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.

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.

Communication Management

Relationship conversation

“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

When lines of communications are not open or are not clear it is common for misunderstanding to become exaggerated and overly hostile, developing distrust, fear and anxiety within the relationship. There’s a certain amount of inertia that then must be overcome to start communication which was already difficult to begin with and issues are then addressed at the damage stage, rather than an informative or awareness stage. We simply don’t start to communicate until damage is actually done and resentment has built to the point where avoidance is no longer an option.

So too when we start to evade issues and topics from our partner, when we speak in half-truths or hold back in being honest, open and sincere, we start to drift into a soft form of dishonesty and are shutting down a channel of communication that is critical for the health and welfare of any relationship.

We need to have more than just an ‘open door’ policy with our partners. We need to have already shown and exhibited a forum and willingness to talk about issues of the day, as well as the operations of our relationships, prior to when we actually have a real issue, problem or challenge to overcome.

Nature of Management

Management is about doing systemized methods of time-tested and proven behaviors repetitively over time to get desired results and maintain relationships. Often they tend to be boring and mundane, until the time that they’re not, which is when they are most needed and become so valuable. Communication management is about insuring that interpersonal coordination and interaction with your partner is taking place to resolve issues, stresses, tensions or challenges that the relationship is currently facing, to make sure that the relationship is working effectively and efficiently.

You need to Lead

As a man, it will be up to you to initiate, lead and to manage this line of communication (amongst several others). While we can recognize and appreciate the fact of gender equity between the sexes and should thus come to expect women to be equal partners in managing the lines of communication, a simple fact of biology remains in opposition to this; Hypergamy… and when social conventions and biology clash, biology surely is to win out (nature always wins). Specifically a woman’s sexual attraction trigger of social dimorphism the behavioral traits associated with masculine behaviors of leadership, assertiveness and assuredness, will prevail over her social conventions and desire to be co-equal partners in managing the relationship. She will expect you to lead and will be naturally attracted to men who do. Do not lose out on establishing and maintaining this critical point of attraction within a relationship.

SHE IS YOUR TEAM!

It is critical of any manager to know and understand their team and staff. Make no bones about it, your partner is your team! Let me say it again; SHE IS YOUR TEAM. If she isn’t, if she isn’t someone you would go into business with, someone you trust to represent you, to speak for the relationship and to conduct the business of your relationship in public, you’ve chosen poorly, very poorly and need to reinvestigate your actions leading up to that decision. If she is, you need to acknowledge and validate that by treating her as though she is an essential asset and part of your life, by making time to hear and understand what is going on with her and her world as it relates to her and that she means more to us than being a life accessory in our lives.

Weekly Staff Meetings

One of the most important things a manager will do during the course of the week is to meet directly with their staff and team conducting the planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and decision-making that is required to run the operations of a business, as well as the personal interactions that makes your team feel connected and informed. As a business manager it is incredibly important to go beyond this and make a direct connection and develop a personal rapport with your team members individually. We have to go beyond the basic awareness of someone’s life, to really having a personal understanding and investment with our staff, before we can expect them to truly have one with us. As such there is an amazing difference between asking a co-worker about their weekend and asking them how specifically how ‘Johnny or Jane’ did in their specific after school activities, or whatever it is that is really important to them. We have to know and relate to what is important to them before they will relate with us. We lead by example.

Weekly One-on-Ones

Relationships are no different, except we get the methodologies backwards… we typically know to spend quality time with our partners, talking, sharing, listening and validating them, but rarely do we take a businesslike approach to the business management portion of our lives and the relationship by planning, organizing, managing, monitoring and making decision that needs to take place within the relationship to run smoothly. It is important that we do so and conduct both, separately. Do not mix one with the other, as it is too easy to mistake one emphasis for the other. Quality time is quality time. Business time is for business. Part of management is knowing when to share, bring up or discuss what, at what times and places. It is for these reasons that I believe it is important to set aside regular time each week to solely have a business relationship one-on-one with your relationship partner.

Reservoir of Goodwill

By holding and conducting regular one-on-ones with your partner you’ll develop a reservoir of goodwill, understanding and sound connection prior to needing it. When it’s needed is no time to start figuring out the dynamics of interpersonal communication nor to foster the good will required to sustain it. If you don’t, you are establishing a relationship culture to managing through crisis and conflict management… that’s poor management on your part and likely to be highly unsuccessful methodology, as most failed relationships will attest.

Present, Tested, Vested

Lines of communication must already be present, tested and vested… Those early established communication efforts are a proven commodity, building trust, respect and confidence in future communication needs and requirements, such as time when we need to give feedback or as importantly when our partners need to express a measure of it. Who would you rather talk to a serious issue about with; a partner you’ve never had a serious discussion with, or one who has been open and receptive to a variety of relationship type discussions over time with you?

Pattern of Behavior

Doing so establishes patterns of behavior… regular one-on-ones develop that pattern, provide that opportunity for communication, and can be relied upon to exist in the near future (because our partners can’t always rely on our powers of perception). Small issues can be discussed early, before they swell up into larger issues, due to neglect, ignorance and the age-old issue that problems tend to multiply if left unaddressed. By holding regular one-on-one our partners know there is an open forum for them to bring a topic up in the very near future, relieving the potential for built up tension, frustrations and anger that will ultimately result in a critical confrontation, one which will likely go very poorly if she doesn’t have the skills to hold a minor confrontation, let alone a critical one.

First Step

Opening lines of communications is also an amazing important first step in de-escalating conflict. Just by establishing communications many misunderstandings can be cleared up, understood, corrected and avoided. Trust and respect can be preserved, which should be the cornerstones of any healthy relationship.

Silent Treatment-Word of Warning

Along those lines couples should never give the other the ‘silent treatment’. This will only hinder and deteriorate the relationship by blatantly showing disrespect and invalidating your partner. In a healthy relationship, partners should be able to come together in good times, and bad… We may be angry, upset, & hurt, but our partner should be our emotional safe place to go to. If not, the relationship is in serious trouble and ill-health.

It Works…

While it may seem obtuse, overly simplistic and incredibly boring to make regular time to sit down to lead and discuss the business management of our romantic lives, it does provide the incredibly important frame-work and forum needed to accomplish our relationship goals, to help it move more smoothly and effectively through the rigors of life. Is she not, is the relationship not, are we not worth having a five-minute discussion to clear the air and to manage the life we want?