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Section 3
Functional Intimacy

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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In the last section, we discussed Avoiding Taboo-Loaded Communication.  For the purposes of this section, Avoiding Taboo-Loaded Communication consisted of six steps.  The six steps are be specific, be straight, be direct, be clear, create a climate for honesty, and tell the truth.

In this section, we will discuss becoming aware of intimate discontent.  A technique for becoming aware of intimate discontent that I implement in my practice consists of three steps.  The three steps to becoming aware of intimate discontent are experiencing feelings and defining what is wanted, and rediscovering old strategies.

I find that too often men like Alan from the last section discover that the real experience of intimacy eludes them.  Clearly your client also knows how it feels to be deprived of emotional intimacy.  Is your Alan searching for the interpersonal connection which he believes would make him a ‘whole person?’  Alan, like my other clients, was unable to identify or articulate these feelings.

I stated to Alan, "Clearly, love and good will aren’t enough to create an experience of fulfillment in relationships.  No one meets anyone’s needs when those needs aren’t identified and revealed."  Alan responded, "I’ve always felt that way.  I just didn’t know how to put it into words."

As a consequence of living out the male role which in itself inhibits feeling, men tend to be incapable of making that deep connection.  Instead, like Alan, male intimacy clients continue to be brave, to act as if everything’s all right, to ignore sensations that might inform them that they’re hurt or discouraged.  Instead, they experience their specific disappointments as a generalized vague discontent.

I find that men like Alan can rarely pinpoint the exact nature of their intimate discontents.  Therefore, clients like Alan express discontent by not believing in the possibility of intimacy, by focusing all their attention on work, by being scared of making commitments, and by avoiding emotional intimacy when they are in romantic relationships.

Alan stated,  "Why did I marry my ex wife?  I didn’t think I’d ever fall in love.  She wanted children and so did I, so I married her.  She was as good as anyone else."  How might you have evaluated the source of Alan’s intimate discontent?  What techniques do you currently implement to help male clients with exploring the root of intimate discontent?  Might the following technique for Becoming Aware of Intimate Discontent also be productive?

♦ 3-Step "Becoming Aware of Intimate DiscontentTechnique: 
To begin the Becoming Aware of Intimate Discontent technique with Alan, I stated, "Attempts to deny, ignore, and rationalize away reality are major obstacles to intimacy.  Your search for intimacy and your awareness of what you want from an intimate relationship are directly related."  Alan responded, "So if we can increase one, we increase the other."  I stated, "Precisely.  There are many different ways to increase your awareness of current reality.  Everyone finds different techniques more or less useful.  Use what is productive for you." 

♦ Step # 1 - Fully Experience Feelings
First, I discussed with Alan how he might experience his feelings.  I stated, "Alan, earlier you told me that you felt that no one meets anyone’s needs when those needs aren’t identified and revealed.  I would like to ask you to fully experience that feeling occasionally on a daily basis until our next meeting. 

"Consider fully experiencing for 45 seconds or so each time without trying to change it.  Really get into the sensation of it.  Then physically do something else.  You might put something away, turn on a light, or sweep the floor.  Repeat the process and see if you don’t begin to understand the feeling that no one meets anyone’s needs when those needs aren’t identified and revealed."

♦ Step # 2 - Define What You Want
Second, I discussed ways Alan could define what he wanted.  I stated, "One way to explore the root of intimate discontent is to move on to something better.  You can increase your awareness of intimate discontent by defining what ‘something better’ is for you.  Simply make up a vision of what you want.  If, after you get it, it turns out you don’t like it, make up another vision of what you want. 

"The more specific you are about defining what you want, the easier it will be to make it happen.  In the physical world, objects exist whether you think about them or not and despite what you think of them.  In your psychological world, however, nothing exists until you create it psychologically.  If you want it, think about what it is and how to achieve it.  Your vision, what you want, and how you are going to make it happen, depends on you."

♦ Step # 3 - Rediscover Old Strategies
In addition to experiencing his feelings and defining what he wanted, the third step I implemented with Alan in the Becoming Aware of Intimate Discontent technique was to rediscover old strategies for coping with intimate discontent.  Many male intimacy clients may not realize it, but they have already identified and accepted catalysts for intimate discontent due to failed past relationships. 

I stated to Alan, "You already have a set of skills you can use to explore the root of intimate discontent, even though you may not be aware of them.  Think of an intimate disappointment and analyze how you came to accept it.  What did you do to achieve acceptance of your discontent?  How can the same technique help you in accepting and exploring your current intimate discontent?"

Alan used these three combined techniques to become aware of intimate discontent.  The purpose was to increase Alan’s awareness of the discontent he already felt.  How might these techniques benefit your client?  Could playing this section in an upcoming session be productive?

In this section, we discussed becoming aware of intimate discontent.  A technique for becoming aware of intimate discontent that I implement in my practice consists of three steps.  The three steps to becoming aware of intimate discontent are experiencing feelings and defining what is wanted, and rediscovering old strategies.

In the next section, we will discuss hidden sources of knowledge.  Our discussion will be based on four principles for identifying hidden knowledge.  The four principles we will discuss are most criticisms have some basis in reality, many criticisms are disguised statements of your own unmet needs, some criticisms may be an accurate description of a disowned part of the self, and some criticisms may help identify the lost self.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Mitchell, L. L., Lodi-Smith, J., Baranski, E. N., & Whitbourne, S. K. (2021). Implications of identity resolution in emerging adulthood for intimacy, generativity, and integrity across the adult lifespan. Psychology and Aging, 36(5), 545–556.

Papp, L. M., Goeke-Morey, M. C., & Cummings, E. M. (2013). Let's talk about sex: A diary investigation of couples' intimacy conflicts in the home. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2(1), 60–72.

Quinn-Nilas, C., Goncalves, M. K., Kennett, D. J., & Grant, A. (2018). A thematic analysis of men’s sexual compliance with unwanted, non-coercive sex. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(2), 203–211.

Richter, M., & Schoebi, D. (2021). Rejection sensitivity in intimate relationships: Implications for perceived partner responsiveness. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 229(3), 165–170.

Schroeder, J., Fishbach, A., Schein, C., & Gray, K. (2017). Functional intimacy: Needing—But not wanting—The touch of a stranger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(6), 910–924.

Wetterneck, C. T., & Hart, J. M. (2012). Intimacy is a transdiagnostic problem for cognitive behavior therapy: Functional Analytical Psychotherapy is a solution. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(2-3), 167–176.

What are three steps to becoming aware of intimate discontent? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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