and self leadership that others can develop a deeper sense of respect for us than just who we are and what we have to offer in return.

Showcasing Excellence as a Habit

Aristotle stated that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit”. While we can achieve acts of excellence and garner respect in the process, we want to be an embodiment of it, therefore, our acts of excellence must be a habitual process of behavior. One of the most important ways in which we are valued and respected as men by culture, society and women are our abilities to master, command and showcase hypergamous dimorphisms. It is the basic reason why women want, need and desire to be in relationships with us. If we are to be respected, we need to do more than just the minimum in displaying and embodying these traits.

Sexual dimorphism of our physical being with the markers being fitness, physical prowess, athletic ability and our raw naked physic. We also need to take pride in the manner in which we care for, sustain and maintain our bodies. We need to learn and develop skill sets that display these characteristics and make them accessible to our partners on a regular basis.

Social dimorphism of behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors such as assertiveness, dominance, risk-taking, self-reliance, self-confidence, to include manner of stance, body language, speech and dress. In today’s age we need to take these traits further and into the interpersonal social roles of relationship skills, management and maintenance. Blogs that focus on such areas, such as Manning Up Smart are great sources for insight and investigation of these.

Status dimorphism of cultural and societal achievement associated with social standing, wealth generation, power accumulation and fame acquisition. We need to fire up our ambition, plan and chart our way to our life’s objectives and have a legitimate manner and means of achieving them. Only then can we truly ask a woman is this a journey she’d like to take with us.

Managing Unspoken Expectations

Titanic Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A man surveying the results of an iceberg named ‘hypergamy’)

“Expectations that go unspoken do not infer consent.”

 Icebergs of Navigational Routes

Unspoken expectations, conditions, rules and obligations are like icebergs to the navigational routes of our relationships with others. They lurk in the byways rarely seen or noticed, and if so typically at a distance to become a natural part of one’s emotional landscape and an element forming your context for being. We sail past, around and quite often through these emotional berg flows with little consequences to us or our relationships until that frightful day when we strike one. And like icebergs themselves, what is visible to the eye is only a portent to the massive formulations that lies below the surface.

Obligated Servitude

We all have and created expectations for ourselves, our relationships and have projected those onto our partners. We have the natural tendency to expect the significant people in our lives to behave in a manner envisioned and internalized, to include operating in synchronicity with us, with little thought, planning or management, yet we cannot in all honesty and with integrity expect our partners to read our minds, pick up on every nuance of reflective or reactive body language, to read between the lines of what we say or do, or to fully understand and comprehend us, if we do not trust and respect them enough, to share and discuss what ails us or what we expect of them. Failing to do so is unfair, unhealthy and unwarranted and is a lazy, self-absorbed form of passive-aggressiveness behavior, that delegates the responsibility and accountability that is our own to others, without the courtesy or respect of open acknowledgement of those facts. It is a clandestine form of negotiation that sets our partners up for failure, obligation and servitude. These clandestine obligations create an incredible burden of pressure to recognize, understand and anticipate, that leaves even the most astute and capable partner drained, frustrated and ultimately overwhelmed. Ultimately it is a sign that we don’t respect ourselves enough to be willing to openly present, discuss and negotiate with our partners, what we feel, what we believe and what we expect. Sadly any relationship not built on respect, care and understanding is one poorly built and crafted, especially the one we create with ourselves, as that relationship is the one that gets projected to the world and our partners.

Crossed Boundaries

When someone does something that is in deep contrast to the standards, boundaries and beliefs, regarding behavior and consideration, we often feel deeply hurt, betrayed, angry and confused at this display of lack of consideration and care. It is natural and common to withdraw emotionally from the relationship and perceptions of a relationship change when there is a contrast between the ideal and reality. Furthermore resentment builds, as a result of any unspoken breaches of values that goes unaddressed. We naturally resent the transgression and now ourselves for not demonstrating the fortitude to embrace our own truth, with our partner, in an honest and open way and is then compounded with each additional occurrence or remembrance. This is a progression of emotional responses that sets off a chain of reaction, much like a domino cascade that spreads and leads towards the end of the relationship, such as a brush fire leads to devastating forest fires. Instead we should stop keeping the emotional peace of silence and honor ourselves by speaking up and speaking out.

Unrealistic Expectations

When we hold unrealistic expectations of and for our partners, we are in essence not seeing them for who they truly are or the reality of what we are asking of them and needing. It is a form of invalidation when we reject our partners, their efforts and investment in us and our relationships when we hold expectations that they cannot achieve. The greater the degree of disparity between what is expected and what is achieved is just the initial basis of frustration, which is sure to snowball to a larger magnitude of consequence. When unrealistic expectations are systemic and form an institutional element within a relationship, it is a sure sign that the partners are an inappropriate fit for each other, but instead of honestly looking at the true cause of the issue and resolve the relationship appropriately , we cling to our failed choice of a partner and relationship, and seek to control and brutally dominate it into submission, rather than face reality and release our partners appropriately with care, consideration and respect. When we hold unrealistic expectations of our partners, fail to recognize and utilize appropriate methods to resolve the relationship, should we ever be surprised when our partners after so much invalidation, disrespect and inconsideration on our part, choose to resolve the relationship inappropriately instead?

Conflict as a Vehicle of Awareness

Not all unspoken assumptions, expectations, rules governing behavior that sabotage relationships are known. In fact, there tends to be three categories that they fall into; the first is the spoken and conscious, which tend to be boundaries which are culturally held, known and actively expressed to our partners. The second is what is unspoken but known consciously, some of these I’ve just written about. The third is something that is unspoken and consciously unknown to us. It resides within us, without our conscious awareness of it. We simply don’t see it until it is upon us. Even then, like icebergs in the dark, we may not even recognize the entire mass and reality of what is before us, as we respond to the violation or transgression, with unexpected hyper-sensitivity on our part. It is at these moments that we should recognize our own emotional reaction as a signal to stop, look and listen to the source of where these emotions are coming from. Looking into the source of these emotions via psychological self-analysis and relationship autopsy, is an incredible starting point for determining what the underlying issue and concern is. Frequently they don’t reside or originate with our partners or the perceived transgression, but from our own past and development. It is only after consciously acknowledgement, acceptance and be willingness to account for these emotions, that we then progress to sharing them with our partner, utilizing relationship skills of conflict management, in communicating emotional needs, having a critical conversation, and setting boundaries with them. In doing so, we take on the accountability and responsibility of securing our own happiness and creating the life we really want. It is a process that is worth the investment not only for our relationships and partners, but individually for ourselves.