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Two Common Defenses That Get In The Way Of Intimacy

This quote is likely one of the truest things about relationships. So often in life we think that the secret to intimacy is linked to sex or the amount of time we spend with someone. This is why so many people live in lonely relationships while convincing themselves that what they are experiencing is healthy. When we want to be in an intimate relationship with someone, we have to show up fully without our defenses blocking our ability to be as authentic as possible. In relationships, our defenses come in when we feel most vulnerable and we fear being rejected for who we are deep down. Instead of sharing our genuine selves, we share the self we believe the other person wants us to be while  hiding the parts of ourselves that we deem unlovable.

When we show up with Grandiosity, we disconnect from being human. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses but when we engage from a place of grandiosity we create the story that we have all of our shit figured out. Projecting that we are always fine ends up distancing our partner in the more vulnerable moments and prevents us from accessing and valuing our more painful emotions. Research indicates that the greatest predictor of happiness in life is relationships. I would argue that in order for that happiness to last, those relationships need to be connected and fulfilling which means each person needs space to show up as real as possible. If we continue to put up the front for ourselves and our partner that we are superhuman and unfazed by life, its experiences and the people in it, we will never truly be able to love and be loved as we fully as we could.

Shame on the other hand, serves to keep us from intimacy in a different way but with fear of the same outcome. We bury our humanness in fear that the only way we can truly be loved is if we have no emotional scars. A very important realization is that all humans have scars, whether they be ones that were life threatening or only warranted a band aid. Our moments of pain have a profound impact on who we are. The challenge is if we see our scars as unlovable, we will continue to sabotage our connections and never move past the story that we aren’t deserving of true connection and belonging because of our flaws. As Brene Brown, a leading shame researcher, put it “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.” Ultimately, if you keep hiding what makes you human (which includes your flaws, mistakes and fears) you will never have the opportunity to be emotionally intimate as you would like.

Authentic intimacy requires a commitment to show up as real as possible, neither too high with grandiosity nor low with shame. To commit to sharing what makes you amazing and also what makes you feel ashamed. Learning to balance both and exist in the middle will take your relationship to new depths and foster growth and connection in a way you didn’t know existed.


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