Getting Close

Some people know they have difficulty getting close to others and some have no clue.  Some of these folks believe it’s other people.  To a certain degree it’s true, but if you see a pattern it’s time to take a look at yourself.

What do I mean by trouble getting closer?  I mean difficulty tolerating closeness physically, emotionally and psychologically.  You’d rather watch your favorite television show then be with others.  Closeness involves bonding with others.  When bonding occurs you feel smothered, eaten up and swallowed.  Never to be heard again.  The other extreme is fear of abandonment.  There’s a fear when someone is physically, emotionally or psychologically away he isn’t coming back.  A panic comes over the individual who fears abandonment.

We all live with both of these extremes, the fear of abandonment and the fear of envelopment (being completely smothered and taken over by someone else).  Some have lesser of one and more of another.  We get together with a mate who will match our level of tolerance for closeness.

Closeness is different than intimacy.  Intimacy means to have the ability to see into another person outside of our own perception.  You have the ability to tolerate hearing someone else’s perspective without taking it personally.  Thus, you have the ability to understand and empathize with someone else.  Intimacy has been confused with sex.  You can have intimate sex or sex can be an intimate experience, but it doesn’t mean the act of sex. Getting closer to someone is an intimate experience, but it doesn’t mean intimacy.

How do these two extremes occur?

These two extremes were created many moons ago from your early experiences.  From childhood, grade school to your present age.  You have learned what is a safe distance and what isn’t from your experiences with others.  Trust is related to closeness.

You may have had experiences where you became close to others and they continued to leave you or were unreliable.  These experiences sent messages to your unconscious, causing your body to have memories.  Fast-forward to the present, someone leaves you and it feels like your heart was ripped out.  The abandonment leaves you feeling damaged or not good enough.  Reinforcing these old beliefs that are embedded in your unconscious.

Those who feel abandoned by their partners were often neglected and had an unavailable parent.  This can include an alcoholic or workaholic parent.  This individual feels insecure and alone.  Often holding onto their partner.  Those who fear abandonment often match with partners who fear envelopment.  A match from heave.  One is pushing away and the other is grabbing hold, fearful of letting go.

Those who have had smothering or controlling parents may be sensitive to feeling overwhelmed and enveloped.  The impulse is to leave relationships or push individuals away, because one can’t tolerate the level of closeness.  This individual tends to have continuous relationships that end due to feeling taken over and swallowed up.  These individuals often have multiple relationships and leave when things get too close.

There can be partners who share similar closeness behaviors, such as too individuals who both fear abandonment.  You often see these two individuals wrapped around each other like a little pretzel, holding on to dear life.  And those who both fear envelopment.  Two workaholics married to on another and who never see each other is an example of two individuals who fear being swallowed by the other.  Both individuals give each other an abundance of space.  They often lead separate lives.

Many individuals struggle with closeness.  We haven’t had great examples of how to negotiate and create space or learn how to tolerate our feelings of anxiety and fear.  These are all skills we must master as an individual in order to create balance in our relationships.  We must learn how to cope being with ourselves and being with others.  It isn’t easy.  That’s why it takes practice and communication with your partner.  I think it’s helpful to meet with a couples therapist if you identify struggling with closeness with your partner.  There are many people struggling with closeness.  I encourage you to speak up, talk to your partner and seek counseling.  These behaviors can be relearned and managed.

Elana Clark-Faler
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