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In the last section, we discussed how intimacy can be used to foster intimacy. Topics we will discuss include the healing potential of friendship, the unconscious selection process, and a technique for overcoming limitations on intimacy.
In this section, we will continue our discussion on how to use intimacy to foster intimacy. After initializing the Overcoming Limitations on Intimacy as in the last section, the next three steps are to identify a chronic complaint, isolate the desire, and compose a list of target activities on which to request action.
♦ 4 Steps to Foster Intimacy with Intimacy
The purpose of the exercise was to educate each other so that if they wanted to foster new behavior they would have some specific guidelines. I stated, "Any suggestion, obligation or expectation would reduce the exercise to a bargain, and there is the likelihood that it would end in resentment and failure."
At a later session, Becky volunteered to share her list.
According to my instructions, Hayden had reviewed Becky’s requests, ranked them according to difficulty, and chose a request that he could honor with relative ease. Because he understood that these behaviors addressed one of Becky’s unmet childhood needs, because he was allowed to rank them according to difficulty, and because he was free to choose whether to do any of them or not, Hayden found it relatively easy to comply.
A sign that Becky’s list contained some growth potential for Hayden, however, was the fact that there were some requests that he found very difficult to do. For example, he thought it would be very hard for him to give up his own bedroom. Hayden stated, "I really cherish my time alone. It would be difficult for me to give that up. I’m not willing to do that now." It came as no surprise to me that that was the thing Becky wanted most.
As you probably know, one partner’s greatest desire is often matched by the other partner’s greatest resistance. Becky responded to Hayden by stating, "I don’t feel like we’re really married unless we sleep in the same bed. I cried myself to sleep for a week after you moved out. I really hate it!" I reminded Becky that letting her husband know how much she wanted him to share a bedroom with her was an important piece of information for him, but it in no way obligated him to cooperate. The only legitimate power she had in the relationship was to inform Hayden of her needs and to change her own behavior.
After reviewing Becky’s list, Hayden volunteered to share his list. He, too, had identified a chronic complaint, isolated his desire, and composed a list of target activities. Hayden’s main criticism of Becky was that she was too judgmental. Hayden stated, "It seems to me that she is always criticizing me. I had judgmental parents, so I don’t need the judgment from her. Which, given all the information I’ve gotten in this therapy crap, is probably one of the reasons I was attracted to her."
Ultimately, both Hayden and Becky would gain from the exercise. Hayden would be able to bask in some of the approval that he deserved, and Becky would be able to accept and transform a denied negative trait. In the process of healing his wife, Hayden would be becoming a more whole and loving person himself.
♦ #2 Rewards and Resistance
The result of this growth was an increase in positive feelings between them. Both Becky and Hayden felt better about themselves because they had been able to satisfy each other’s fundamental needs. Meanwhile, they felt better about their partners because their partners were helping them satisfy their needs. This made them more willing to move beyond their resistance into more positive, nurturing behaviors. Through this process of defining their needs and converting them into small, positive requests, they had turned their marriage into a self-sustaining vehicle for personal growth.
In this section, we have discussed using intimacy to foster intimacy. After initializing the Overcoming Limitations on Intimacy as in the last section, the next three steps are to identify a chronic complaint, isolated the desire, and compose a list of target activities on which to request action.
In the next section, we will discuss preserving and protecting friendship within the intimate relationship. We will specifically discuss five roadblocks to friendship in the intimate relationship. These five roadblocks are, there’s no time, "we’re not friends, we’re a couple," "we don’t talk like friends anymore," the ravages of conflict, and reckless words. I find that once couples understand these roadblocks to friendship, they are better able to implement communication strategies that may help preserve friendship, ultimately resulting in a productively intimate relationship.
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