While the Money Monster we encountered in our last message appeared as an obnoxious gremlin that pops up around the specific issue of money, our next spooky character is a bit more sly and subtle – but every bit as frightening, and in some ways, more threatening to our relationships.
The Ghosts of Intimacy are phantoms created in our minds and hearts as we grow up, just like so many of the scary creatures we encounter in our psyches. They slipped into our unconscious mind in childhood as we watched our parents and other adults interact, witnessed examples of intimacy on TV, or heard tales told by our equally uninformed peers.
According to an article in Psychology Today, it appears that The Ghosts of Intimacy may travel in groups of three. Research shows that there are three primary fears that keep people from talking about their issues around intimacy:
- Threat to relationship. People fear the conflict discussion will irreparably damage the relationship. In other words, they value their relationships even when they’re not happy ones. So, they’d rather say nothing than risk a conflict that might improve it but might also tear it apart.
- Threat to partner. People fear the conflict discussion will hurt their partner’s feelings. That is to say, they care about their partner’s welfare even when they’re not happy with the way their relationship with them is going. Again, they’d rather muddle through than make their partner feel uncomfortable, even at a chance of making things better.
- Threat to self. People fear the conflict discussion will make them vulnerable. If they reveal too much about themselves, they worry that their partner will disapprove of them or try to make them feel shame. We need our partner’s approval, and the fear of losing it is a major reason why people avoid talking about sensitive issues in the first place.
In short, this study showed that the main reason why people avoid talking with their partners about [intimacy] issues is because they view such a discussion as threatening to themselves.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships, and issues of intimacy are among the hardest of all to confront. And yet, conflict itself isn’t a sign that the relationship is in trouble. On the contrary, if both partners approach the discussion with a desire to resolve the issue, the relationship will be strengthened as a result.
This is great news, and completely consistent with one of the foundational principles of Safe Conversations; Conflict is inevitable – how you deal with it changes everything. Safe Conversations gives you the tools, and the skills to use those tools, to put the Ghosts of Intimacy to rest for good. Those scary conversations with your partner that once led to a ghastly conflict may now breathe new life into your relationship. Let the spirits of Compassion and Empathy lead you to deeper connection and emotional healing.