It seems whether or not you are in a serious, long tern relationship including marriage, are single, or dating you may be a distancer and might relate to this. Many of us are not even aware that we are distancing ourselves. Distancers are not only doing this within a romantic relationship but also with friends and family members.
If we look back to our childhoods and evaluate how our parents interacted, or an intense relationship(s) we've had, it will give us a clue as to ideas and the patterns we formed. The good news is that once we are aware we are distancers we have the power to change it. Awareness is the first step to changing a pattern. Taking some time just observing how you feel and interact in your relationships will give you a broader understanding.
Distancers are loving, kind people, they may also be open hearted and generous. The thing is because they fear getting too close and getting hurt they tend to retreat and shut down emotionally when they get too close to someone. Most of us yearn to experience emotional intimacy yet we don't know how to overcome our fears and open up.
The disappearing distancer is the one who completely avoids getting into relationships or who occasionally approaches one but is too afraid of being trapped or smothered to stick around for long.
The defended distancer distances themselves in many ways, either they are perfectionist who are unable to settle until they find the "perfect" partner. They may also go in and out of the same relationship or different ones. It is tricky because even when in a relationship while they don't really admit it they keep their distance from really connecting, especially as things grow closer.
The avoidant distancer is harder to identify because they are good natured but are always too busy and preoccupied to give any real attention to their partner.They may be in a relationship but always keep their distance by staying ultra busy with work, friends, family, children, parents, chores, social obligations, community service, religious or spiritual practices and so on, therefore, they don't have time to really connect with a partner on a deep emotional level but they seem to have a very good reason.
It could be both partners are distancers and this way no one is demanding more from the other than what is being given. Unfortunately one or both may realize there is something missing and may reach out in hope for more. It also may be that it starts off seemingly a very intimate relationship and then all of a sudden he or she starts getting fearful unbeknownst to the other and begins to back off. This leaves the other partner confused because it seemed like things were growing closer and then all of a sudden things go cold.
A distancer may also be someone who needs to constantly control people and situations and be in charge. A distancer may also be the pursuer when in relationship with another distancer. Whatever the dynamic it leads to creating distance between two people so they do not get too close.
Emotional distancing is all fear based. Many times we don't want to get hurt or hurt someone else so we use excuses. Often we say things we don't really mean because we want to say what we think the other person wants to hear. We take responsibility for what we perceive another person may be thinking or feeling. We can only take responsibility for ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, and in this way we can be authentic and honest.
Emotional distancing is not done solely in romantic relationships. I know of many scenarios when someone is constantly on their telephone speaking to someone else rather than the person they are with and thus creating distance and missing out on an opportunity to experience real intimacy. Another scenario is when a conversation or moment gets too deep and the person suddenly needs to go or switches the topic. I have also felt instances where i can feel a person shut down their energy while with me and I can actually feel them energetically retreat even when physically they still stand in front of me. It can be very confusing and hurtful.
Once we have an awareness of our distancing patterns it is important to stay present in the moment, and truly be with the person you are with. It takes time and practice to go to the next level. It also takes open and sincere communication. A willingness to change is so important. It is crucial to forgive ourselves and others for situations and relationships that we allowed fear to prevent us from experiencing love. We need to accept the fact that we are not perfect and we have made mistakes. With our new awareness we have a chance to do things differently.
Taking time to journal about past experiences and how they may have affected you is a step. Meditation is another powerful way of enhancing inner awareness. Being conscious of the dynamics in your current relationships and how you can be more open, which will lead to more intimacy. The most important thing is to be really present in your physical and emotional body to be aware of subtle signs of what is going on in and around you. Oftentimes we are so preoccupied and scattered that we are not aware of how our actions and words are affecting people that matter in our lives.
I was getting a pedicure on Friday, my feet were throbbing after the first day back at school. I was reading my book on intimacy and relaxing in solitude. A woman came and sat down next to me and began talking first to the nail technician then to me. I was perturbed because I was enjoying the quiet. I felt it was an intrusion, but regardless I put down my book and listened to her. She was really anxiety ridden about a trip she was going on, feelings about mid-life and her self worth. I held the space to really hear her. My cell phone rang as my best friend was calling me and I ignored the call. I felt it was more important to be really present for the person sitting next to me, even though she was a stranger. I called back my friend later.
Intimacy is just being really present in the moment. It doesn't mean it is sexual. It doesn't even mean it needs to be serious. It does mean that you are really seeing and being with someone, putting aside everything else to really connect with another person. Intimacy can include silence, laughter or tears. Emotional intimacy is a way of experiencing relationship at its most vulnerable, beautiful and deepest levels.
(The book referenced is: Running from Love: Steps to Overcoming Emotional Distancing & Fear of Intimacy by Dusty Miller, Ed.D)
I am ready to experience true emotional intimacy on all levels. I release my fears and defenses. I forgive myself for all the times that I have ignored, retreated or avoided intimacy with others. I forgive those who have done the same to me.
I come into the present moment with a deep inner awareness of who I am and where I want to be. I truly desire a deeper more authentic relationship with others. I wish to experience love without limitations.
Please open my eyes and my heart so that I won't be unavailable to another. I want to love and be loved without trying to fix, control or rescue.
Guide me in slowing down and being aware. Open my heart. Show me the way.
And so it is.