As someone with a passion for psychology, one of my favorite aspects of writing fiction is doing the research for new characters. For example, in my upcoming debut, my hero’s mother abandoned him when he was nine. Having no personal experience with that situation, I read many articles about the impact parental abandonment might have on a child’s psychological/emotional development, and the ways that impact might manifest itself in adulthood. Hopefully that work helped me create a realistic character.
But beyond writing, sometimes my research helps me with my own life and outlook, as happened recently while doing some homework on barriers to emotional intimacy (a very common problem for heroes and/or heroines in romance novels).
Throughout my life, I’ve been very comfortable handling criticism and openly discussing difficult personal issues. However, I usually have not been as comfortable accepting compliments or professing positive, intimate feelings. For some reason, I feel more vulnerable admitting to those emotions than I do addressing problems. Perhaps the risk of rejection seems higher when saying “I love you” (where you don’t expect rejection) than when dealing with obstacles (where you are already confronting some kind of rejection). Whatever the reason, this difficulty can lead to feeling disconnected from the people I love.
If pressed, I could offer a dozen reasons why I’m so inept when it comes to ooey-gooey stuff, but one reason I hadn’t considered until today involves premarital sex. Not the fact that I had it, but apparently the “when” I had it matters. According to Five Levels of Intimacy, a relationship can get stunted at the level of emotional intimacy in which you first have sex, even if you’ve been married for fifteen years! Because many people have sex very early in a relationship, getting stuck at a less-than-ideal level of emotional closeness is a real possibility.
Of course, working with your partner, you can “unstick” the relationship through counseling and other methods. The “sex fast” mentioned in the article might not be too appealing to your partner, but maybe the lasting benefits make it worth considering.
If you are feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner, you may want to read the full article. Although the author is working from a faith-based position, I think her points resonate even if you do not share her religious beliefs. In any case, I’m impressed by her honesty. It’s inspired me to do some of the hard work I need to do in my own relationships.
As I embark on my journey, do you care to share any tips for increasing emotional intimacy?