6 Tips for Coping With an Intimacy Avoidant Spouse

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Cuddles. Who doesn’t love cuddles? Memes aside, it’s not this simple. Intimacy is defined uniquely by each person. Analyzing how we express intimacy is an even deeper dive.

So what happens if opposites do actually attract? What if a cuddle bug matches up with an intimacy avoidant spouse?

What is Intimacy?

Yes, this is a trick question. In a superficial sense, many view intimacy from a physical or, even porn-addled eyes. If so, it’s all about performing certain sexual acts. In reality, of course, we all know that intimacy is a feeling more than anything else. It is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Just as importantly, intimacy doesn’t need to be seen as a spectrum. It’s not as if one needs to compare acts as diverse as cuddling and intercourse. So, it’s crucial for individuals to contemplate what feels intimate for them. Next, we communicate with partners or potential partners about our needs, wants, desires, and boundaries.

The goal isn’t 100 percent compatibility (if such a thing exists) but, of course, there should be some overlap blended with a fair amount of flexibility.

Who is An Intimacy Avoidant Spouse?

Let’s begin with clarification. Intimacy avoidance is not “wrong.” In fact, it’s not rare. Some studies find as many as 1 in 5 adults are intimacy avoidant. Within that population, specifics vary widely. For example:

  • The spouse who is so dedicated to career or child-rearing that they never have time or energy to give to their intimate life.

  • Those who have become more “intimate” with their devices than any live human. This could mean distractions like social media or video games and also, intimacy “replacements” like pornography.

  • Some folks date but avoid commitment (and the increasing intimacy that comes with it).

  • Others are sexually active in a casual sense. They seek physical gratification without intimacy.

  • In dysfunctional situations, one partner may be abusive or an addict of some kind.

  • Then, of course, you have people who experience intense shyness and social anxiety. They may, in theory, want intimacy but in practice, they avoid it at all costs.

While the variations are endless, the causes are more obvious. Most adults with an intimacy avoidant issue experienced childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect. Even in non-abusive homes, a child can indirectly learn lessons that contribute to their future attachment style.

6 Tips for Coping with An Intimacy Avoidant Spouse

1. Don’t Take it Personally

This may sound impossible. It may feel impossible. But it’s not you. It’s them. The person you love behaves in a way that can feel hurtful but they do it with everyone. Removing the personal aspect may make room for deeper exploration.

2. Accept Differences

Outside of abuse, there is no single way to be intimate. Accept this rather than trying to change or fix someone else.

3. Don’t Chase or Pressure

Your partner has set boundaries. Respect them. Ask for communication and growth but do not pressure.

4. Focus on What You Need Rather Than Complaining

If you complain about what you’re not getting, an ugly cycle may commence. Instead, try articulating what it is you need and why in terms of intimacy.

5. Try Working on Mutual Growth

Is there a happy medium? If so, how can you both move in that direction? These are likely questions to address in couples counseling.

Don’t Be Therapy Avoidant

As touched on above, you probably need to seek outside help. It is important for you both to recognize and accept your differences. This is best done with a professional guide. In addition, the intimacy avoidant spouse may choose individual therapy to help identify and explore the childhood factors that led to this stalemate. Either way, ask for help. Seeking help is not a weakness; it is a strength.