All beginnings are wonderful we are told, and so it is with a new relationship. Couples in love spend huge amounts of time getting to know each other by sharing intimate knowledge, plans, dreams, and their past.  They often feel that were somehow meant for each other and intensely connect around common values and meanings.  Usually at this time lust is at its peak.

While some couples who have been together for a decade can become quite detached from one another, others couples seem to drift apart not long after they have moved in together or gotten married. One person may begin to retreat from activities that were nurturing the intimacy and security of the relationship. They might do this by starting to go to bed at different times, staying later at work, hanging out with friends more, focusing on hobbies, avoiding sexual intimacy or not sharing important personal information. While we all might do this from time to time and then return to our partner, in this instance the withdrawing characteristic have become a habit.  Most couples find a balance between times spent together verses time apart there is harmony about this dance of separateness and togetherness which is mutual while the avoiding types their relationship pattern involves anxiety unhappiness as the dance partners are out of step.

John Gottman, Psychologist and marriage researcher, uses the term “masters and disasters of relationships” to describe how the masters create a culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it.  The disasters of relationships were defensive, feeling like they were being attached they were always ready to defend themselves.  .   

He noted that the masters turn towards rather than turn away from their partner. He observes that in good marriages and partnerships, couples engage in lots of chitchat. For example: the husband looks out the window and says, “Wow, look at that boat,” and the wife peers over her book and says, “It looks like the big schooner we saw last summer, remember?” The husband replies “Yeah! It’s almost exactly like it

In this brief exchange the couple is connecting, and therefore filling up each other’s love bank. . The Love Bank is a subconscious capacity that each of us has which keeps track of relational violations or hurts.  Each time a love-destroying behaviour is performed, the feeling of romantic love diminishes while positive actions and words produce love unit deposits in the love bank. If over time if the account is kept in the red then something begins to die between the couple they withdraw and then doubt that they should have every been together or they are better off leaving.     

This might seem odd as Hollywood movies have given us the idea that romance is all about the grand gestures, candle lit dinners and swooning as your lover kisses you. Love and passion are kept alive by staying connected on a daily basis.

Further traits that destroy intimacy in a relationship are:

  1. Refusal to talk about issues – no resolution or repair
  2. Not talking to your partner for hours or days after a fight or misunderstanding
  3. Habitually avoiding sexual intimacy
  4. Only engaging in sex as a physical act and not being emotionally present
  5. Walking out or leaving during an argument (this is different from having a time out)
  6. Habitual criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling
  7. Spending too much time on your phone, computer and games
  8. Controlling behaviours
  9. No fondness and admiration being routinely expressed
  10. 10. A partner withholding affection but is focused on pleasing others and superficial connection with strangers
  11. Fantasying about the one that got away

The reasons why a partner might be like this:

  1. They are fearful of rejection and judgement
  2. They prioritise their independence above the needs of the relationship
  3. They need to be in control and will not let people get close
  4. They are struggling with issues related to pornography and sex addiction

What can we do?

  1. First admit you have a problem, many couples avoid getting help until its way too late
  2. Be open with your partner about your own contribution to the problem and approach the issue as a partnership rather than blaming any individual.

If feel that you are just living like flatmates and intimacy avoidance is running your relationship then it’s a good idea to talk to a trained marriage or relationship counsellor. Talking to the right counsellor can assist you to make your relationship more vibrant and satisfying.

David Nielsen Counselling Services in Canberra 0405 321 090.