Remember when you had to teach your kid to eat their vegetables? It required creativity, resourcefulness, patience, and even a little (or a lot!) of sneaky behaviour. Well, in too many cases, grown men resist intimacy like children refuse to eat their vegetables, and so, remembering some of those old strategies to get those veggies down can be useful toward helping your partner provide some relational nutrition.
Who is more stubborn: the child refusing to eat their veggies or the partner fearful of intimacy? While we may never know the answer to that question, we can know that their paths towards progress be very alike. Creating more intimacy within a relationship is best accomplished when it is a two-way street and while I have no desire to create or encourage a parent-child partner dynamic, it is reasonable for one partner to utilize their strengths, gifts and talents in a peer-level manner toward intimacy development.
For little Johnny, it may be they just don’t like the taste of peas, but there are a variety of reasons that men have difficulty being vulnerable, sharing their feelings, or talking on emotional levels. Intimacy-deficient men usually come from one of 2 family patterns growing up: 1) a lack of real or perceived safety to express feelings or 2) it wasn’t a behaviour normalized or modelled and they are just plain clueless.
Regardless of the circumstance, few of us enjoy being in the awkward state of feeling unsafe or incompetent. When the risk of those uncomfortable feelings returning loom, many men deal with the situation the way a child does with their veggies; some with an aggressive push and others defiantly ignoring the spoon. In either situation, finding a way to hide those “blucky” green beans within some creamy mashed potatoes can keep a body or relationship growing strong, so here’s some tips to help the medicine go down.
3 Sneaky Ways to Get Your Man to Be More Intimate
Water what you want to grow.
You may have heard the phrase “catch your child doing what’s right” which encourages parents to emphasize a child’s positive behaviour over using negative feedback loops. Well, the same works well with men and intimacy.
When emotionally inexperienced men make frequent contact with negative feedback, it can easily meta-communicate emotional incompetency, triggering a defensive or shut-down response. Positive or very carefully worded constructive feedback will facilitate safety and allow a man to practice their intimacy development more fearlessly.
Catch him off-guard.
I can remember sometimes slipping that spoon of yams into my child’s mouth in that sliver of a moment when they let their guard down and opened their mouth. Catching a man off-guard is another method that can be used to help nurture intimacy.
One of the more creative approaches I’ve learned of is inviting a partner to watch a movie that has some known sentimental value to them and at the end, in their moment of weakness, slipping in some of those therapist phrases like: “how did it make you feel when….” or “can you remember a time when you felt like that?” before your partner realizes what’s ben put in their mouth.
Wrap it in a desirable package.
Every once in a while, I could get away with hiding some veggies within another food I knew my child liked. They inspect the spoon; it looks harmless, so they allow it into their mouth and in their hungered haste, swallow it down easy peasy!
The lesson toward creating opportunities for intimacy is placing the partner in a circumstance, situation, or condition that is familiar, comfortable, enjoyable, and safe, just like that spoon looked safe to be allowed into the child’s mouth. This is likely to create another “guard down” opportunity as confidence and competence levels will most likely be high, another classic time when emotionally guarded people will not instinctively reject emotional or intimate connection attempts. Just as the child decides to swallow the unwanted peas when immersed in a desirable package, so practicing intimacy can be less intimidating when the stress levels are lower.
For those more brazen, here’s a challenge that most couples have a difficult time pulling off, but can spawn great awareness of the need for additional intimacy within a relationship. Plan a date night, complete with dinner and a movie, even a late night stroll if you wish. The only limitations are: no speaking about work, family, news, sports, weather, politics, or current/past hobbies.
How much time do you think might pass before you hit a wall of silence? So what’s left to talk about? Try hopes, dreams, fears, joys, purpose, or what’s meaningful to your relationship to start.
Roy C. Rawers, MA, LMFT, CSAT is an author and psychotherapist specializing in helping individuals and couples with Intimacy Disorders.