Updated: Oct 9
“We are all vulnerable in love. We are more emotionally naked with those we love and sometimes, inevitably, we hurt each other with careless words or actions.” -Dr. Susan Johnson
We are hardwired for connection. The drive to seek connection with others is innate. We all crave intimacy and meaningful connections with others. Humans are social creatures and, in the context of our evolutionary history, our very survival depends on social connections. We are born unable to care for our needs and dependent on others to provide this care for far longer than any other creature. This need to connect with others does not disappear when we grow. Indeed, although we might come to be able to fend for ourselves, we continue to need and benefit from responsive, caring others. However, we may come to feel threatened by the very same thing we are craving.
Struggle #1: Fear
Our fears can have thousands of sources, many of which we might not be consciously aware of. I’m not referring here to the ‘fear of commitment’ popularized in media but to the fear of being in a vulnerable position. To be involved in intimate relationships – including those with sexual partners, friends, and family members- is to have a certain openness to the Other, distinctive from the way we typically relate in other contexts. This places us in a space of vulnerability where there is a higher propensity to get hurt, rejected, abandoned, humiliated, and/or betrayed. We are all afraid, some more than others. We might simultaneously crave intimacy and feel threatened by it.
Struggle #2 Not knowing
Intimacy is developed through practices, we develop intimacy through the things we do. The trust that characterizes healthy intimate relationships is developed through small moments of connection and enhanced by repairs after moments of disconnection. There is a lot that goes into building connections such as identifying our needs and knowing how to communicate them effectively to others, recognizing others' needs, and being able to hold both an “I and Us” perspective. In many ways, building intimacy is a skill.
Struggle #3 BurnOut
Much in the same way that our physical body depends on energy, our mental life depends on energy as well. Simple things like eating, drinking enough water, and having rest and sleep have a great impact on our ability to relate to others. Research with married couples has shown that stressors outside of the relationship (such as work, parenting, financial burden, and health concerns) impact relationship satisfaction. The quality of a relationship can determine if each individual can find a safe haven where each individual can find an oasis to refuge in or just a continuance and exacerbation of the stress they were already experiencing.
Thaina Cordero is a Certified Sexologist and Care Coordinator at Cypress Wellness Center. She has an MS in Educational Psychology and Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology student at Modern Sex Therapy Institute. She works with individuals and couples as they explore their sexual expression, needs, fantasies, preferences, curiosities, and difficulties as they create more pleasurable, satisfying, and fulfilling sex lives and relationships. Click here to request an appointment.