Barriers To Intimacy

Marriage and Family studies experts at University of Denver and authors Howard Markman and and Scott Stanley have identified four key barriers to building intimacy in relationship communication. If these are predominate patterns, their studies have shown the relationships usually end in divorce/break-up.

Barrier #1: Escalation

Escalation occurs when a partner says or does something negative, and your partner responds negatively, and off you go into real battle. In this snowball effect, you become increasingly angry and hostile as the argument continues.

1) How often do you think you escalate as a couple?
2) Do you get hostile with each other during escalation?
3) What or who usually brings an end to the fight? How does it usually end?
4) Does one or the other of you sometimes threaten to end the relationship when you are angry?
5) How does each of you feel when your arguments are escalating? Do you feel tense, anxious, scared, angry, or something else?

Barrier #2: Invalidation

Invalidation occurs when a partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, actions, or worth of your partner. Invalidation includes belittling or disregarding what is important to your partner, out of either insensitivity or out right contempt, making fun of the other (laughing at) or sarcasm. The partner usually feels hurt, discounted, or unimportant.

1) Do you feel invalidated in your relationship? When and how does this happen?
2) What is the effect on you? How do you feel when this happens?
3) Do you often invalidate your partner? When and how does this happen? How do you feel when doing this?
4) What do you think the effect is on him or her? On the relationship? What are you trying to accomplish when you do this? Do you accomplish that goal?

Barrier #3: Negative Interpretations

Negative interpretations occur when a partner interprets a spouse’s behavior much more negatively than he or she intended. It is critical to openly see the possibility that your view of your partner could be unfair in some areas. Your partner can do little to change your negative interpretations.

1) Can you think of some areas when you consistently see your spouse’s behavior as negative? What are the advantages to you in making these negative interpretations?
2) Reflect on this awhile. Do you really think your negative view of your spouse’s behavior is justified?
3) Are there some areas where you have a negative interpretation but where you’re open to considering that you may be missing evidence to the contrary?
4) List two issues on which you’re willing to push yourself to look for the possibility that your partner has more positive motivation than you thought.

Next, look for any evidence that this is contrary to your negative interpretations.

Barrier #4: Withdrawal and Avoidance

Withdrawal and avoidance are different manifestations of a pattern in which one partner shows an unwillingness to get into or stay with important discussions. The withdrawer often tends to get quiet during an argument, look away, or agree quickly to a spouse’s suggestion just to end the conversation, with no real intention of following through.

Avoidance reflects the same reluctance to get into certain discussions, with more emphasis on the attempt to not let the conversation happen in the first place. A person prone to avoidance would prefer that the topic not come up and, if it does, may manifest the signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal and avoidance just don’t work well in a relationship over time.

1) Is one of you more likely to be in the pursuer role (one that tends to bring up important discussions)? Is one of you more likely to be in the withdrawer role?
2) How does the withdrawer usually withdraw? How does the pursuer usually pursue? What happens then?
3) When are you most likely to fall into this pattern as a couple? What particular issues or situations bring out this pattern?
4) How are you affected by this pattern?
5) With some couples, one or both spouses may both pursue or withdraw at different times. Is this true in your relationship? Why do you think this happens?

Marriage Counseling Round Rock Texas

If these are patterns in your marriage or relationship, studies show they are barriers to building healthy intimacy in the relationship. If not corrected, these patterns lead to unhealthy, abusive and disconnected relationships and eventually these relationships end in divorce, unfaithfulness, violence and brokenness. I specialize in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples caught in a cycle of negative interactions and I can help you change that loop.