Literally, in the bedroom—dogs, children, and technology are the main external “excuses” I hear for lack of intimacy. Metaphorically, the attitudes and behaviors of one or both partners parents, cultural and religious taboos, past sexual experiences (particularly traumatic ones), and self-consciousness/criticism all crowd the room and sow impediments and disappointments. Running all these intruders out is critical to the creation of true intimacy—sexual or otherwise.
Elsewhere in the house, the difficult behaviors of one or both partners, disobedient and uncooperative children, the unreasonable imposition of work demands, the pressure of social obligations, and addiction to alcohol, drugs, and social media all call out for the same solution: BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES “But I have boundaries—its just that no one pays attention to them. They don’t work!” Well then, in actual fact you don’t have boundaries—you have wishful thinking and failed expectations.
There is one essential element that every boundary must have firmly attached to it: CONSEQUENCES THAT WORK Consequences for pets and kids are easier to implement (in theory) than they are for your adult partner. It probably won’t work to shut them outside, take away their phone, or not allow them to use the car. So, what’s the answer? In a loving relationship, this is what the best possible consequences should be for your partner’s behavior that violates your boundaries:
You: “I felt really ___________ (bad, disrespected, sad, foolish, etc,.) when I heard/saw that ____________.” Your partner : (to themself) “ I love this person. I don’t want them to feel that way. I’m not going to do that again”. (out loud) “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel________” Unfortunately there is often a more common common response: The aggrieved person: (to themself) “I’ll fix you. I’ll nag, withdraw, criticize,
shutdown, refuse to have sex, or won’t cooperate in ways that will make your life miserable when you do (or don’t do) that!” That always leads to conflict and resentment for both partners. Learning to set boundaries and create CONSEQUENCES THAT WORK is another one of those essential skills necessary to create and maintain a satisfying and fulfilling relationship. Like any skill it can take commitment, coaching, practice, and discipline. You’ll find it well worth the effort.