This week we’re talking about an issue that comes up a lot on our weekly calls ~ the fear of intimacy. Usually, it seems men are more afflicted with this than women, though I definitely fall into this category myself. Last Tuesday night, we had a great conversation with a couple who we’ll refer to as “C” (the husband) and “L” (the wife). Since it’s a rather long post in its entirety, we’ll be splitting it up over the next few weeks.
C: One of the symptoms of a passive aggressive man is a fear of intimacy; he feels like he can’t share his life and feelings and doesn’t want to get close. He’ll tell you he does but his actions and words say otherwise. I guess I don’t really understand why that would be the case. I want to be with my wife and I love spending time with her and I do love sharing life with her. She says I sabotage any chance we have at that. I don’t intentionally do that. My mind is always there. The whole focus is supposed to be on my wife and I understand that. I want to help myself understand
I asked L to give us an example of a time when C sabotaged the relationship and she shared the following example:
L: On Valentines Day we received a gift card to The Olive Garden. Since there are only 3 of them in our state it would be a bit of a drive to get there and so we would need to leave early to get there at a reasonable hour. C wanted to work on his car that day and had been doing so for most of it. He knew what time we’d have to leave and I would remind but by the time he stopped working on his car it was too late.
Last week was our anniversary and though C made plans they fell through so I helped him out. I gave him an idea and he called to make reservations and get things ready. Sadly, there were no emotional connections or romance at all during the weekend. It’s not as if he doesn’t know what I like either. Even trying to be intimate over the weekend was very very forced – no connection going on. He didn’t initiate any intimacy throughout the day so at night there was nothing there which put a damper on the whole evening and therefore the whole weekend. Instead of initiating things that would make it better, he sat there licking his wounds and feeling bad for himself.
At this point, I muted out our phone and asked Michael if he thought I struggled with a fear of intimacy and he said yes and I said do you think I’m getting better and he said, oh definitely. I think so too though I know it still lives within me so I shared the following with both C and L.
This is something I’ve noticed about myself and the reasoning behind it for me is that if I’m going to be in an intimate situation with someone (not necessarily sexual intimacy) where there’s emotion required of me, I have a difficult time going there; wherever “there” happens to be. If I’m going to allow myself to have an emotional connection with my husband or even with my children, it’s going to require me to step out of my comfort zone. And if I’m going to do that I have to be prepared for whatever shows up; anger, tears, anxiety, correction, worry …anything which is uncomfortable for me and so I’d rather not engage that person on a deep emotional level. It’s very easy for me to be surfacey and say something like, “I just cooked you this incredible meal, isn’t that enough? Why do you have to sit down next to me on the couch and be super close to me and want to talk with me?” That probably sounds really weird coming from a woman but I get like that.
I know this stems from my own arrested development; of being a child who was taught to be seen and not heard so that waves weren’t made between my mom and I or anybody because, I thought, if I became emotional and voiced what I was really feeling than I risked someone getting upset with me. So, rather than risk that I would just be quiet, keep stuff inside and amuse myself or be unobtrusive.
How that shows up now looks like this: me spending an entire day knitting or scrapbooking or being on the computer or making something and feeling frustrated when I have to stop what I’m doing, get up and attend to the needs of my children and even Michael.
Knitting or crafting….they don’t require anything of me. They’re made up of inanimate objects that I work with. They don’t care if I pick them up for a few days and then set them down for two months. They don’t care that I haven’t taken them anywhere or sat down with them for a visit or made love or asked them how they’re doing. Just like with a car. The car doesn’t car whether or not it’s going to The Olive Garden. It doesn’t care if it gets worked on or washed; it doesn’t have any feelings and won’t require anything of C. It’s the same with another couple in the ministry. He loves to be in his garage. He doesn’t come home and connect with his wife ~ he comes home and hangs out in the garage. She goes out there and tries to connect with him and he barely looks at her.
I assert that passive aggressive people have a real fear of intimacy because intimacy requires emotion which can require a level of discomfort and that, I believe (and speaking from my own experience), is what holds us back. I know it holds me back. I’m getting better at it because of the way Michael is being with me now. This is one of those things that Joel and Kathy mean when they teach that as a husband brings healing to his wife her issues will go away and whatever’s left over she’ll work on with the Lord and a lot of this is happening now in our marriage.
Michael and I are over two years into the process and I’m beginning to see a lot of this in myself. Is it still uncomfortable to be emotional? Yes, it is. But I do it. I press in because it’s not about me and that’s the concept that people who struggle with this have to get. It’s not about them; there are others around us who require pieces of our heart for love, for validation, for help, for understanding. To share in life with. And that’s just something that requires constant death to self because it’s a very selfish way to be.