3 Barriers to Creating Real Connection in Relationships and How to Change It
Imagine your partner lying on the bed with his eyes closed as you cry and try to communicate your hurt feelings and you’re not sure he’s even listening to you. This was common during a long-term relationship I had in my early twenties where conflict wasn’t welcome and, much to our relationship’s detriment, avoided. There were only a few times during those 5 years that we truly shared a raw, authentic intimate connection that broke down our barriers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep us together and neither one of us had the emotional toolbox to heal our relationship.
There are 3 barriers I’ve observed that are counterproductive to love and the creation of real connection between people: fear of intimacy, busyness and the paradox of choice.
Fear of Intimacy
Fear of intimacy is one of the common reasons connection in relationships fail to develop and become meaningful. According to Psychology Today, 17% of adults fear intimacy and avoid closeness. We have been trained to believe it “creates vulnerability and the potential for strong negative emotions.” By avoiding intimacy, and remaining in the emotional neutral or positive, people feel they can avoid rejection and maintain a semblance of closeness with others.
While this fear of intimacy stews in our culture and overcooks our souls we’re also trying to keep busy. However, busyness, or being in a constant state of “push” where standing still is unacceptable, prevents us from pausing to be present and connect with another person. According to Hal and Sidra Stone’s book Partnering: A New Kind of Relationship, “You have to stop moving in order to connect to another human being.” None of us, not even the best of us, can nourish a relationship if we’re workaholics putting in 50 plus hour work weeks, focusing narrowly on the climb toward personal/spiritual development or other hobbies/distractions that may consume us.
Being an experienced dater, over the past 4 years I observed various expressions of intimacy avoidance and workaholism. One expression that shows the fear of intimacy is ghosting. Which is a way people avoid confrontation and is a manifestation of their fear of facing issues. It is when they disengage from a relationship entirely with no explanation. No dealing with another person’s response, no dealing with personal emotions, or fear of expressing their truth. On other occasions I listened to people tell me they’re too busy working, but still want to find that special someone. Then, I ask, how do you create a connection with another person and nurture a relationship if your schedule has no room for one and there’s an underlying aversion to the realness that relationship brings alongside the incredibly delicious loving exchanges?
The Paradox of Choice
Today we also have choices—possibly too many—and are able to ‘shop’ for our potential partner via a variety of dating applications that have become like a digital buffet smorgasbord for our insatiable appetite. To illustrate the downside in the “Paradox of Choice” let’s look at what the Fox from The Little Prince shares on taming:
‘Please-tame me!’ he said.
‘I want to, very much,’ the Little Prince replied. ‘But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.’
‘One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the Fox. ‘Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore. If you want a friend, tame me.’
‘What must I do, to tame you?’ asked the Little Prince.
‘You must be very patient,’ replied the fox. ‘First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…’
In this context, tame means to create ties or form a relationship. We can infer and relate how “they buy things already made in shops” to the paradox of online dating, our plethora of choices and the constant comparison we find ourselves making between potential partners. With many choices and a combined lack of self awareness and understanding we can find ourselves hopping from one human island to the next without being patient enough to stop and connect with someone long enough to know them intimately.
How to Create Intimacy and Connection
With barriers such as of fear of intimacy, busyness and the paradox of choice, how do we go about adjusting and adapting in order to nurture intimacy with another person? According to Anna Aslanian’s (LMFT) article ‘How to Stop Detached Dating and Create Real Connection’ the way to create real connection is by:
- Allowing yourself to be vulnerable
- Express fondness and admiration
- Embrace conflict
Lisa Firestone also shares it’s important to do the following in order to embrace vulnerability and deepen our relationships with others — not just partners.
- Ask for what you need
- Be willing to expose your feelings
- Say what you want
- Express what you really think
- Slow down and be present
Loving connection isn’t something that instantly gratifies our desires. It doesn’t work that way. There’s a phrase that goes something like, “all good things take time.” And it’s true. I’ve learned over the years that we can stop short before anything can begin because we’ve created barriers to love through fear of intimacy, busyness and this newfound conflict in the “paradox of choice.” My loving recommendation to you, beautiful reader, whomever you may be is to:
Check-in with yourself.
Align and become intimate with yourself and your desires.
Then, ask yourself what you’d like to potentially create with the gorgeous human sitting across from you. You never know what lies just beyond those eyes, that heart, that soul and the horizon you may—deep down—long to cross.