[ continued from yesterday ] This is the third installment in a 3-part article series about struggles with intimacy that are relatively common in gay relationships. In Part 1 of the series, “intimacy freak-out” was defined and the reasons why gay men are prone to this phenomenon were discussed.
This article will address some of the common intimacy fears that could block your potential for true connection with your partner and will offer some tips for enhancing your comfort with intimacy to help you achieve ultimate relationship bliss!
The “Freak-Out” Checklist: In my training and work with gay men, I have found some common intimacy fears that can prevent us from experiencing the depths of fulfillment that love can offer. Take a look through this list of fears to determine if there may be anything getting in the way of your ability to be uninhibited and free with your lover.
Identifying your emotional blocks to intimacy is the first step toward freeing yourself from their grip. Add your own to the list:
- fear of abandonment
- fear of rejection and being neglected
- fear of engulfment or being suffocated/smothered
- fear of loss of control threatened by loss of personal freedom
- fear of being disappointed or “let down” by partner low self-esteem,
- fears of not being “good enough”
- fear of affection and sex
- fear of exposure,
- of being known for who you really are
- difficulties with trust
- difficulties expressing one’s emotions/feelings
- fear of failure
Self-Analysis: As you can see, any one of the above intimacy fears can stifle you to the point that you’re not fully able to be “at one” with a partner because you’re holding yourself back. Fear may be too strong a word for some of the items---any hint of uneasiness or discomfort is indicative of an “issue” of some form.
While it’s important to have boundaries and protect yourself from emotional harm, these characteristics can act as a barrier to experiencing love to its fullest capacity if they become a patterned response.
In addition to these fears, it might be helpful to examine some of the contributing factors that led to the anxiety in the first place. Here are some questions to ponder to get you started in looking at how the difficulties with intimacy you may have could have developed.
·How did your parents show affection and intimacy when you were growing up?
·Any childhood wounds, abuse, or loss from the past that make relationships difficult?
·Any unresolved family-of-origin issues that create baggage for you?
·Are you unable to grieve and “let go” of the break-up of a prior relationship?
·How about internalized homophobia? Low self-esteem?
·Any negative experiences with other males growing up that left an imprint on you?
Whether you’re partnered or single, knowledge of your intimacy blocks and contributing factors can help armor you in defeating them so you can have the most ultimate relationship possible.
Become An Intimacy Champ: So you want to be a pro at this intimacy stuff and really super-charge your relationship and knock your partner’s socks off? While it won’t happen overnight, with persistent practice of the following tips, you’ll begin to see a positive evolution take place in your relationship with more connection and emotional intimacy.
What You Can Do As An Individual:
Identify your triggers. How are your “freak-out” symptoms manifested and under what conditions?
Combat your male gender socialization script by becoming more proficient in emotional intelligence and expression.
Develop positive self-esteem and confidence through taking risks to further your personal growth and work aggressively at defeating any internalized homophobia.
Identify any negative, limiting beliefs you may have about relationships, masculinity, and being gay and counter them with new, affirming messages. Read up on cognitive restructuring techniques for help with this.
Gain closure on unfinished business from the past. Your past doesn’t have to keep you stuck, no matter how traumatic it may have been. You have the power to shape a new destiny.
What You Can Do As A Couple:
Make your relationship the number one priority in your lives. Devote lots of quality time together and protect your partnership from competing outside sources.
Build a relationship tool-box filled with skills in communication, conflict negotiation, boundaries, and problem-solving.
Cultivate a hot sex life together, filled with creativity and passion.
Develop a shared vision and goals for the future together as a couple.
Give each other frequent “positive strokes,” appreciate each other for who you are, share your feelings, take responsibility for your issues, and practice the art of forgiveness.
Through a relationship with another man who is just as motivated as you to nurture a positive connection on all levels, you too can experience one of the most powerful and healing forces life has to offer. It’ll mean confronting some of your anxieties directly and being receptive to encountering a wide range of emotions and experiences. It’s worth it! After all, the road to gay self-acceptance and happiness has been hard enough to then rob yourself of one of life’s most precious gifts; you shouldn’t have to sacrifice what’s rightfully yours to claim and enjoy. You deserve love! Cheers to your intimacy quest!
*References: The term “intimacy freak-out” taken from Crowell,Al(1995). I’d Rather Be Married: Finding Your Future Spouse. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc. http://thegaylovecoach.com