Are You Mistaking Intensity for Intimacy?
In relationships, intensity can be defined as a measure or degree of emotional excitement. High intensity relationships are formed when there is high risk and high drama. Also present is a high level of uncertainty and opportunity for either high reward, or high loss.
When we enter into relationships with Narcissists, Psychopaths and Emotionally Unavailable people, there is always an element of danger and unpredictability. These types are shrouded in mystery and cloaked in charisma.
The simplest way to tell if you’re involved with one, is to monitor your emotions. If one minute you’re soaring on cloud nine and the next you are crashing into despair, then you are very likely dating someone, who’s ability to experience intimacy is impaired.
When someone we care about is pulling away from us, it’s human nature to cling tighter. Anytime we are faced with the idea that someone no longer wants us, or cares about us, our emotions plummet. We go into full panic mode and all of our insecurities surface. That person becomes the center of our focus. We can’t cope with everyday life. They wield incredible control over our happiness and our despair. They become our very reason for being and all we can think about is, “I’ve got to get them back.”
These feelings are powerful. Our nervous system goes on high alert and we will do anything to make the pain and anguish stop. When we are initially placed high, high up on a pedestal, the fall is exponentially greater.
When the object of our turmoil decides to reappear in our lives, it’s like we’ve just received a shot of heroin after a difficult withdrawal. The pain subsides and we can mellow out and relax. We can again function in our lives and all we are feeling is immense relief. The reason for their leaving doesn’t really matter at this point, because we’re just so glad they’re back, that any old excuse will do.
The reconciliation is ecstasy. Anytime you are deprived of something, the act of indulging makes it all the more sweet. When you’ve been dieting, don’t you savor that bite of chocolate? You let it swirl around in your mouth and melt on your tongue. You know you shouldn’t have it and that it’s not good for you, but it just feels so incredible you can’t resist. The same rule of thumb goes for your Narcissist. When they come back, the sex is indescribable. The softness of their skin, their touch, their smell is euphoric. At least for a little while……
Then the dance begins again. For never in these types of relationships, do both partners have both feet in at the same time. So eventually their feet will come out again and the crashing and soaring begin again.
What most people struggle with is that when you are in the reconciliation phase, it feels so damn good, it’s hard to fathom why their partner doesn’t want to feel this all the time. It doesn’t compute why the one they love keeps pulling away, when being together is pure bliss.
The answer is so simple and right in front of us, but we fail to see it every time. That high that you are feeling, the ecstasy, the euphoria is NOT the same thing that they are feeling.
All of the soaring and the crashing that you are suffering creates these intense feelings in you. This roller-coaster ride of emotions creates the intensity, so that you are experiencing a hundred different emotions at once. This is a massive endorphin rush to your nervous system. It leaves you feeling like you could never feel what you feel for anyone else. No one else could cause such a depth of feeling or arousal – it becomes addicting. You will start to believe that the two of you have a deep connection and a deep bond that could never be recreated by anyone else. So you’re convinced it must be love.
He is not thinking the same things you are and he is definitely not feeling the same things you are. For one, he isn’t on the rollercoaster ride. He pulls away, because he is feeling trapped, suffocated, fear and anxiety. He’s got no other option, but to pull away, to relieve the tension he’s feeling. And when it subsides, he starts to fear that you won’t be there to fulfill his needs. In his mind he has to con you to come back to him, because above all things, he must have someone thinking he’s Mr. Wonderful. He needs the love, the attention, the sex and the ego strokes you so willingly provide. So he comes back until his anxiety peaks again.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V) tells us why. It says basically that a Narcissist’s ability to experience intimacy is impaired. Narcissists fear intimacy. It causes them immense anxiety. They run from it, because they can never show anyone their true selves. Their whole persona is a mirage, a construct that they have created. Their self-esteem is solely based on how they are perceived by others – not who they truly are. So every time you get too close – they run. What they are suffering from is an intimacy disorder, so they will always keep you at a distance.
The following graph depicts the intensity differential between Narcissistic Relationships and Healthy Relationships.
Intimacy is the normal progression of most romantic relationships. It is how real love evolves and deepens. It is trusting another enough to expose yourself fully and allowing them to see who you truly are. It exists only when both individuals have both of their feet in the relationship consistently and at the same time. The passion at the beginning evolves into a deep and mutual trust. Trust that your partner will be there, trust that they want to be in the relationship and trust that their feelings are reciprocal. It’s comfortable and filled will mutual love, kindness and respect.
As you can see from the graph, it doesn’t have the immense highs and lows of a Narcissistic Relationship. So if you have been engaging in the emotional rollercoaster, a truly intimate relationship may seem boring to you. When we mistake intensity for intimacy we will never be satisfied in a relationship that doesn’t send us soaring and crashing, because we don’t recognize any of those high intensity emotions. It’s why so many of us run from normal, healthy people that actually want to give us the relationship that we claim we want.
We make the mistake of thinking that real love must have that intensity of feeling, but it doesn’t, at least, not consistently and not at that level. That super high intensity only comes from the immense highs and immense lows that happen when a relationship continually starts and ends. In Narcissistic relationships there is no middle and that is where intimacy grows.
I recently had the privilege of meeting a couple that has been happily married for 22 years. On many occasions I observed the way they interact. The way they look at each other, talk about each other and flirt with each other is endearing. They take pleasure in making each other happy. They laugh a lot. There is complete trust and they give each other room to be themselves and to grow. They have activities that they do together and activities that they enjoy apart. There is no rollercoaster of emotions, no fear, no anxiety and no pain, just mutual love, kindness and respect.
This is what real intimacy looks like. So if you notice your relationship continually soaring and crashing, with no middle, understand that intimacy can never grow under these conditions. All it breeds is dysfunction, trauma bonds and an emotional addiction that is pretty tough to break. Relationships can be hard enough with emotionally healthy individuals, so trying to force one out of someone who is intimately impaired is my definition of insanity.
If you want a happy and truly intimate relationship, you need to recognize these patterns and understand the difference between intensity and intimacy. If there is no middle in your relationship then it’s not a relationship and it’s time to get off the rollercoaster and experience a different kind of ride.
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