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.

The Power of Perception

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”

Being socially competent in a relationship means recognizing that other people have emotions, desires, thoughts and beliefs, being able to properly interpret the other person’s inner state based on a multitude of observable behaviors that include body language, facial expressions, tonality, cadence of speech and word choices, while appropriately making behavioral decisions to nurture and support that relationship. The power of perception is a critical skill to develop for reading the wealth of information that is generated and communicated through body language within social interactions. This is incredibly true with intimate personal relationships, yet a common phenomena takes place; as we are exposed to greater and greater levels of shared information, personal narratives, thoughts, beliefs, dreams, fears and aspirations of our partner, we naturally tend to be less observant to the subtle social cues that we are highly vigilant of when we knew the person less. Countering this natural tendency, and actively being perceptive of our partners is an important relationship skill to develop, as it aids in communication and increases relationship bonding by validating your partner emotionally.

The power of emotional validation…

Women consistently state in social studies of being more satisfied in a relationship when their partner was attempting to be emotionally sensitive, demonstrate empathy skills, along with active listening traits to understand them and accurately judged their emotions (this is a form of preemptive emotional needs communication) . Consequently it is the second greatest factor in determining relationship longevity, the first being having an upbeat and positive attitude. (Depressed and negative partners are more than a drag, they are emotionally toxic and a direct threat to the health, wellbeing and effectiveness of the relationship. Militaries the world over recognize this and openly promote and manage morale welfare. It wouldn’t be foolish to develop a similar posture in our relationships.) What is of particular interest in these studies is that women also value the effort men make, almost as much as the outcome of the conversation. Women essentially value the emotional support given to them by their partner over any other base trait other than raw sexual attraction and security. By actively taking a leadership role and consciously monitoring our partners, being sensitive to their emotional shifts, employing active listening skills and providing simple emotional validation of our partners on a regular basis can we hugely affect the health and wellbeing of our relationships for the positive.

Poker face…

In poker, a “tell’ is a detectable change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player’s assessment of their given hand. More accurately it is a change in a person’s behavior that gives clues to their emotional state or awareness. We all have them as we all have detectable changes in behavior based on our state of mind and the situation around us. This will be true of our partners as well. There is simply no substitute for practice when we are looking to spot our partners tells and thus being more aware of the emotional state, desires, drives and prejudices of our partners. A partner’s tell is obvious signal at a need for communication if we learn to look for them.

Letting light in…

Sometimes we just don’t know what the signals we see are or represent. There may be conflicting verbal statements with a myriad of body language displays that do not point directly to any one emotion or unknown issue or are out of sync and conflict with one another. The simplest way to clear up any confusion is to simply ask; ‘ Hey, babe, is everything ok, you seem upset by something?’ This simple act of opening up communication based on observable behavior may all that they are looking for or needing to get dialog flowing and coming to grips with whatever is occupying them. Other times our partners will state that they are ‘fine’ when in fact they are not. Usually this is because they have not resolved their feeling prior to engaging in communication or are resistant to bring it up for fear of any number of reasons. By asking a question, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a deflected response or a denial of an underlying issue. It is far better to take the emotional risk and demonstrate leadership traits by making a statement regarding your observation; ‘Babe, you’re walking around like an angry cat, tell me what’s going on.’ By being perceptive and actively being receptive to unclogging the lines of communication we can help do our part in getting information, understanding and connectedness to our partners to flow.

Unchecked dependency needs…

Being a competent and sensitive social partner does not mean soliciting continuous requests for verification from your partner, as to their emotional status. Monitoring your partner is not a relationship form of the Verizon phone commercial where you ask your partner over and over again “Can you hear me now?” We are looking for changes of behavior, flash signals and behavioral keys that are social signals that there is something troubling our partner, to develop and utilize the skill of perception within a relationship to trigger needed communication or connection with our partner.

When there isn’t a problem, but a desire…

Being stressed in a rushed world or otherwise preoccupied with the daily grind, it is terrifyingly easy to neglect a relationship, to take our partner for granted, to not be available, to miss signs that our partners emotionally want and need to feel more connected with us. Frequently our partners will have tells not only for what is bothering them, but for when they desire closeness and connection with us. These are effectively ‘bids’ for your attention, as they are in many ways competing for it from everything else that has your attention over them. As was stated earlier, happiness measured in a relationship is directly correlated to the number and degree of bids offered and accepted between a couple… in correlation to that rebuffed or ignored bids are a form of rejection, and it too is directly correlated to the degree of unhappiness and in-validation a partner feels within a relationship. Stop paying attention to your partner and it’s game over… We cannot afford to become complacent within our relationships as hypergamy doesn’t sleep. It is always at work and play. The question becomes then, do you see your partner? Do you take the time to notice them? Being perceptive of your partners tells them that you do and is the starting point for many essential relationship discussions.

Providing Validation

Providing validation image

Love is validated in the memories of the past…

 

“I see, I hear, I get”

Emotions heal and anger is soothed when they are heard and validated. So too are the people and the relationship they’re in. Validating is about “not only do I hear what you’re saying, but I get it, I get you.” You are in essence saying to your partner “I see you, I hear you and you and our relationship together have meaning to me.”

Beware the extremes

Communication is an emotional event, especially when emotional needs or personal boundaries are at stake. It is at these times that relationships can come to an inflection point in value and how they are perceived by our partners. While at these points are polar extremes, validating our partner on a regular and continuous basis is at the heart of any intimate relationship.

Even when we disagree

Even when we disagree, validation provides a way for us to communicate the common ground between us. Providing emotional validation shows the speaker that we’re not only accept them, but they are safe and secure in expressing themselves and their thoughts and ideas free of ridicule or disdain.

It’s about leadership

As a man we’re culturally taught not only to provide but to also protect, typically from an external threat, but what happens when the threat and injuries are internal, that originates from within the relationship and by us? When our actions indicate blaming, judging, denying and minimizing our partner’s emotions, we are invalidating not only their emotions, but them as well. These actions leave psychic and emotional wounds which leave our partners feeling rejected, ignored or judged. What does it say about a man’s leadership ability when he makes his partner feel this way on a continuous basis? Should he be surprised when she seeks out comfort, security and acceptance from another man in the casual sex quadrant of life? Do you really think it will stay casual for long? Are we not aware of hypergamy by now?

Relationship cancer

Invalidation disrupts relationships, creates emotional distance and alienation with our partners. It is a drain on the emotional bank account we have established, and one that typically fuels a relationship’s demise. Combine invalidation with a negative feedback loop and the relationship is in a certain death spiral.

‘Knowledge-Doing’ gap

While this knowledge is mostly likely very common, what isn’t is acting on the actual behavior traits of validating our partners on a continual basis. It’s what’s known as the ‘Knowledge-Doing’ gap. We may know something, but there is a big gap in habitual behaviors which are destructive to our relationships.

When listening is an investment

Most people stop listening when they think they already know what the other person is going to say. Other times they stop listening when they’ve gotten the information they wanted, but that’s not why your partner is talking to you… Active listening is when you’re able to accurately repeat in your own words what it is that your partner is conveying or trying to. If you’re not sure, you ask clarifying questions to seek their intent. Validating goes beyond active listening and combines developing empathy and emotional support skills in recognizing that your time, energy and focus attention sends the very real message that your partner is important to you, and what they are saying is important to you, as a consequence. When you listen to build and reinforce a relationship, you’re investing in the relationship and your partner. That’s the validation we’re talking about.

Striking a balance

However there’s a balance to be struck between empowerment the ability to change your state of being, including your feelings and behavior and emotional validation. Men tend to focus on too much empowerment and women tend to stay in emotional validation too long, which inhibits progress in both cases. If you don’t validate sufficiently, your partner will resist your efforts at assistance. If you validate too much, your partner will begin to identify with their issue or symptom (victimhood mentality). Emotional validation without empowerment is ineffectual pity and empowerment without emotional validation leaves your partner feeling that you don’t get them.