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Barriers to Intimacy - part 2

Apr 19, 2017 08:48AM ● By Don Short

In Part 1 of last month’s March issue of FACE Magazine [What Is Intimacy] article, we focused on four types of intimacy [Intellectual, Experiential, Emotional and Sexual], from which we noted that developing any form of intimacy takes effort, commitment and time.  

Intimacy is a very important part of our human experience. It brings satisfaction, health, happiness, and sense of meaning to one’s life. We all desire it, but at times it can be difficult to create and maintain intimate relationships with others. Barriers and destructive behavior patterns can hinder—even destroy—a once harmonious relationship. All relationships can be emotionally challenging from time to time, but avoiding these common barriers can go a very long way in building, saving, maintaining and enjoying a lifelong relationship with an old friend, colleague, partner or spouse.  

Barriers To Intimacy

1. Neglect

Neglect is a major reason couples struggle to maintain intimacy. Time and energy are taken away from the relationship because of work, hobbies, children, or even other relationships.

2. Violations of Trust

Any violation of trust will produce negative consequences in a couple’s intimacy. A common example is infidelity. Violations of trust may also occur in other areas of the relationship.

3. Maladaptive Communication Patterns

Poor or ineffective communication can pose a significant barrier to intimacy. Destructive communication includes patterns such as poor listening, ineffective ways of managing conflict or problem solving, criticism and defensiveness.

4. Differing Definitions of Intimacy

Differences in the meaning of intimacy between partners may become obstructions to closeness and connection in some relationships.

5. Fears of Intimacy

Fears of intimacy may originate in childhood and may be related to one’s family of origin. The fear of intimacy can also arise from difficult experiences in adulthood. These can be characterized by feelings of abandonment or by a betrayal of trust.

Have you lost the intimacy you desire in one or more of your personal relationships? Would you like to revive an Intellectual, Experiential, Emotional or Sexual relationship in your life?

If so, here are five things you can start doing immediately to begin the process.

Five Ways to Recover Intimacy

1. Spend Time Together: Quality and Quantity

Couples must spend adequate time together to nourish their relationship and build intimacy. There is no adequate substitute for time. Research indicates that quality time together positively affects intimacy. Quality time together should provide the opportunity for meaningful conversations and the chance to do worthwhile activities. Neither quantity nor quality time alone is sufficient. Both are critical for the development and the maintenance of intimacy in the relationship. Therefore, couples must set aside the time necessary to achieve this outcome.

2. Create a Safe Environment

Intimacy requires personal vulnerability and in order for your relationship to recover intimacy, one has to feel safe and supported. Individuals who are struggling to regain intimacy in their relationship are likely to have experienced some painful interactions in the past. As a result, they may not feel that it is safe to be vulnerable or intimate. Remember that creating a safe environment is extremely important.

3. Improving Communication

One of the most effective means of helping relationships rebuild intimacy is through improving communication skills. Couples must learn to break old patterns and establish new ways of communicating. Couples improve communication through increasing their awareness of their destructive communication patterns and learning healthier ways of communicating.

4. Address Relationship Expectations

This will help to clearly identify and own your personal expectations, modify unrealistic ones and learn to communicate and negotiate personal expectations.

5. Address Fears Related to Intimacy

In spite of the desire for intimacy, certain fears related to intimacy may be obstacles for some relationships. It is important to acknowledge the efforts and successes that you are experiencing in your relationship. Success that is recognized and celebrated will likely have a positive effect on your progress. Successful experiences with intimacy will create hope for future connection and closeness in your relationship. Regaining intimacy may be challenging for some couples, given the possible neglect and/or damage that may have occurred. Knowing relational barriers to recovering intimacy can help you identify possible roadblocks that are hindering you from rebuilding the closeness and intimacy you desire. If you still feel stuck, seek counseling to help you address these issues.

Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or

Want to read Part 1 of this article, Click here!