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The intimacy struggle

by Janet G. Woititz



12 January 2021
Circles and circles and circles and circles—all filled with confusion.


12 January 2021
The spouse will feel very guilty and the resentment sill build gradually.


12 January 2021
children grow up in a situation where intimacy is not experienced as a loving, sharing, supportive process except when it serves the purpose of the abuser.


12 January 2021
So often someone walks into my office and tells me he has "done it again"—once again has screwed up what was such a very good thing with another person. Hearing these words only makes one thing painfully clear: the person who said them has very little understanding of what a relationship is all about. If you are in a relationship, you cannot screw it up all by yourself. There is another person involved. You both had a part in creating the problems.


12 January 2021
The chemically dependent partner numbs the feelings, and the non-abuser is doubled over in pain—relieved only by anger and occasional fantasies.


18 January 2021
This is all part of being in an intimate relationship. It will drag out all things, old and new, that you have experienced and felt before.


18 January 2021
You are grateful when the inconsistent person throws you a crumb, but get bored quickly with the one who is available all the time.


18 January 2021
You lived your childhood on an emotional roller coaster. That is what you understand. Think a minute - how many times have you created a crisis in your relationship to get the energy flowing again and bring the relationship back to more familiar ground?


18 January 2021
Another setup. "Yes, it's true that your mother did and said those terrible things. But you must understand that she was drunk." The implications of this double-bind message are especially destructive to you when you are in an intimate relationship. Your unconscious tells you that if you can find an explanation for inexcusable behavior, you must believe that the behavior is excusable.


18 January 2021
In the family system affected by alcoholism, the alcoholic is rarely held accountable for his behavior.


18 January 2021
Now that you are an adult, you have become the most understanding person in the world when it comes to your loving relationships, right? In almost every situation you will find a way to make everything okay - certainly if SOMEONE must be at fault, you will take that fault upon yourself. You have learned how to understand, and you have learned how to take full responsibility upon yourself. Therefore, when you are treated in a lousy way, you analyze the situation and don't allow yourself to experience any angry feelings. [...] Here is the kind of thought pattern that runs through the mind of the child in the alcoholic or dysfunctional family system: "If I feel guilty, then I am responsible. And if I am responsible, then I can do something to fix it, to change it, to make it different."


18 January 2021
Often you end up in a perfect give-and-take relationship—you give, they take.


18 January 2021
you learn how not to want so that you don't get disappointed.


18 January 2021
Your fear of asking for something and then not getting it is as unsettling as your fear of asking for something AND getting it! The first outcome reinforces your belief that you are too unworthy to deserve what you want, and the second possibility is so unfamiliar that you actually don't know how to react. Even a simple compliment may cause you great discomfort.


18 January 2021
You know you are in a healthy, intimate relationship when you have created an environment where:
1. I can be me.
2. You can be you.
3. We can be us.
4. I can grow.
5. You can grow.
6. We can grow together.
Essentially that's what it's all about.


18 January 2021
First, they must decide what they each value as individuals and then they can build a oneness out of their separateness.


18 January 2021
Intimacy means that you have a love relationship with another person where you offer, and are offered, validation, understanding and a sense of being valued intellectually, emotionally and physically.


18 January 2021
The more you are willing to share and be shared with, the greater the degree of intimacy.
A healthy relationship is not a power struggle. The two of you don't have to think the same way about things.
A healthy relationship is not symbiotic. You do not have to feel the same way about all things.
A healthy relationship is not confined to a sexual relationship which must end in orgasm, but one that celebrates sharing and exploring.


18 January 2021
You have been living with many myths generated and perpetuated by your family system.


18 January 2021
The early messages that you received from your parents were very confusing. The lack of clear messages forced you to create many of your beliefs and values rather than learning them through examples.


18 January 2021
Because your parents didn't care for you consistently in all the ways that a child needs care, you have had to do a lot of self-parenting. This has left you with an inconclusive sense of who you really are.


18 January 2021
For children of troubled families, reaching this state of confidence in your ability to make decisions and act upon them is not accomplished so easily. Someone (anyone) else's opinion often influences yours. So, if you have been working on being your own person, and having confidence in your decision-making skills, you may feel threatened by the idea of the involvement with another person whose opinions and ideas will be important to you - and may influence you in ways you don't want.


18 January 2021
You may constantly worry that the person you love would want nothing more to do with you if he or she really knew you. Although it's a little vague just who is that real and horrendous person you may be, you still feel the anxiety very strongly.


18 January 2021
You try to stave off being found out by acting out your fantasies of how a perfect person would act. You try to behave as though you have your entire life in order and are totally problem-free. After all, the simply human real you with human frailties will never be good enough for someone you love.


18 January 2021
The child who experiences living with alcoholism or dysfunction grows into an individual with a weak and very inconsistent sense of self. This fragile self is a critical self which has not had the nurture it needed. It is a hungry self and, in many ways, a very insecure self. These characteristics are caused by the fact that you never knew when, or if, your parents would be emotionally available to you. You only knew unpredictability and inconsistency. Once the drinking or the trouble began, you simply did not exist.


18 January 2021
Mary's problem also illustrated the fears of "loss of self" and "being found out."
Mary started placing all her emphasis on his reaction to the experience. Then she began to wonder and worry about his reaction to other experiences. She thought about him constantly, particularly at times when he was not being attentive to her. She focused entirely on him, what he thought of her and how she could keep from losing him.
What about Mary's needs? What about the fact that she simply did not want to experience the way he was ignoring her to flirt with other women? She started judging herself harshly for reacting to his behavior. And the woman who felt that reaction began to disappear, something Mary recognizes and hates in herself.


18 January 2021
It isn't important whether Mary reacted to her boyfriend's behavior because of her own insecurities or because he was being somewhat obnoxious. It probably is a combination of both. What is important is that the couple can discuss the issue.


18 January 2021
Adults who had many of their needs satisfied at home (many to an unhealthy degree!) are able to let an involvement develop slowly. The investment can take place slowly, along with the growth of trust. If adults who are products of homes where bonding never took place invest at all, they invest at once, heavily and on a deep emotional level. They seize the opportunity for bonding and are deeply involved before they know what is happening.


18 January 2021
Children from troubled families believe that in an ideal relationship there will be no conflict and no anger. Although they recognize intellectually that this is impossible, emotionally this is what they want. Anger is very complicated and very much misunderstood by them. Historically, anger needed to be repressed. Children growing up in troubled environments live in a very angry climate where that feeling is never resolved. Expressing anger is never useful and only tends to make life worse. It never did anyone any good.
Therefore, you learn how not to be angry. Instead, you rationalize, explain things away and finally become depressed.


18 January 2021
In addition, Adult Children have no experience in problem-solving with another person. You don't know how to resolve the angry feelings. You don't know how to work with their anger in order to dissipate it. Anger needs to be expressed in one way or another. It needs to be recognized, acknowledged, talked over, understood and dissipated.


18 January 2021
Who is to say what is normal? You react according to your history, and when your reactions are put into perspective, you decide what is normal.


20 January 2021
The guilt that many of you have is on a level so deep that you believe that your very existence caused the problem.


20 January 2021
Guilt is associated with behavior, while shame relates to the essence of the person, the self, which is even more basic to the person.


20 January 2021
One of the things they decided was that in their relationship, "I don't want to talk about it" is not an acceptable answer. They decided that "I don't want to talk about it now" can be acceptable if the question "If not now, when?" is answered.


20 January 2021
It is an adaptive response to a maladaptive situation.


20 January 2021
[Stability] means you know that if on Monday you make arrangements to go somewhere on Saturday, when Saturday comes you will be able to do it.


20 January 2021
Hal never let Marlene down, but it took her years to be able to trust that. It's something she had to work on consciously. She worked on it by being aware that she needed to work on it. And that works.


20 January 2021
There is much confusion about what is intimacy and what is an invasion of boundaries.


20 January 2021
You have learned in the process of growing up that it is not in your best interest to have expectations.


20 January 2021
The body does not differentiate between dis-stress (bad) and eu-stress (good), and you, as a result, may be inclined to sabotage the relationship if it is going too smoothly. That is a response to reduce the stress, but there is the risk that you will once again begin to judge yourself negatively. After all, if you were a good person, you wouldn't do that. Good things take getting used to. Give yourself a break by allowing some time for the adjustment.


20 January 2021
Explaining away continual disappointment will not get you what you want.


20 January 2021
Healthy relationships are not power struggles. They involve give and take and shared responsibility. They also involve not having to do everything all by yourself.


20 January 2021
Children of troubled families fight for situational control but give up their emotional selves.


20 January 2021
This kind of conflict is exhausting


20 January 2021
Children of troubled families tend to carry loyalty to an extreme. They remain in relationships they know to be destructive to them. If problems cannot be worked out, it is not a good idea to stay in the continuing fantasy that they can be worked out. That is replaying the childhood wish that life will be wonderful "if only." It didn't work then. It won't work now.


20 January 2021
Gretchen and Jack had been together for ten years. Neither of them was happy in the relationship. But neither of them considered ending it. When I asked Gretchen why she stayed if all she did was complain, she said, "In my family we don't walk away just because there are problems."


20 January 2021
One of the things you need most is to have your feelings validated. In your alcoholic or dysfunctional family, your feelings were never validated. On the contrary, they were discounted with, "You don't really feel that way. It's not okay to feel that way." So you start feeling peculiar about whether it is okay to feel this way or that way. You need someone who will validate your feelings—not necessarily your behavior, but your feelings.


20 January 2021
Validation can be the key to getting through a crisis.


20 January 2021
And her mother was then able to die well because she had finally begun to live well.


20 January 2021
Validation does not mean agreement. It means respect for similarities and differences. It is the cornerstone of good, solid communication. Without validation, communication is merely a power play.


20 January 2021
Being technically good is something else again. If you are merely technically good, we are not talking about a relationship. In a relationship, emotional investment and caring are primary. You have probably not given yourself enough credit for being able to express your feelings.


20 January 2021
Remember here, too, you do not have enough inforamation to answer all of your questions. This is probably a large part of what is getting in your way.


20 January 2021
Take it easy on yourself. Take it easy on your partner. Once again, the message is: go slowly. In fact, no aspect of a healthy relationship happens overnight. The potential may be immediately obvious, but a relationship is a day-to-day developing experience.


20 January 2021
The age may seem inappropriate, but one must go through all of these stages regardless of when the awareness hits.


20 January 2021
These children had no place to turn, no one to help them.


20 January 2021
It is not unusual for incest survivors in a sexual relationship with another person to flashback on the horrors of their childhood. They will flashback while in a loving relationship to the experiences of childhood and this causes problems.


20 January 2021
Since children are compliant for the most part, when they reflect back they see themselves as going along with it, as being willing, as not fighting against incest. They feel responsibility, which is neither valid nor true.


20 January 2021
Today you would not permit this kind of behavior, but the adult you are now did not exist when you were a child.


20 January 2021
the pathology of sexual abuse is deeper than the results of alcoholism.


20 January 2021
It is in no way a reflection on you that you had a parent who was sick enough to use you in this way.


26 January 2021
I do not suggest that you behave any differently than you do now unless it is useful for both you and your partner for mutual behaviors to be modified.


26 January 2021
It may be that there are no "rights." But there are certainly responses which are appropriate.


26 January 2021
Fear Number 1: "I am afraid that I will hurt you". This fear results from the fact that Adult Children are not taught how to speak and behave appropriately. The behaviors they develop result from watching others. Although many of them do behave appropriately, and many are very clever, charming and articulate, they don't really believe they are. They are afraid they will violate your boundaries. They are afraid that, without meaning to, they will say something or behave in a way that will be hurtful to you.


26 January 2021
Fear Number 2: "The person you see does not exist." Children of Alcoholics are so concerned with trying to look and behave normally that in many ways they fabricate the person they would like to be, or the kind of person they think you would like them to be. Chances are this mask does not work as well as they think it does. You are probably able to see who he or she really is, and that is who you are attracted to. This is difficult for the Adult Child to believe.


27 January 2021
Adult Children do not have a strong sense of what consequences are.


27 January 2021
"It doesn't matter" is akin to "I don't exist"


27 January 2021
For many Adult Children, growing up was so traumatic that constant trauma is the only reality they know.


27 January 2021
If your Adult Child runs away, chances are she will be back. You will probably need to do something in order to protect yourself, but realize that the rejection is only temporary.


27 January 2021
Things happen in a relationship that will trigger early experiences. It is important for you and your Adult Child to know each other well. Then, when something happens that you don't understand on the face of it, you will realize that it relates back to childhood.


27 January 2021
This couple needs to discuss this incident thoroughly in order for the relationship to remain healthy.


27 January 2021
Communication and discussion of feelings are critical for Adult Children and the people with whom they are involved. It is the only way to have a healthy relationship.


27 January 2021
The feeling of not being lovable was learned in early childhood.


27 January 2021
Fear of abandonment is much deeper: "If you abandon me, and I am left all by myself, I will die."
This, too, has its roots in childhood, and not in the real world.


27 January 2021
The way a couple manages their money is symptomatic of everything else that goes on in their relationship.


27 January 2021
People do change. But you need to start with a baseline understanding because basic attitudes don't change.


27 January 2021
Some people have one set of social expectations for a courtship and another, completely different set of expectations for a marriage. Find out whether the person with whom you are seriously involved is one of them.


27 January 2021
When you get seriously involved with someone, in a sense you are involved with his or her whole family


27 January 2021
Are you able to be sounding boards for each other when you have concerns and worries? Can you trust each other with your thoughts and feelings?


27 January 2021
To believe in someone without their first having to prove themselves is very special. But avoiding looking at what's real when the time comes because we don't know the right questions to ask or because we don't want to face the implications of the answers we get isn't fair to anybody, including ourselves.


27 January 2021
you need to be sure that the message sent is the message received.


27 January 2021
if you grew up in a family where there was no empathy, you may exhibit certain behaviors that will not be interpreted as you intend them.


27 January 2021
People respond to behavior - not to underlying feelings.


27 January 2021
If you grew up in a family where you were not encouraged to express your thoughts, feelings or ideas, or in a family where you were constantly dismissed, it is not unusual for you to have a very illusive sense of yourself. It is not unusual for you to feel as though you will lose yourself in a relationship.


27 January 2021
If you grew up in a family where boundaries were not respected, it is difficult for you to know what the appropriate give and take is in a relationship.


27 January 2021
This comes from an early history of knowing that if you didn't do it, it wouldn't get done or that if you asked someone else to do it, it wouldn't get done properly.


27 January 2021
If as a child you were constantly disappointed and lived a life of unfulfilled promises, in a relationship you will tend to be rigid and inflexible. And even if the new plan is far superior to the old plan, when someone changes plans on you it will be very difficult for you to manage. Every muscle in your body will tighten.


27 January 2021
If you care about me and do not demonstrate it through word and deed, your caring does not have much value to me.


27 January 2021
In talking about a problem, it is important that both of you get all of your feelings on the table in a non-defensive way.


27 January 2021
whether or not a solution is reached, the discussion itself will be good for the relationship.


27 January 2021
There will be many who give you advice freely. As a rule of thumb, the advice to listen to is the advice of those people who have the kind of relationship that you want.


27 January 2021
Your family members may often be more than willing to tell you exactly how to run your life. Be cautious.


27 January 2021
Since you are so unsure of your own judgments, you may tend to rationalize and minimize behaviors that are really unacceptable.


27 January 2021
You may want to discuss it with a counselor to ensure that you are looking at it in a realistic way and have explored all your options.


27 January 2021
If your partner refuses to work the problem through, the chances are that this dynamic will develop into a pattern for other disagreements the two of you may have.


27 January 2021
She began to see that it wasn't hard to pick the men like these instead of the other type. All she had to do was ask herself at the end of the evening, "Dorothy, what did you talk about? What did you do?" [...] She began to avoid people like her ex. As she changed, she saw that the people that she was attracted to also changed.


27 January 2021
I cannot stress strongly enough that if you look upon relationships as a process, then no matter what happens, you cannot fail.


27 January 2021
I would advise you to think of relationships as something that you stay in until you use them up.


27 January 2021
Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.


27 January 2021
It is important for you to change your usual style of making a great emotional investment in the beginning. Instead, decide ahead of time on some limitations.


27 January 2021
Become fascinated with yourself and your responses. You are a very interesting person.


27 January 2021
The more you look at how you behave, the more skilled you will become in getting to know yourself. Of course there is always the risk that when you do this, you may really get to like yourself.


27 January 2021
Having fun in a relationship is a superb priority to work on.


27 January 2021
These are fairly typical Adult Children reactions to a social situation. "Let's have a party" or "let's go to a party" is met not with enthusiasm but with varying degrees of terror.


27 January 2021
no matter how appropriate and charming you appear to others, inside you feel you are fooling them all.


27 January 2021
It is important for you, as an Adult Child, to recognize what you do to yourself when you react so strongly to a change. It does not mean that the person with whom you are involved is out to get you. It may simply mean that he does not follow the rules as you do, or that he is more spontaneous than you are.


27 January 2021
Feeling different from other people seems to stay with you throughout life.


27 January 2021
In a relationship, don't pretend that you are not different, but begin to recognize your individuality and encourage your partner to celebrate his. This will enhance your own uniqueness as a couple. Though you may always feel different from other people, decide that it makes you more, and not less, interesting. It is also time for you to realize that different does not automatically mean worthless. We are all different. Growth enhances one's uniqueness, which does not mean that you are destined to be alone or lonely. It simply means that you are an individual in your own right.


27 January 2021
You may continue to be loyal to someone whose behavior is inexcusable. Because of this unacceptable behavior, you may have to end a relationship or a friendship. It is critical to recognize the point at which you need to draw a line.