IDD (Intimacy Deficiency Disorder) is an insidious relationship-threatening condition that if unaddressed can undermine and severely damage even the most loving partnerships. In part one we identified the most prevalent symptoms of IDD that manifest themselves in relationships. In part two we offer six steps that you can take that will neutralize the damaging effects of IDD and begin to restore love, trust and good will to your relationship.
Create agreement with your partner to find a good time and place (without distractions and interruptions) to have a conversation in which you can talk about some concerns that you have regarding your relationship. (Hint: It’s a good idea NOT to begin with the words: “We need to talk.”). If your partner resists or states that he or she doesn’t have the time, reassure them that this really means a lot to you, that you consider it a high priority, and that you’ll do whatever needs to be done to make it possible for both of you to find the time. Let your partner know that you want to talk about ways in which you can both take steps to enhance the quality of your connection. The emphasis here is on the “both” part. Make sure that you minimize or avoid use of the “Y” word (“you”).
Note: A few minutes obviously will not be enough time for most couples to completely come to terms with unresolved issues, but if things go well in this conversation, there will be more opportunities for future talks.
Express, without judgment or blame, the nature of your desire to bring greater closeness and intimacy into your relationship. In order to minimize the likelihood of your partner feeling blamed, it’s helpful to acknowledge that you have played a part in the diminishment of closeness between the two of you.
Get honest about how you have not been clear and truthful about your concerns, desires, or grievances and acknowledge why you haven’t been more direct, if this is the case. Again, express this without blame or accusation. Reaffirm that your intention in having this conversation is for the two of you to uplevel the degree of fulfillment and happiness that you both feel in the relationship and not to focus on what went wrong or who’s to blame.
Affirm your love for your partner and your desire to do whatever you can do to support them in joining you in this commitment.
Encourage your partner to express their point of view and listen respectfully without interrupting them or “clarifying” what they have said. If you don’t agree with their perspective, don’t argue, but thank them for sharing their thoughts and feelings and express a desire to find some common ground in which you can both feel understood and respected.
Propose that you each agree to set aside some time within the next few days to be together without any distractions for at least a couple of hours without any agenda other than to share an experience that you both enjoy, such as taking a walk, enjoying a meal together, cuddling in bed or on the sofa, taking a bike ride together, dancing, or any activity that brings pleasure, comfort, and/or enjoyment to you both. If any difficulties or issues arise, agree to put them aside for the time being and try to come to an agreement about another time at which you can address them.
Do NOT include anyone else in this experience!
You don’t need to rigidly follow this template. Feel free to use whatever words feel most comfortable to you. Do, however, try follow the spirit of this guidance and keep in mind these key points:
- Focus on where you want to experience together, not on whose to blame for how you got to where you are.
- Avoid any blame, fault-finding, or guilt-tripping as best you can.
- Avoid arguments by resisting the temptation to be defensive, even if you feel blamed or held responsible for something that you don’t believe to be your fault. Remember that your partner is stating their current perception, and even if you don’t see things the way they do, you don’t need to convince them that they’re wrong. Refusing to argue or contest their words doesn’t equate to agreeing that they are right. Remember that current perceptions can change.
- Be honest and respectful in expressing your feelings, concerns, needs, and desires.
- The purpose of this dialogue is to take some steps (probably small ones at first) in the right direction, not to resolve all differences completely in one sitting.
- Don’t forget to thank your partner for their willingness to join you in making the effort to bring greater happiness and fulfillment into your relationship.
Keep in mind that working out the differences that impair emotional intimacy requires skill, sensitivity, honesty, practice, and the courage to be vulnerable and non-defensive. By all means, do the best that you can do to work things out together, but if your efforts fail to bring about the outcome that you desire, consider getting professional help rather than giving up or continuing to interact in ways that are damaging the relationship.
Most difficulties, even those that are long-standing and entrenched, can be worked out if there is a willingness to do the work that is required. The earlier the intervention is in the breakdown, the less time it takes to successfully repair the damage. When each person is willing to do their part to clean up the areas of neglect of the relationship, the results of their efforts can seem miraculous. Relationships can be transformed when the light of the truth is shined upon the darkness of neglect and both partners begin to experience the pleasure that has been absent from their relationship once again.
The benefits of healing IDD can last a lifetime and can mean the difference between living in a tolerable arrangement or a loving, thriving, and joy-filled partnership. Think about it. And then do something!