How someone responds to their partner when their partner is distressed or upset is often a marker for their capacity for intimacy and closeness. Responsiveness to distress paves the way to deepening or distancing.
How to encourage intimacy
Interpersonal response that encourages intimacy involves being able to engage in another’s distress without having to shut it down, fix it, give trite advice or dismiss it.
It means taking this opportunity to find out more about the other, engage in their feelings and offer non-invasive support.
Things that reduce intimacy
Responsiveness is influenced by experiences in our family of origin. When a child is completely overwhelmed by a parent’s emotions as an adult they may feel overwhelm with their partner’s sharing and have a desire to shut them down, control the situation or retreat.
Those who reverse parented a parent or were their parent’s confidant may have a tendency to halt intimacy by giving well-meaning or “greeting card” advice. Those who came from a cold family where no emotions were ever shown tend to be dismissive or completely nonresponsive.
On the other side of the coin, unrealistic or distorted expectation on another’s response also influences the closeness and intimacy.
If someone is from a chaotic family, they may tend to flood their partner with their distress. Someone from a cold family may not trust their deepest moments with another and therefore restrict intimacy, and someone from a family of inconsistent support may be insatiable in their need for partner support.
The good news is that the more that someone works through their unresolved early material, the more their capacity for intimacy deepens.