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Partner Intimacy Adverse?

Is my Spouse/Partner Intimacy Adverse?

Take a look at the following list. If you answer yes to 8 (eight) or more, the likelihood is that you are partnered with someone who is Intimacy Avoidant.

  • I have a  distinct feeling of lack of connection with, or a feeling of distance from, my partner.

  • My partner has a seeming inability or unwillingness to share feelings.

  • I am being blamed for marital issues.

  • I feel disregarded.

  • I don’t feel that my partner/spouse pays attention to me.

  • My spouse/partner withholds just about everything meaningful; feelings, connection, sex (connected, intimate sex), love, discussion/talking, spiritual connection.

  • My spouse seems angry or edgy/sharp the majority of the time.

  • My spouse is often critical of me.

  • My spouse/partner is always “About Me.” Selfish, narcissistic; everything being considered surrounds how he/she will be impacted. He/she demands my ear, my shoulder, my attention, my love, my nurturing, but isn’t there for me in the same way.

  • When we do have an issue, I am offered solutions but I don’t feel genuinely heard.

  • My spouse/partner is not able to be present. His/her mind or attention wanders; he/she is always thinking of a response to what I’m saying instead of listening to what I’m actually saying.

  • It feels like any emotional discussion cannot end fast enough for my spouse/partner.

  • It seems like I can’t do anything right in his/her eyes.

  • No matter what I do, the outcome is predictably negative.

  • My spouse/partner controls the money and I feel like I’m in the dark about it.

  • I don’t feel married… maybe just good friends or companions.

  • My spouse/partner is always busy, travels more extensively than necessary for work, often comes home or leaves earlier than necessary.

  • I have a feeling that we are living two separate lives.

  • My partner/spouse has a “just get over it” attitude toward me and my concerns.

  • My partner watches a lot of pornography.

  • My partner seems to prefer to masturbate than to have sex with me.

  • My partner has had emotional or sexual affairs (or other forms of sexual out) outside of our marriage

  • My partner seems to be enmeshed with the opposite sex parent (mom/son, father/daughter). This is not a “good” relationship, but one which shows strong signs of dependence from and influence over your spouse/partner.

  • He/she just doesn’t “get me.”

  • Uses pot or alcohol to level out, “chill,” de-stress.

  • My partner is controlling.

  • My partner is needy (but it’s all take, no give).

  • Seeks pity from anyone and everyone.

  • My partner makes me question my reality.

  • My partner/spouse seems to invite surrounding chaos into his/her life or our shared life.

  • He/she “checks out” with TV, movies, gaming, internet or other mindless activities.

  • He/she like things to be concrete, black & white, logical.

  • Combined with the above, trusts only what they can see or is backed up by evidence.

  • Over reliance on logic—especially when it comes to emotional problems.

  • Has to “understand/analyze” everything.

  • Accepts nothing on faith. (“Show me.”) 

Am I Intimacy Adverse?

Do I have Intimacy Adversity Issues?

If you answer yes to five or more of the questions below, then you likely have an intimacy avoidance issue.


  • I avoid emotions and emotional discussions: because they frustrate me, are painful, seem pointless, or I just don’t like them.

  • Other than superficial interactions/acquaintances, I avoid meaningful connection with other people, except a few close friends.

  • I find meaningful connection with people other than my spouse/partner—especially those who share my mate’s gender.

  • I spend time with coworkers and “friends" who share my mate’s gender, and I freely discuss my emotional issues/marital problems with those people, rather than discussing them openly and candidly with my spouse/partner.

  • I have had or am having sexual and/or emotional affairs.

  • I watch porn often.

  • I would sometimes/often rather masturbate than have sex with my partner.

  • My partner just doesn’t “do it” for me anymore.

  • I visit prostitutes/escorts, massage parlors, etc..

  • I watch excessive amounts of pornography (meaning daily or multiple hours per day or binge watching a few times per week).

  • I'm controlling.

  • I feel like my partner is very needy.

  • Sometimes/often, I don’t really want to (or even dread) coming home.

  • I feel like, in our coupleship, I am always wrong.

  • I have to defend my position all the time.

  • I feel like the victim here.

  • There’s too much drama and chaos in my life.

  • I have issues like addictions, gambling, over-spending, debting, risk-taking.

  • I like adrenalized activities, a lot.

  • I use alcohol or pot to level out, “chill,” de-stress.

  • I like TV, movies, video games, the internet or other activities where I don’t have to think.

  • I like things to be concrete, black & white, logical.

  • I trust only what I can see or is backed up by evidence.

  • I tend to analyze things so I can understand them.

  • I want things proven to me—"show me the facts”—or I don’t/won’t believe them.

  • My spouse just wants too much from me.

  • I don’t know or understand what my spouse/partner wants.

  • I don’t know how to solve the problems my spouse comes up with; when I try to offer solutions, she/he gets angry and I have no idea why.

Sand Dunes

What is Intimacy Adversity... technically?

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Intimacy Adversity in a loving/romantic relationship is the difficulty sharing intimacy with one's partner - even more generally, it is the hesitancy to share any real part of oneself with others. It is often unknown or unseen by the avoidant person, yet causes significant emotional pain and difficulty for them and their loved ones.  It is almost certainly felt as fear, anguish and self-shaming and the brain, in it's capacity of self-protection, can hide it from clear consciousness even when it has been clearly pointed out and even if they want to do something about it - it can be likened to an overwhelming fog.


            As we define it here at CORE, Intimacy Adversity is a continuum of actions/non-action that contains everything from Emotional Reticence to Avoidance, Anorexia, and we have added "Enmity."  Somewhat different from intimacy anorexia (or “IA” popularly defined as an “active withholding of emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy from a spouse or partner”*) By this definition, intimacy anorexia is known by the anorexic - and yet they continue the behavior in spite of the consequences. We disagree because Intimacy Anorexia is really a compulsive avoidance so you have to look at the sources of the compulsion which are usually unknown to the person who is "anorexic." Thus, while there may be consciousness surrounding it, being consciously deliberate suggests something more malicious than a compulsion would be... so, we feel that adding "Intimacy Enmity" as a stage beyond anorexia in terms of the intimacy adversity spectrum. Even though, with Intimacy Anorexia, it can feel fully intentional, personal and, even, malicious, like "Enmity." Not discounting the occasional case where that might be true, if we can assume, for a moment, that the intimacy-adverse person actually does love you and doesn't want to hurt you, imagine the level of fear of sharing themselves that they must be experiencing. The problem is that expressing that fear takes being emotionally vulnerable which, well, is what they unconsciously fear so much that doing so can leave them incredibly uncomfortable, tongue-tied, and wanting to run. This fear may well translate into anger or even more distancing which is really hard not to take personally when all you really want is to be close. For the most part, that is all they want too and they just can't. Yet.



          Before they begin to heal, Intimacy Adversity can continue to cause cycles of pain for their spouse or partner AND for themselves... If you think of the term Anorexia in it's more generally understood use - as an eating disorder - then what you can draw from that is that an person who suffers (and it is deep suffering) from Intimacy Anorexia is experiencing a compulsive avoidance of the experience of true connection (which may be made all the more confusing to their partner, or anyone else, because a person who suffers from intimacy adversity learns how to survive by expressing a surficial emotional availability which, sadly, is what they come to accept as actual connection (usually since childhood)  - think about how confusing it must be when they truly believe their terribly limited experience of belonging is their truth and their partner's desire, and ask, for more feels like they've been literally asked to leap a tall building in a single bound. And it isn't for any lack of love for their partner, they just can't put words on it 

The Indifference Zone

If you’re reading this, there’s probably one state you're not often in: Indifference.


You may well have been to the edges of indifference, and those edges may well be frayed. But full indifference? Deep at the bottom of the well? ...You’re here, reading this page, so you haven’t actually given up. You might have declared—even screamed at the top of your lungs—“I don’t deserve this and I’M DONE!” 


You’re right: You DON’T deserve this. And it’s good that you’re so angry about it, because that means you are DONE acquiescing to your partner’s emotional unavailability. But something in you likely isn’t done with the partnership yet. Anger is still evidence of caring, while indifference lacks emotional connection (a state of uncaring). You likely still love your partner, even if you’re fed up with how things are. You still want what seems increasingly unavailable to you. You have hope, despite so often being in despair and feeling hopeless, that this person you love can return love in a way that is connected, vulnerable and invested in your relationship. 


The good new is, there is still cause for hope...

...Then they feel inadequate and shame themselves ("What's wrong with me that I'm not enough?" - which usually comes out as "What do you want from me???") - which, then, drives them deeper into their internal isolation

What are some common causes of

Intimacy Adversity?

• Emotional enmeshment with the opposite-gender parent

• No coping skills to handle difficult emotions

• Not allowed to “feel” as a child, due to messages like “don’t cry” or “grow up”

• Negative childhood experiences (trauma) 

• Early loss (major loss prior to 18, especially prior to 12 years old)

• Parents or family who were/are emotionally avoidant or cold

• Feeling that “I don’t deserve to be loved or nurtured"

• Self punishment, without recognizing equal-or-greater consequences to others

• Attachment to negative self-viewpoints

• Perpetuating reality: avoiding intimacy, not receiving it, then believing that reality confirms unworthiness

* Intimacy Anorexia in quotes is a definition by Dr. Doug Weiss

Regardless of its position on the continuum, Intimacy Adversity in any degree is an excruciatingly painful interpersonal dynamic, causing relational trauma for both parties within a relationship.

 ...And it can be healed.

How It Feels if Your Partner Is
Intimacy Adverse

            If Intimacy Avoidance is showing up in your relationship and you are on the receiving end of it, it can feel like a divide across which you can’t reach. That divide seems to keep getting wider and wider, no matter what you do. No doubt, you’ve tried and tried and changed tactics and done whatever you thought might make your partner want to lean TOWARD you rather than AWAY from you. You’ve likely tried to please your partner one day, then instead tried to distance yourself so that your partner might know what it feels like. Perhaps you’ve reached “The Indifference Zone,” or perhaps you are edging along it. Perhaps those edges are fraying, yet you're trying desperately to grasp whatever scraps of hope your partner will give you—either real or imagined. 


Here’s a short glimpse of feelings expressed by partners of intimacy avoidant loved ones:


• Why isn’t he the person I thought the was?

• Why doesn’t he want what he told me he wanted?

• How did I get stuck in this seemingly impenetrable morass of emotions that I can’t seem to see my way through?

• Are my dreams of my marriage or partnership gone? 

• Were my dreams ever real? 

• Was what my partner presented ever real? 

• Did my partner get what she wanted, then just abandoned me and my wants and needs?

• I’m mad! I’m frustrated! I just want to shake him!!! 

• Am I that unlovable? 

• What did I do to deserve this?

• If only I had done this or that, maybe things would be different. 

• Where did I go wrong? 

• What if she leaves me? 

• Should I just walk away and try to find love and connection somewhere else? 

• I am such a mess!


Truthfully, these thoughts and feelings are only a FEW of the gamut you may have experienced

Am I Intimacy Adverse?


            If your partner is complaining that you’re never around and that you’re not present or distant when you ARE around, or that you never do anything together, then there is a problem. Those things in themselves don’t necessarily add up to Intimacy Avoidance, but they are some of the most basic indicators. 


            You may feel connected. You may feel that there is no problem—for you. You may wonder why your partner is pushing for something that you have no idea what it is, what to do about it, or if it really matters. You may feel that your partner is needy. You may be frustrated and even dread coming home. What your partner is demanding of you feels foreign, and it makes you so uncomfortable that you wish it could just go away. You wonder what happened, when things have seemingly been so good.


            The problem is this: your partner feels there is a problem. If one partner feels there is a problem in the relationship, then there IS a problem. In a coupleship, that means that you have a problem if your partner has a problem. It is unlikely to go away with a bunch of flowers or chocolate or “date night." Without open discussion, factual and emotional vulnerability, and dedicated efforts to “lean in” toward your loved one, it is (a) unlikely to get better and (b) much more likely that the relationship will continue to fray and unwind. The relationship will likely devolve instead of develop.


            The good news is that there is less to fear than you might think about learning to be vulnerable and to openly communicate. Whether or not you know what it looks and feels like, you CAN learn. Not only can your relationship problems dissolve into positives, the new intimacy you learn will lead to planes of relationship and closeness you never thought possible. These are relational gifts that you mightily deserve—even if you don’t believe you do.

Cause for Hope


Here’s where that good news is anchored: Because you have brought it up, your partner is aware of these problems, at least to a moderate extent. Under layers of fear, at his (or her - for ease, "his/he") most human depth, your partner really, truly wants connection with you too—even if it only crosses his mind when you bring it up. Even though he might be in denial about why he is blocking himself off from intimacy, thinking or saying things like, “I just don’t need that” or “It’s too much to deal with”—what he really means is, “The emotions it brings with it are too much to deal with and I have no idea how to stay present with them because I think they can or might hurt very badly. So, I am going to avoid them.” He is willing to avoid those emotions at all costs, forcing your life and relationship into a pretty miserable state of existence. This is SO far from what it can be. It’s lightyears away from what each of you deserve for it to be.


...That may not sound like a lot of cause for hope. But here’s why it is:


            Our higher (true) self - the truth about who we are - wants to be known. And the truth of who each of you really is (the person you fell in love with) was clearly represented in the time when you were courting. That is when we present the best of us and when our partner-to-be sees us for all the potential we have. The person we present is, generally, our true self—who we aspire to be, who we are in our heart. The problem is that it isn’t yet how we truly are in the world. Partnership and marriage (plans to mate for life) are actually a wonderful design to help us grow from who we are in the world into who we really are within—watching those two separate beings become one in “we-ness." As partners, we have that ability, through love and understanding and acceptance of our loved ones at each step they take toward their whole, true, core selves. This is best (and most quickly) done through vulnerability and connection.


Intimacy is scary. Like all growth, it creates anxiety. The opposite of intimacy and connection is depression, which can be described as “stuckness.” This stickiness presents us with a choice: stay stuck, or grow. Once your partner understands that in his or her heart, your partner can make the choice to grow, even in the face of fear. They simply need help (sometimes lots of help) getting there.


You are not alone in wanting to help them. We are here to do that for both of you.

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If you're interested in talking with us to see how we can help you,
please send us a message
or call 561-345-3510

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