Written By: Mark Smith
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I have a very young and exceptionally insightful couple who travel a long way to see me due to the lack of well trained Sexual Addiction therapists in their area. This week Mrs. Young and Exceptionally Insightful said something very insightful that really jumped out at me. She said "He isn't very good at talking to me because Sexual Addiction is an Intimacy Disorder".
The more I got thinking though, pretty much every issue that I deal with ultimately is an Intimacy Disorder. Being disconnected romantically and sexually in a 25 year marriage is an Intimacy Disorder. Workaholism is an Intimacy Disorder. Rage is certainly an Intimacy Disorder. Drinking three glasses of wine a night to relax and numb from a job you don't like and a husband you despise is an Intimacy Disorder. Being too busy to play with your kids is an Intimacy Disorder. Every single couple I work with came to me with an Intimacy Disorder.
What I do in my work with couples is theoretically simple. I get them to put down the rocks they are throwing, listen and then share their deepest pains, secrets, concerns and feelings with their spouse. Therapy is Intimacy School. Intimacy is disarming. It is safe. Between couples who are locked in a volatile power struggle it isn't easy to pull off.
Intimacy invites empathy, kindness, nurturing and connection. It is truly putting yourself in the shoes of the other, truly understanding and not judging them. A jolt of true, deep intimacy can raise a marriage from the dead. It can be healing salve to on bloody wound. It is bonding. I love when I see this happen on the therapy couch. It is an honor to see two people vulnerably show each other who they really are from the core of their beings.
Dorothy C. Hayden, LCSW, a Sexual Addiction therapist from New York writes the following in her excellent Blog Stop Sex Addiction "From the dictionary: the word is derived from the Latin intima, meaning “inner” or “inner-most.” The definition suggests that to be intimate, you need to know your real self. This ability to be in touch with our inner core is a requisite to being intimate. Our intima holds the innermost part of ourselves, our most profound feelings, our enduring motivations, our values, our sense of right and wrong and our most embedded convictions about life. Importantly, our intima also includes that which enables us to express these innermost aspects of our person to “the other”. So, to be in relationship, and to know yourself/your partner sexually, you need to know and respect your intima. The intima is also the way in which we value and esteem ourselves and determines how we are with being with others. To put it simply, if don’t value yourself, you can’t value another. If you’re not aware of needs and wants, or are shamed by them, then sex becomes no more than a f***. I think every person I’ve ever seen in my consulting room for sexual compulsions suffers from estrangement from his intimus. We can survive the disapproval of others. The feeling can be painful, but it’s nothing compared to the disapproval of ourselves. Your personal well being and your ability to love another cannot survive your dislike or disrespect of yourself. If you dislike yourself, you’ll never be comfortable with your sexuality. It bears repeating… the outstanding quality of intimacy is the sense of being in touch with our real selves. When “the other” also knows and is able to express his/her real self, intimacy happens. Sexuality is both an expression of that intimacy and a bond that enhances intimacy. With this kind of personal/sexual intimacy, our growth experience as humans is energized, enhanced, and fueled. Intimacy is the most meaningful and courageous of human experiences. It’s why people long for it so."
Good stuff, huh? The cure for a disconnected marriage isn't something that primarily happens between the couple. It has to first happen within each individual. I had very few intimate moments with my father. He went from the newspaper to food to the TV set to work to playing Bridge 24/7 without ever being able to let his mask down and just be himself and just be with me.
One day I sort of cornered him in the hope of having a deep conversation. He broke down in tears. He pointed at the TV and said that whatever joy he got in life he got it from it. He couldn't be intimate with me because that meant first feeling his own pain and it is human nature to avoid pain as much as possible.
Is it time for you and your spouse to sign up for Intimacy School? There is SO much to learn about yourself and about your partner. The truth might hurt but it beats the heck out of distance, boredom, disconnection, apathy and loneliness. Being real and being real deep really rocks! Embracing the pain of true intimacy beats all the other ultimately more painful alternatives.
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