#TBT – Are You Sabotaging Your Own Relationship?
Based on a Black and Married with Kids (BMWK) article from 2010.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “intimacy”? Do you think of marriage, sex, friendship, affection, familiarity, or something else altogether? Regardless of what words you associate with intimacy, close relationships require it to truly be authentic. Unfortunately, we often block intimacy with our own actions, words, and thoughts. It is easy to see how verbal or physical abuse, poor communication, dishonesty, and selfishness would drive two people apart, but there are also individual habits that undermine attempts to build intimacy. This latter group of “intimacy-killers” are incubated internally but manifested externally. They do a great deal of damage if left unchecked and can counteract the peace and contentment we seek in our relationships. While my list of five intimacy-killers is certainly not exhaustive, it should prompt us all to examine ourselves to determine whether we are subconsciously sabotaging our own relationships.
1. Past experiences
It is critically important to acknowledge both the short and long-term effects of past experiences because failing to release mental and emotional baggage can weigh us down in new relationships. For example, while being guarded with your thoughts and feelings seems wise when dating someone who is verbally abusive, continuing that practice with someone who wants to be nurturing and supportive will limit your ability to build intimacy in that relationship. This is why I believe a period of self-reflection is necessary after the end of any serious relationship. This allows us to not only assess the ways in which we have been hurt, but to also be honest about the ways in which we have hurt others. Hopefully this time of introspection will include an attempt to forgive””both others and ourselves.
2. Unsupportive friends and family
Relationships can also be damaged when we let ill-informed, ill-equipped, or ill-intentioned loved ones serve as relationship advisers. The pain of past experiences often limits their ability to see our situations clearly. This is particularly dangerous because we tend to trust the people closest to us and assume they have our best interests in mind. While this may be true in theory, in reality people who don’t share your relationship vision are in no position to help you reach your relationship goals.
3. Complaining and discontentment
Anyone who has ever had to spend an extended period of time with a complainer will understand why the inability to be content is an intimacy-killer. I have met very few people who yearn to be around someone who is constantly in a bad mood, whines, or has a negative disposition and outlook on life. Constantly complaining to, or about, a spouse or significant other is no different. There is nothing wrong with voicing disappointment or disapproval when something or someone has not met your expectations, but chronic complainers rarely ever have any suggestions about how to improve a particular situation. The root of complaining is often an inability to be content. Contentment in this case is not settling for mediocrity. It is being in a state of peaceful happiness or finding a sense of satisfaction with a certain level of achievement or good fortune. We drive away people who desire to know us more intimately when we constantly focus on what we don’t have instead of being thankful for what we do have.
4. Unhealthy media images
There is no shortage of relationship advice available online, in print, and via television and radio. Sometimes this advice is useful but oftentimes it plays on harmful stereotypes or oversimplifies complex relationship issues. Consuming too much negative media can be extremely harmful to our relationship health. There is a fine line between being well-informed and becoming paranoid, and sometimes we forget that predicting human behavior is more art than science. Some of the same principles that apply to friends and family are also applicable to our most trusted media sources. For instance, there are some people who accept the opinions of Steve Harvey and Oprah Winfrey as gospel. While they may dispense helpful information at times, we do ourselves a disservice by acting as if the people we are in relationships with are carbon copies of characters in books or guests on television shows. For example, a woman who believes she has learned to “think like a man” might get a rude awakening when she comes to find that she still has not figured out how to think like her man.
5. Fear and negative thinking
The last intimacy-killer is often the by-product of the first four and is by far the most dangerous. Fear and negative thinking can cause us to question whether a seemingly good relationship will last and prevents us from being able to confidently receive love and affection. For example, the looming presence of a past relationship, coupled with a lack of contentment and media that reinforce a particular relationship worldview, can cause a person to see a mate’s minor imperfections as major deal-breakers and prematurely exit their relationship. That is the real power of fear: it impedes progress by making us overestimate the power of life’s obstacles, while underestimating our own ability to face and overcome life’s challenges. In relationships, sometimes the fear we experience is not due to anxiety about failure, but rather worry about how to handle success. This fear can be particularly strong when you’ve had a series of failed relationships and begin to see them as a reflection of your own self-worth and desirability. This is not to say that positive thinking alone will guarantee positive relationship outcomes, but the quality of our thoughts often limits our quest for intimacy more than our desire and abilities.
Overcoming habits that block intimacy starts with an honest look at the things we do, say, and think. There are certainly other ways to erode intimacy in relationships, but these five are important because they deal with the only people in relationships we have the ability to control ourselves.
*Original article can be found on Black and Married with Kids.