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Exits From Intimacy

We all have exits from intimacy. They are the ways in which we prevent connection with others. Exits are often triggered by contact that feels uncomfortable or unsafe. We all need to protect ourselves but not so much that we lose the intimacy we need. Our exits are the defences that may once have been appropriate to our situation, perhaps when we were children or at a time when we were hurt; but they can become habits which are redundant and self-defeating.  Moreover sometimes our brain doesn’t realise that we are doing them.

Examples of exits that avoid connection:

Being overemotional and overreacting,
Working late, being over busy
Doing too much with children
Crying a lot instead of talking
Unjustified jealousy

TV, frequent gaming, social networking
Avoiding contact without explaining why
Being over controlling
Closing down on emotions
Rejecting sex without explanation(Enforcing celibacy)

Extreme Exits: 

Suicide, illness, substance abuse, divorce, murder, insanity.

When couples feel unsatisfied, or they are living together/apart, they have often reached a point where these exits are in play on both sides. Typically, introverts cut off and extroverts become demanding and overemotional.

You may have difficulty distinguishing between an exit and an essential activity. Remember, relationships need nurturing time so ask yourself, “Does doing this a lot cut me off from my partner?” Or “My partner feels cut out when I do this; lets arrange to talk calmly and see what’s really happening with us.”

Remember: frequent use of an exit cements in damaging patterns and builds resentments. Working on this does not mean criticising our partner’s apparent exits. Give that up! As a rule work only on your own exits.

If you want to talk about your partner’s exits, use I Language, not You Language. (See I & You Language) Not “you are always on the computer/phone,” say instead “When you are on your phone I feel lonely/cut-off sometimes.” Not “You are over emotional”, but “Sometimes I feel ignored and confused when you seem to articulate so powerfully”. Then listen with empathy.

If you both want to be closer, thoughtfully and generously work on your exits together. (See Intentional Dialogue)

Don’t exit from doing so!

See Also:
Separation and Anger,
Uncooperative Partner
Withholding Love

With thanks to:
Imago and “Getting the Love You Want” by H Hendrix’
The State of Affairs by E Perel

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