Obstacles to Establishing Intimacy in a Relationship
Intimacy is maintained by engagement in intimate conversation (Brunell, Pilkington & Webster, 2007; Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005) and is considered a major part of romantic relationships. There are, however, many obstacles to establishing intimacy in a relationship. In this article, we review some of these obstacles.
Obstacles to establishing intimacy in a relationship
Communication – a person can enter a relationship with some mistaken notions about just what intimacy is, or misjudge the needs or the thoughts of the other person in the relationship. Communication or the lack of communication would be one of the main barriers to the foundation of an intimate relationship.
Time – intimacy takes time to develop and a person who is not willing to allow for time for an intimate relationship to occur will not be able to develop that kind of relationship.
Awareness – it is necessary for a person to be aware of him or herself and to realize what he/she has to share with another person. People who are not aware of themselves frequently are not able to be aware of other people, at least not in terms of the potentially intimate aspects of the other person.
Shyness – reluctance to share oneself with another person can keep an intimate relationship from developing.
Game Playing – people who act in stereotypical roles or try to play certain kinds of games, even if they’re intimate-appearing games (such as romantic games) cannot develop an intimate relationship with someone else simply because they are not being themselves. Game playing can be a detriment to the development of intimacy and can develop only when two people are being him/or herself in a significant way with another person.
Difficulties in achieving intimacy
There are many reasons why some people find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationship. This is commonly the result of problems such as:
- Lack of communication
- Financial problems
- Work or family pressures
- Negative childhood experiences
- Past and current traumas
We all have some barriers to intimacy. The inability to develop trust in one another, a chronic sense of insecurity, fear of failure or fear of being vulnerable to being hurt are right at the top of the list when it comes to discussing barriers to intimacy. Sometimes there is a need to overcome an inability to taking risks or an inability to let go of hurts and fears from previous relationships.
All sorts of fears can get in the way of intimacy – fears such as a fear of losing the other in death or some other tragic circumstance or a fear of rejection can loom large in some people and need to be addressed. Anger, hostility, resentment, defensiveness and conflict all need to be dealt with before a deep and meaningful intimacy can occur. A lack of role models, particularly from each partner’s family of origin, can create a huge barrier to attaining a connection of the soul and heart.
Other barriers can be:
- Inability to accept one’s own responsibility in developing intimacy in the relationship
- Poor problem solving between the partners
- Power struggles between the parties for control of the relationship
- Competition between the parties
- Blaming each other for problems in the relationship
- Fear of being too exposed or being found out for whom you “really are”
- Fear of claustrophobia or being smothered in the relationship
- Desire to be left alone, isolated, and ignored
- Mental or physical health problems that impede the relationship’s growth
- Fear of loss of identity
- Inability to show affection, tenderness, or caring
- Inability to be open, honest, and forthright
- Being in denial about needing help