Are You Experiencing “Forced Intimacy”?
Forced intimacy is the experience of spending more time with another person than you were prepared for, wanted to, or perhaps is healthy for the relationship. It is also encouraging a dependence on another that the relationship was not prepared for or perhaps even suited for. To some extent, all of us who are cohabitating are experiencing symptoms of forced intimacy.
Anyone cohabitating in the pandemic may be experiencing “forced Intimacy”. Google this term and the first thing that comes up is the daily experience of the disabled. These are folks, usually in wheelchairs, dependent on others and “forced” to build relationships in order to move, eat, live. While many of us in the pandemic have some freedom of movement, many of us are experiencing increased time with the people we live with and none of the other outlets we were dependent on to maintain a sense of balance, recharge our batteries, etc. In this experience, we are getting a taste of what it’s like to spend more time with someone than we are prepared to and depend on them in ways we may not be comfortable with.
Symptoms of this are irritation with other people about the way the leave the kitchen, going to bed resentful of the person you once were in love with, being irrationally angry that they don’t want to do things with you that you know they don’t like- but that you miss the friends you watched football with or shopped with. In fact, forced intimacy is decimating perfectly good marriages even as you read this. Don’t lose hope, there are ways to dismantle this experience that has worked for my clients and will work for you.
The solution is first to start making sure you are recharging your own batteries. Engage in personal practices that make you feel better. This is the first step to taking back personal power. Practices like exercise, prayer meditation, mindfulness, journaling, keeping a gratitude list. These are all going to help unhook you from the dependence on the other person(s) that the pandemic has unconsciously promoted.
The second step is to reach out to friends and family via telephone, video, text. You will have these people back in your life again and nurture that reality by staying in touch. If they are football pals, watch a game on zoom together or text during the game. Shop online with friends. Whatever the activity, find a way to reconnect. NO, it’s not the same as ”real life” YES it is better than not doing it. Exercise together via video, take on goals together and connect daily. Any activity that takes the pressure off of the people you live with will reduce the experience of forced intimacy. These activities will keep hope alive for you and at least partially fill the need that those relationships and activities filled.
Third, get some help. These things alone will help, and if your marriage is really feeling rocky, reach out to a therapist or relationship coach and work on altering your patterns of communication so that you can start to connect again.