How to effectively block intimacy with your partner

David Olsen, Ph.D, LCSW

Most couples begin their relationship in a state of bliss, anticipating years of increasing intimacy. The reality, however, is that many couples do not live out that dream. Their initial infatuation and sense of “falling in love” gives way to disillusionment, distance, and sometimes despair. While all couples desire happiness, many do not find it long term.

If you want to quicken your own state of disillusionment and despair, and block intimacy, here are three techniques you might want to try (based on the theory of Carl Jung):

1. Keep your “persona” in place. Think about how you first met your partner. On your first date, you put on your best self: flattering clothes, witty conversation, lots of questions and good listening, and an attempt to be charming. Persona is the version of themselves that most people present on social media… complete with pictures. (No wonder many believe social media promotes narcissism.) While the “persona” does help us get hired, attract others, and impress people…  in the end, it will block intimacy long-term if it remains fixed in our relationships.

Most couple relationships begin with a sense of idealization, which eventually leads to disillusionment (meaning the persona starts to weaken). When the persona weakens, we see that the person we were enamored with has traits that we didn’t originally see. Few disclose while dating, for example, that they are needy, unorganized, terrible with money, call their parents everyday, or really don’t like to talk. All those annoying traits can cause irritation and distance during this phase of disillusionment. Healthy relationships move through disillusionment and toward a more expansive view and greater acceptance of one another: they allow all of us to be seen. Intimacy demands that all of us is seen: not just seen as a “polished persona”. To prevent intimacy, attempt to prop up your persona and demand that your partner bless it.

2. Keep your “shadow” hidden. The shadow is the other side of the persona. Carl Jung talked about the shadow side of us as that which remains hidden from others and often from ourselves as well. It is the self that we do not want anyone to see; often it is the self we fear will result in rejection or abandonment… it is certainly not the self we post on Facebook!

Under a successful looking person, deep insecurity or painful secrets may linger. It might be a sense of shame, deep vulnerability, inadequacy, or other fears and insecurities. Shared with an empathic partner, the result can be deeper intimacy. Kept hidden, the result is always distance and a lack of intimacy. Often in listening to couples, we hear people say to their partners, “I never knew this about you. Why haven’t you shared this before?” This is why the writer and therapist David Schnarch asks if we are brave enough for intimacy. Sharing our shadow selves takes courage, and deep trust in our partner. To block intimacy, keep hiding that shadow side, as you will never be fully seen!

3. Ignore your type (and that of your partner)! Carl Jung described psychological types, which the creators of the Myers-Briggs popularized. These types describe ways of being in the world: extrovert vs introvert, intuitive vs sensation (analytical), thinking vs feeling, and judgment (decisive) vs process. While we know that trying to change our partners never works, we still often attribute intentionality to their actions instead of understanding their personality type. Hoping that your partner will be more intuitive and feeling when their “type” is more sensation (analytical) and thinking oriented, is an exercise in futility. Worse, when we then assume our partner is choosing to not meet our needs, we increase anger and distance. Taking a simple Myers-Briggs test might help you appreciate that your partner is coming at the world, and you, from a different perspective. Personalities do not change, but interactions can. Of course, if you want to block intimacy, working to change your partner’s personality and believing that they are intentionally not giving you what you want is the best way.

Intimacy is not easy and is not for the faint of heart! It will always be blocked by holding on to your persona and being angry when your partner will not “bless” that persona. Keeping the shadow hidden, and not understanding psychological types will also create distance. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more intimate relationship, getting help implementing some of the thoughts of Carl Jung might be very helpful. Having a good couples therapist can help you understand each other and learn different ways of interacting to build intimacy.