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aprilsimnel's avatar

Can you explain what a healthy intimate relationship is supposed to be like?

Asked by aprilsimnel (30694points) January 24th, 2010

I don’t have the least understanding of what a healthy intimate relationship looks like. I can date and hang out and be superficially appealing to men, but when it comes to going any deeper or being more vulnerable or anything like that, I run, because I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work and I think I’m going to mess it up, somehow.

There were no good role models for me as I grew up, no adults taught me what to look for when I was a teen and I’ve had to play by ear thus far. All my relationships have crashed like the Hindenburg. I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, but I also don’t know how to be interdependent.

I always feel like I’ll be sucked up dry emotionally if I get involved with anyone, and then I’ll be abandoned when there’s no more use for me, while simultaneously my needs and wants would be ignored. I know intellectually that that’s not true, but my emotional self still feels like this is true.

Jellies in LTR’s, can you help me to understand what makes your relationships work so I’m not so scared to put myself out there?

101 it for me, y’all, as if I were 14.

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20 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I can tell you that I thought I knew, but never really did until I was in my 50s and had been married twice.

It’s when both people are willing to be completely emotionally vulnerable, with no desire to hide anything, and with no feeling of violation that everything is exposed.

It makes for an extremely profound and rich experience, and I know, as I have said before, that I will be with her until one of us dies, and I sincerely hope that I will die first so that I will never have to be without her.

Chongalicious's avatar

I’m still a teen…but I know what you mean. My mom had that fairytale crap and is still with her highschool sweetheart BUT I knew that wasn’t realistic. You have to go through trial and error to ever find anything worthwhile. Heartbreak is almost inevitable. If you do nothing but run away from potential heartbreak, like I used to, you will never find love. That’s why it’s called falling; you don’t do it on purpose. It just happens, so you should let it. You need to find someone to have fun with, enjoy most of the moments with them, you’ll have your disagreements and it will not be perfection. But something about them keeps you drawn in. Attraction is important, at first. But after a while don’t be afraid to go deeper! Being voulnerable around the guy lets him know that you’re putting your all into it. All you can do is hope that he feels the same way you do, because there’s never anything certain about love, except that it does exist.

ridicawu's avatar

I had a really difficult time dating in high school (I basically didn’t). The ones I liked never liked me and the ones that liked me I found something about them I didn’t like right away as to avoid them. I finally have a boyfriend (this coming Friday will mark one year I’ve been with him) and it was possible to feel comfortable with a guy. We have really great communication (for the most part, I’m pretty forgetful though so I might forget to tell him something that he wanted to know by accident). Communication is amazing when it comes to relationships, I think. My boy and I don’t really fight (we’ll have disagreements and the like, but it never gets to fighting status), we did once but it was resolved within an hour and we talked after. If we didn’t have such good communication, I don’t think our relationship would exist. being able to compromise is big too. Both my guy and I are incredibly stubborn people, but we make it work and we remain happy with it.
So basically, comfort, communication and compromise. Those are all key. If you don’t feel able to communicate something with them because you’re uncomfortable, well give it time, but if it’s been a while then I feel like it wouldn’t be worth it. If you can’t share yourself or they can’t share themselves, what’s the point?

marinelife's avatar

It is when you can drop your defenses and be vulnerable to potential hurt. You show your true self to your partner. You let him see who you are. He lets you see who he is.

Then neither of you takes advantage of that knowledge to hurt the other person.

With your history from childhood, getting to the point of letting go in a relationship will be difficult. You may want to do some therapy around this.

Glow's avatar

It is kind of hard to answer this, personally, since I have never been in your shoes, but I want to try anyway. Well, my boyfriend is my first and only, and I am his too, ya know? But for me, I have this strange almost motherly feel and care for him. I can find other guys attractive, physically, even more than what my boyfriend is, but when I see them I don’t FEEL any of those nurture feelings I feel for my boyfriend. They simply are just physically attracted, nothing deep. I find him beautiful and cute, even though I know he is no front page model. He can be a jerk sometimes, maybe even a total utter ASS, but despite that I still feel that strange nurture feeling and no matter what I always forgive him…

I wonder if that explains it for you? At least from my perspective :p To Sum it up, I think once a girl feels that way for a man, she knows she loves him. This is all my opinion though, and it is all the opinion from a girls side of the fence.

wundayatta's avatar

I am reading a book that says that people who run from relationships when they start getting close often have been abandoned as young children. Abandonment can be literal or in other ways such as addictions to drugs or alcohol or working or sex or love. They are afraid of both being abandoned as adults, and of being suffocated by a lover who seems to want too much.

A start to figuring out how to fix it is to recognize the pattern of behavior and understand what causes it. Therapy is also a part of it. It also helps to understand the patterns of the typr of person you are likely to be involved with.

Anyway, you sound like a “love avoidant.” That’s one half of the duet completed by the “love addict.” Learn about it, and you can probably stop doing it.

Chongalicious's avatar

Lurve for @Glow‘s answer :) 100% AGREED!!!

max53's avatar

First of all, I’m no expert so take all of this with some very large grains of salt.

I think you are in good shape to move forward with having more intimacy in your relationships because it sounds like you have been able to recognize your tendency towards fear when you begin to feel vulnerable. I would first say to really try to visualize those situations where you crossed the line from a superficial relationship to one where you began to feel vulnerable. What were the thoughts and fears that began to run through your mind? Do you think that those thoughts were able to get the better of you and cause you to run or sabotage your past relationships at that point?

Second, realize that the very worst thing that could happen in a relationship is that the person could leave you or reject you. I’m sure you’ve experience hurt or rejection of some kind before and have dealt with it. I bet if you imagined falling madly in love and having that person break your heart you would begin to realize that it would definitely hurt and take some time to recover from emotionally, but that you would be strong enough to do it. My point is try to get yourself into a place where you truly ‘know’ that you will be ok no matter what happens.

The next thing I would suggest is to learn to hear and trust your own inner voice. That gut sense that you get about someone as your getting to know them. In my experiences with love there has always been a strong ‘knowing’ feeling when I began to realize that I was falling for someone. When you get to that place, I suspect that’s when you might begin to feel vulnerable. And that’s where next time, you need to just try to open yourself up and go for it and say whatever happens happens.

Imagine being with someone and allowing them to see everything about you and not having to worry about what they will think of you. In my experience, true intimacy comes when you just let yourself show. Let someone see the wrinkles, the flaws, the love, the caring. It grows and develops over time, but it’s about letting your guard down and allowing yourself to feel vulnerable (imagine standing on the edge of a cliff with your eyes closed, jumping off and trusting that a net is waiting to catch you at the bottom).

The plus side of all of this vulnerability is that you will get to experience the joy of truly being yourself with someone and of them doing the same with you. Imagine sex where you absolutely adored your partner and how you would want to explore their body, satisfy their deepest desires, and allow them to satisfy yours. Imagine that closeness and how it would feel to be truly open. Realize that you really can have this if you are willing to try. Imagine supporting someone when they needed your help and knowing that they will be there to support you. Think of how you feel when someone opens up to you and shares something. I doubt that you judge them when that happens. Trust someone not to judge you.

I think I’ve written way too much, but one more thing. Intimacy is easily achieved with some partners and not so easily achieved with others. Try to take things one moment at a time, work on trying to recognize when you become afraid and run away and try not to do it, be patient with yourself, know that you will be ok no matter what, and know that the potential bond that you could build with someone is worth all of the hard work and pain.

Anyway, these are just rambling suggestions from my experiences.

Violet's avatar

I also had no good relationship role models. And TV relationships didn’t help.
Part of dating, is getting rejected sometimes. It happens to all of us. Do you ever watch Tough Love? Well the host Steve has great dating tips. He also has a book
Have you ever heard of He;s Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt ? That book great too

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@pdworkin and I seem to have experiences in common and I support @max53‘s contributions as well.

There are risks in opening yourself up to loving and being loved. There are risks and consequences in being unwilling or unable to do so. Compare the risks and benefits of each for yourself and decide what sounds better to you.

Assuming a relationship is what you want, decide what you really want in such a relationship.

Make a list of adjectives that describe the kind of person for whom you would be willing to let down your guard, the emotional barriers to giving and accepting love.

These adjectives should describe their character and the way they would treat you. Leave practical considerations like income and career aside for now.

When you meet someone in whom you see a majority of these characteristics, you will then know what to do and you will be able to proceed without undue fear. Be cautious and smart but not fearful of being lost or submerged by the relationship because you have covered that in your choice of significant other as best you can and you will have accepted those risks in exchange for the hoped-for benefits.

Take you time to know what you want and don’t settle for less than you deserve. I wish you joy and satisfaction for your future!

max53's avatar

One more thing, don’t get into the pattern of thinking that beautiful, happy intimate relationships don’t exist. They are real and they happen all around you every day to every different type of person. Don’t convince yourself that love is a fairytale or that it can’t happen for you. It can and will if you let yourself be open to it. It’s the ‘letting yourself be open’ that’s the key.

Scooby's avatar

Give & take!!!! :-/ That’s it!!!

Cruiser's avatar

You really need to first and foremost love yourself and feel that you are loveable which comes from being comfortable with yourself. This will give you confidence that the partner you are with is in that relationship with the real you. You also need to find a partner who share common ground with you and makes you laugh and visa versa.

augustlan's avatar

A good, healthy (serious) relationship arc looks like this, to me:

Love yourself, then you’re prepared to love someone else… and more importantly, let someone else love you.

When you find a partner that makes you swoon, go ahead and swoon… on the inside.

When that partner has been so tender with you that he’s made you cry (in a good way) – or feel like it, if you’re not the crying type – swoon on the outside. In other words, let him know how you’re feeling.

You want to touch each other intimately, not always in a sexual way… just holding hands, resting a hand on his knee, holding his feet on your lap while you watch TV. Again, tenderness towards each other is important, here.

When there is good news, you want to tell your partner first.

When there is bad news, you want to tell your partner first.

You are kind with one another, unless you’re in a fight. After the fight is over, you are kind to one another again.

You take care of each other, each in your own way. For instance, my husband cooks for me… I rub/scratch his back while he falls asleep every night.

You do not attempt to change one another.

Silliness (if that’s your thing) is fun together. So is serious debate, if that’s your thing.

Communication is huge. Don’t try to guess what one another is thinking. Ask. Tell. Discuss. No mind games allowed.

There is plenty of together time, and plenty of alone time.

Neither person tries to control the other… in any way.

There are no secrets, but there is always room for a little mystery.

There is respect, on both sides.

Lastly, your heart does a little jig when you see or think of your SO.
Despite having all of that going for it, not every relationship like this will last. Someone’s heart will be broken… and that’s ok. Hearts are resilient little buggers, and they heal in time. It is well worth taking the risk. Repeatedly, if necessary. Good luck to you, girlie. :)

dpworkin's avatar

(That was lovely, Auggie. I would add one thing: we laugh all the time.)

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think this guy, Terrence Real, who was talking about the book He’s Just Not That Into You on, summed up what’s been going on with me very well:

“The kind of [person] that has trouble with intimacy is love-avoidant,” Real says. “A [person] who has been wounded in [their] childhood by family and culture and can’t distinguish between being close to someone and being eaten up alive is love-avoidant…there is a history of enmeshment with one of the parents, often the mother, in which the [person] was used as a hero child, performer, confidant… then the relationship with a parent was one in which the child was there to service the parent’s needs, not the other way around,” he says. “That’s what they feel will happen to them and are basically intimacy-phobic.”

Thank you (thus far) for all your answers. I have a lot to learn, but I take comfort in that there are healthy adults who have healthy relationships, and that some of them are right here on Fluther! :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It means no fear, no being grossed out, no mis-trust…it means feeling completely supported by one another, inspired by one another and to have someone by your side that you genuinely love being with much of the time…it means they treat you as an equal and build their life together with you for a shared future.

ridicawu's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir , I have a fear of feet and I can only touch my boyfriend’s foot. Granted, not for very long, but I can’t even touch the bottom of my own foot. Which I guess would fall under both no fear and no being grossed out… hahah.

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