How to Deal with Intimacy Pain
by Laura Russell, Ph.D., MFT
February 12, 2001
years before I was born, my mother had a baby that died shortly after
birth. This child was a boy with red hair who looked just like her side
of the family. I have heard the family stories of her tremendous grieving,
and have compassion for her loss.
I still have my pain
to say, I was a girl baby. To add insult to her injury, I looked just
like my father's mother! I probably don't need to tell you that my grandmother
was someone my mother despised. Not too long before he died, my father
told me that as soon as he saw me for the first time, he knew my mom
would have trouble with me. And she did.
when you were a kid and skinned your knee? This is my current metaphor
for the pain we carry inside as a result of our personal histories.
It exists. It is not our fault. What's more, we cannot make it heal
any faster than hurt can dissolve in it's own process.
relationship with my mother was not my child abuse, simply my core pain
of unmet needs. This manifests itself in my here and now sensitivity
to rejection, my need for approval, and my need to be held and touched.
It also lives in me as an unmet need for nurturing that I try
to remember to supply. And it hurts! Not as much as it used to, but
enough to cause me difficulties some of the time.
difficulties are not flashbacks. Instead, they are unmet needs I have
in the present that resulted from my past. A flashback is a reliving
of a prior trauma...it is not based in your current life.
is the connectedness of two people who are separate individuals. Intimacy
between two people who love each other is a wondrous and exhilarating
event. It also causes you to be in touch with your feelings...even your
feelings of inner pain.
metaphor for the effect intimacy has upon the pain you carry is the
act of putting on your blue jeans over a recently skinned knee. As a
kid, you wanted to go out and play anyway, so you got dressed again.
And you put up with that icky pain the jeans created in your knee. That
icky pain is similar to what I label `intimacy pain'.
had this pain during the 25 years I was married to David. And I have
`intimacy pain' now in my relationship with Guy.
am the kid who wanted to go out and play anyway. I value relationships,
and want a good one in my life.
does this mean for us in relationships? Well, some people just give
up on relationships. They say, simply, It hurts too much!
unconscious coping strategy is to wall yourself off a little. I don't
know at the time, but I push my loved one away. I did this yesterday
and this morning.
become difficult to connect with, and your partner often doesn't understand
what is going on with you. You, on the other hand, have no clue as to
why he or she is hurt or angry with you!
am in the company of many people when I mistakenly blame my partner
for my pain. I forget that I have this inside me, and become convinced
that Guy has done something to me. Or, at the very least, he is going
David was alive, my unconscious behavior created some devastating arguments.
Now, I see the hurt on Guy's face and in his eyes. Then, I know I have
done it again. Other people experience relationship break ups, accusations,
and all around devastation for both people.
are countless creative defenses people use to avoid their own pain.
Very few of these defenses add positive energy to your life. These are
all avoidance techniques, and avoidance is rarely positive. My computer
provides a very dangerous excuse. After all, I am working too! So, if
I am not careful, I also give myself untrue justification.
start arguments, have affairs, take drugs, become workaholics, gamble,
focus on their homes, cars, looks, diets, and so on and so on and so
like my previous article on flashbacks, the answer to this dilemma is
name it and claim it. I am not at fault for this difficulty. But I am
responsible for how I deal with it.
today, one more time, I had to become introspective. There are questions
I ask myself. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? How is this related
to my issues, as I know them? Sometimes I write in my journal. Lately,
I just think about these questions and my answers. Always, this leads
to crying. And then to healing.
loving relationships are important to you, you will have to know that
you carry some inner pain that does not belong to your partner. Then
you can work on this pain so it doesn't cause you to defeat the intimacy
Compliments of Laura
Russell, Ph.D., MFT
About this Contributor:
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family
Therapist in Torrance California and National Board Certified Counselor
with a Clinical Mental Health Specialization. I work most often with the
treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults and children. On
a personal note, I have had CFIDS and Fibromyalgia for the past 10 years
and have much to say on coping with these conditions. Additionally, since
the hospice care and death of my husband, I also write about grief and