Ever wonder why men have a tough time with intimacy? Women seem to “do” relationships more easily than men. What is it with men?
Years ago I heard someone define intimacy as “an unarmed encounter between two vulnerable people,” a definition that has worked pretty well over time. Trouble is, it requires something very difficult for men: allowing ourselves to become vulnerable. Men (gay or straight) learn from an early age to associate vulnerability with getting hurt rather than growing closer to someone. It’s uncomfortable for us. We get insecure. The insecurity shows up in all sorts of ways: concern that we don’t measure up, that there’s something fundamentally flawed about us, that no one could truly love us.
Vulnerability is actually a good thing – at least under the right circumstances. It means opening your heart. Without opening ourselves up to someone else (and yeah – the possibility that we’ll get hurt), we are never going to be either open or close enough to another person find the love we really want.
Insecurity, however, is not a good thing. When we’re feeling insecure, we tend to act out of fear rather than not love. And acting out of fear gets us in trouble in relationships, whether we’re talking dating or a long-term commitment.
If you think of love as a heart-thing, then insecurities can be understood as a head-thing. We’ve all got wounds and self-doubts, usually from growing up in a world that can really rough us up from time to time. Relationships where our partner is untrustworthy or abusive can feed those neuroses.
We can find ourselves insecure about all sorts of things: our appearance, our level of income, whether we’re good at sex. We wonder if we’re really loveable at all. We worry the other person will figure out what a mess we are and leave us.
Healthy relationships heal those broken places rather than re-injure them. We learn that we really can be loved, and that we’re generally safe in the world.
What does healthy vulnerability look like? It helps to have a trustworthy partner to do the dance of intimacy with. Trouble is, you only know someone is truly a reliable dance partner based on experience. Words alone aren’t enough. That’s why the dance of intimacy is a little like a striptease.
You reveal yourself a little at a time, and in a way that is compatible with the pace of your partner. Reveal too much too soon and your self-disclosure can be misunderstood. If someone told you every secret they had on a first date, for instance, you’d probably decide that they had poor boundaries rather than an amazing capacity for intimacy.
Funny thing about intimate relationships: when we are with someone who is healthy and trustworthy, we become safer when we lower are guards. Self-revelation not only heals some of those old insecurities, but also makes the relationship more interesting, loving and juicy.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.