How Do You Put Intimacy into an Intimate Relationship?

I followed your advice; dated a guy I normally wouldn’t have considered, let it slide when there wasn’t any chemistry, let him pick up the check, waited over a month to have sex, and stayed in the easy relationship where we never fight. Now I have a boyfriend, so I should be happy right? 

Unfortunately, my relationships with my coworkers are still more gratifying than the relationship with my boyfriend. At work we’re the same age, same station in life, and after sharing the same workspace for 14 years there has been a lot of over sharing on Margarita Wednesdays. I assumed the lack of intimacy with my BF traced its roots to the comparatively short time we’ve been together or because I was used to conversing with girlfriends. After all, you frequently point out that our girlfriends are not our boyfriends.

This summer, a new project had me in the archives for 2 hours every day. After 3 weeks the archivist followed me on Twitter and I followed him back. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly 2 years and he still hasn’t followed me on Twitter. At the Museum’s Ice Cream Social, the archivist eagerly introduces me to his wife and kids. My BF declined to attend. The archivist and I can comfortably discuss many things; whether antiquities should be repatriated, what to do with confederate monuments, etc. Now, my relationship with the archivist is just as satisfying as my relationships with the girls upstairs.

I tried discussing my feelings with my BF, but he insists everything is great and pointed out that we don’t fight. (We also haven’t had sex since April & before that were down to once a month.) We have 15 min. phone conversations most nights. He usually texts once or twice in the morning, so he’s doing BF things. I just don’t understand how I was able to develop a relationship so quickly with someone at work, but have yet to develop any feelings of intimacy after 2 years of dating. How do you put intimacy into an intimate relationship? 

Bunny

Dear Bunny,

First, let’s start by decoupling “my advice” from your perception of my advice.

“I followed your advice; dated a guy I normally wouldn’t have considered, let it slide when there wasn’t any chemistry, let him pick up the check, waited over a month to have sex, and stayed in the easy relationship where we never fight. Now I have a boyfriend, so I should be happy right?”

Yes, I think it’s good to have a man court you – call, plan, pay, and earn the right to become your sexually exclusive boyfriend. And look – you got a boyfriend!

However, to be crystal clear, I have never ever EVER said to “let it slide if there wasn’t any chemistry.”

I said a good relationship often has a 7 in chemistry and a 10 in compatibility; just don’t hold out for a 10 in both.

Similarly, while I believe good relationships should be easy, that doesn’t mean one should be in an easy relationship that doesn’t make you happy – which is what your relationship sounds like to me.

The reason to exit your relationship swiftly is because it does not make you happy.

In other words, you seem to be caught in the logical weeds of what I teach in Love U.

Maybe it’s because you’ve just read intermittent blog posts instead of taking the course, but I’m sincerely sorry that you feel I’ve led you down the wrong path.

Please allow me to lead you back out.

You and your boyfriend are not a good fit. Period.

Not because he doesn’t follow you on Twitter. (My wife doesn’t follow me on Twitter.)

Not because he didn’t want to attend your ice cream social. (Not everyone is an extrovert.)

Not because he thinks your relationship is great. (It’s good to have a satisfied boyfriend.)

Not even because your sex life has dwindled. (Although it is problematic, it can theoretically be improved with mutual commitment.)

The reason to exit your relationship swiftly is because it does not make you happy.

Your boyfriend may be a good person, but he has shown no sign of communicating at a level that satisfies you. Instead of worrying about assigning blame to him (for being content with 15 minutes of connection per day) or me (for telling you to give different guys a shot), how about you listen to your heart and stop this charade after 2 years?

It’s not your job to “put intimacy” into an intimate relationship (although there are things that can be done with the right kind of guy); it’s your job to find a guy who organically does the things that your co-workers do. You shouldn’t have to settle for less.

And for the rest of our readers, if this topic – Intimacy, or the lack thereof –strikes a chord, I’ve just released an hour-long masterclass Q&A on the subject.

In it, I answer my clients most pressing questions on the subject.

Jessica is more comfortable in her single life with her work and her dogs, and wonders why it’s so hard to stay vulnerable to potentially disappearing men.

Lynne, a widow, muses whether older men with lots of baggage are even capable of intimacy.

Jennifer struggles with men’s desire for quick physical intimacy before there’s emotional intimacy.

Katehad a boyfriend who claimed to want total transparency but freaked out whenever she told him the truth about her past.

I want to help you create the most intimate, authentic relationship on the planet and you can only do that if you have the capacity to accept him in full.

And if you’re in a relationship like Bunny, where technically you have a boyfriend, but you don’t get the joy and benefits of being in a relationship (emotionally and sexually), you HAVE to listen to this recorded FOCUS Coaching call on Intimacy.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Emily, the original

    The OP mentions the intimacy she feels with her co-workers, but often that intimacy is situational. You’re in the same place all day long, working on the same projects and understanding the lingo. But were she to leave the job, those friendships would probably not continue. Unless you have established a friendship with a co-worker outside of work, one that doesn’t always reference work, work friendships don’t often last past the job.

  2. 2
    Clare

    I laughed at “After 3 weeks the archivist followed me on Twitter and I followed him back. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly 2 years and he still hasn’t followed me on Twitter.”

    I don’t even have Twitter, so my relationships must all be doomed. Honestly this is such a minor thing, but I think it’s symptomatic of her general dissatisfaction in the relationship. I’m actually not sure how she has stayed in a relationship for 2 years where there is very little connection and no intimacy (and no sex since April? Lord alive!). I battle to make it past 2 dates with such a person.

    Having a boyfriend is nice of course, but having a relationship where you don’t connect is soul-destroying. And it’s perfectly true what Evan says: there are plenty of good guys where there’s nothing wrong with them, but they do not communicate at a level which satisfies you. I meet these guys all the time. My ex-husband was one of them.

    Of course what Emily says is true too. The friendships with these co-workers is probably not better than the OP’s relationship with her boyfriend, it’s simply that they have short, intense connections and they share a lot of common experiences, and there are a lot of them, so she has a lot to draw on with them. With the boyfriend, there’s only one of him, and she probably spends a lot more one on one time with him, so there’s a lot of pressure on the poor guy if she’s going to be comparing him to her co-workers.

    That said, the OP needs to leave this relationship. She seems to be suffering from the same kind of guilt that I feel when I’m with a guy who is treating me well and doing everything right, but I just don’t enjoy being around him all that much or feel the closeness and intimacy that I wan’t to feel. You feel like you need to have a good reason to break up, as if the guy needs to have done something wrong. But of course, not feeling happy and connected is a good reason. There have been numerous guys I can think of from my past who were very stable, consistent, kind guys who adored me… who were often good looking and had good jobs etc. as well. But I felt drained in their presence, as if I was putting in all the depth and excitement and connection, and getting nothing back in return.

    1. 2.1
      Bunny

      Clare,
      You and Emily either missed my point, or I didn’t articulate it well enough. The problem was not a specific event or twitter. I could just as easily have said, “The archivist brought his wife to my reading (true) but my BF has never attended any of my readings (also true.)” Here, the problem, as I see it, was that the archivist was doing two things that my BF was not:
      1) Showing interest in my life.
      2) Demonstrating a willingness to share his life with me.

      In the two years I’ve been with this guy I’ve learned that the following topics are taboo: religion, politics, my hobbies, my feelings, my family, and my friends. Work is a safe topic, and of course allowing him to yammer on about himself is always acceptable. I feel more like a status symbol than a person when I’m with him.

      OK–so granted there is nothing here for me. BUT, that begs a larger question, “How do you leave?”

      As women we are told NEVER to discuss our relationships with family and friends because it erodes trust. (That’s why I’m blabbing anonymously to a blog.) So, when you want to leave a relationship, everyone says what a great couple you were and does everything they can to keep you together. Do you just come right out and say, “Well, I don’t know why he thinks the relationship is so great. We haven’t had sex since April. I tried spicing things up Easter Sunday and bought a Bunny suit: ears, thigh-highs, gloves, teddy, tail, the works. For my trouble I got a 90 min lecture on why my behavior was sacrilegious, then sent home. I’d just rather be with someone who isn’t interested in weaponizing sex and, just maybe, is a tiny bit interested in me.”

      1. 2.1.1
        Marika

        Bunny

        It sounds like you’re asking for permission to leave him? Permission granted. I think you made the case very well for why it’s not working and why it’s time to move on.

      2. 2.1.2
        Emily, the original

        Bunny,
        In the two years I’ve been with this guy I’ve learned that the following topics are taboo: religion, politics, my hobbies, my feelings, my family, and my friends. Work is a safe topic, and of course allowing him to yammer on about himself is always acceptable. I feel more like a status symbol than a person when I’m with him.
        You’re not feeling heard in this relationship. Is he shallow emotionally and just never wants to hear anything bad? That it always has to be “happy talk”?
        As women we are told NEVER to discuss our relationships with family and friends because it erodes trust.
        I’ve never heard that. You need friends to talk things out with. Blab away. Just make sure it is someone who can keep his/her mouth shut about your personal business.

         Do you just come right out and say, “Well, I don’t know why he thinks the relationship is so great. We haven’t had sex since April. 

        Unless it’s someone close to you, you don’t owe them an explanation. “We weren’t well suited” is perfectly sufficient. Certainly, worrying about what you tell people about the breakup should be low priority. Caring for yourself emotionally as you get away from this guy should be top priority.

      3. 2.1.3
        Mrs Happy

        Dear Bunny,

        How do you leave a relationship?  Well you have asked the right group of people and I suspect advice will come flooding now.

        And who refrains from discussing relationships with friends?  Relationship details are a girls’ night out topic of choice.  Ignore the controlling person who told you not to discuss important relationship issues with those close to you.

        To leave, you calmly say to your partner,

        “this isn’t working for me.  All the best. Bye.  Cheers.”

        If he asks for specifics, politely give him those you feel comfortable discussing – “you never want to talk about things important to me, and the sex isn’t frequent/good enough” would be my personal starters, but I’m a bit too blunt.

        You say to close friends,

        “The sex was non-existent, he never wanted to talk about anything other than himself or work, we were not at all emotionally close, and I’m over it, and off to find someone with whom I connect better.”

        Never in my life have I stayed in a romantic relationship because of what others may say or think.  Good grief.  Who cares about others – it’s your life.  Go find a man who will be all over you in your bunny suit, I’m sure there are plenty out there.

      4. 2.1.4
        Clare

        Bunny,

        As to the Twitter aspect: I understood your original point perfectly. Which is why I said, “I think it’s symptomatic of her general dissatisfaction in the relationship.” I was simply being flippant and sending up the importance which couples give social media in their relationships which I, frankly, think is absurd. I understand completely that it’s about the level of interest he shows in your life.

        Secondly, you don’t need your family and friends’ permission (or help) to break up with your boyfriend. You don’t need their approval, agreement, support, or anything else to make it easier for you. You just do it. You are the one who has to be in a relationship with him, not them. Hence, you get to make 100% of the decision. They may try to talk you out of it, they may not like it, but hey, that’s life. As an adult, our family and friends will not always agree with the decisions we make. But does that mean we should spend a lifetime stuck in situations that makes us unhappy just to please them? Hell no.

        Finally, who on earth told you that you should stick it out with a man with whom you cannot discuss religion, politics, your hobbies, your feelings, your family, and your friends, and who doesn’t want to have sex with you? You don’t need to justify your decision to strangers on the internet or make some larger moral argument that he is “weaponizing sex” to your family and friends. You just have to dump him.

        As to how? ” ____(insert name here)___, I want to thank you for the time we’ve spent together. But this relationship isn’t working for me. I want more than you are willing or able to give. I need to go out and find someone who makes me happy, and I would love for you to do the same.”

        Then you give him a hug, you pack up your things, and you leave.

      5. 2.1.5
        Nissa

        How do you leave? Stop calling. Stop going to his house. Stop answering the phone when he calls. Change your FB status. In short, just do it.

        The problem here is not this guy. It’s you. You continue ponder how to break it to people. Say nothing, behave differently, and everyone will figure it out.

  3. 3
    Noquay

    If something is an issue with you, no amount of forcing yourself to overlook it is going to work. It doesn’t matter if most may consider the issue shallow or frivolous, if you’ve tried to date a type you really don’t care for, the rship is doomed to failure. The OP needs to bail and find someone that works for her, regardless of how rare that person may be.

    Interesting comments by original Emily regarding colleagues; was thinking about this very subject as I am now one of our campus exiles. Many of us have left over the years, attrition was always a major issue. We still stay in touch, although many are scattered across the country; those that remained here comprise  most of my circle of friends. Maybe because we’re highly educated folk isolated in an uneducated town.

  4. 4
    Emily, the original

    Noquay,those that remained here comprise  most of my circle of friends. Maybe because we’re highly educated folk isolated in an uneducated town.It’s good to hear someone’s experience is different than mine. If you don’t mind me asking, are your colleagues married and male? 

    1. 4.1
      Noquay

      Emily

      My colleagues were a mix; male, female, married/partnered and single. Socialized a lot with one married male colleague and his family until they left this summer. My circle of live friends here are almost all ex colleagues who chose to leave the college (like myself), are mostly a bit older than I, an equal mix of single and married. If you include keeping in touch remotely, the campus expat community is all over the map, the common denominators being we’re educated, engaged in world events, and chose to leave the campus and area, and represented the traditional academic fields.

      1. 4.1.1
        Emily, the original

        Noquay,

        My colleagues were a mix; male, female, married/partnered and single.

        Oh, ok. Most of the people I was friends with at my last job were married men. It would be a bit weird to have them texting me as the likelihood that I will ever visit the town I recently moved from is low and I would probably not socialize with them one-on-one and have never met their wives.

        1. Noquay

          When I worked solely in research my situation with colleagues was very close to what you describe. Overwhelmingly male (STEM fields in the ‘80’s) but even female colleagues tended to be married and doing the family thing, so we had little common ground. I was also getting into distance running then which made me an even greater outlier.

        2. Emily, the original

          noquay,

          When I worked solely in research my situation with colleagues was very close to what you describe. Overwhelmingly male

          I was keeping up with one of my former male colleagues,  but after a few months he came on to me. When I didn’t take up the offer, I never heard from him again. (That surprised me because I have another male friend who I turned down years ago, and we’re still friends.) I have contact information for some of my other former male colleagues, but I’ve been hesitant to contact them for fear of that happening again.

  5. 5
    Jeremy

    I kind of wish that people would stop using the word “intimacy.”  Because it’s one of those words, like “love”, that means different things to different people in different contexts.  Bunny wonders how to put intimacy into intimate relationships, and the question demonstrates a lack of understanding of what relationships need in order to thrive.  You need 3 things:  The first is commonly called “connection,” but to avoid misunderstandings just call it “friendship.”  The person needs to be someone you’d be friends with if you weren’t in a relationship with him.  FRIENDS.  Not your admirer or follower. The second thing is chemistry – no definition required here.  You have to want to kiss him, have sex with him.  If you don’t feel at least a 7 out of 10 in chemistry, don’t bother – but understand what 7 means.  A 5 means someone who neither attracts nor repulses you.  Ambivalence.  A 6 is someone who is mildly attractive to you – who definitely doesn’t repulse you, but doesn’t draw strong feelings.  A 7 is considerably better than ambivalent – you definitely would be fine with kissing and having sex, and are attracted, though perhaps not with wild abandon.  8 and above are so attractive to you that they perhaps cloud your judgment with the desire to have sex.  7 and up is what you want.  Finally, you need compatibility.  This does not mean how well you laugh together or finish each other’s sentences.  It doesn’t mean that he has a life mission that you admire.  It means that your values are in sync with each other.  That if you had kids together, you’d be in sync with how to raise them.  If you won a million dollars, you’d agree on how to spend it.  If you lost your job, you’d agree on how to proceed.  That’s what compatibility means.  The reason I’ve written this long-winded diatribe here, Bunny, is because it’s important that you (and readers) understand what makes a successful relationship (and what doesn’t).  If you don’t feel attracted, don’t bother – tripods missing one leg don’t stand up well.  If you don’t feel connection/friendship, same deal.  When you ask “how to add intimacy to intimate relationships,” what you are asking is how to add friendship and chemistry to romantic relationships that lack them.  And while there is indeed an answer to that question for marriages where these things have faded, the answer in short-term relationships is that you don’t.

    1. 5.2
      Adrian

      Hi Jeremy,

      I LOVED THIS! 

      Would you mind breaking down numerically the different levels of compatibility and  Connection like you did with the chemistry?

      I know a lot of the female commentors hate scales but for me it’s a very helpful, simplistic way to quickly summarize something.

      Also from the brief explanations you gave of the 3 C’s above (connection, compatibility, and chemistry) are they for the most part gender neutral or would their be slight differences depending on if the person rating is a man or woman?

    2. 5.3
      Emily, the original

      Jeremy,

      And if you could speak to the idea of needing a 7 level chemistry. You’ve written before that women lose interest in sex with their husbands because they don’t feel a visceral attraction, but a level 7 chemistry (at least how I interpret what you’ve written) isn’t a visceral attraction. It’s a “I think you’re attractive and the strong connection and compatibility round out the package” kind of attraction. I’m assuming, then, with a 7 level chemistry, the connection and compatibility need to be an 8 or above.

        1. Emily, the original

          I ask Jeremy for advice because it’s free. I do not make the kind of money your clients do. In fact, if I told you how little I earn, you would laugh. (But I do own “Why He Disappeared.”)

    3. 5.4
      Clare

      Jeremy,

      Great post, and one that I personally found very helpful 🙂

      A combination of the area that I live in (which seems to have more men than women, particularly single men) and who I am (I’m an attractive 30 something petite blonde, clever, and a good date) means that I am honestly spoilt for choice for quality guys to date.

      I don’t say this flippantly; if I go on Tinder, there are any number of good looking, age-appropriate, successful, gentlemanly guys, and it’s quite overwhelming. The biggest dating dilemma I face is not, where are all the quality guys? But rather, how and whom do I choose? Who do I say no to? I hate how arrogant that sounds, but I’m being frank.

      Sometimes it’s obvious, and you feel a connection with someone, a spark, and you feel that you will gel well with them, so you’re excited to see where it goes.

      Other times, you just feel a little bit above “meh.” What you in your post described as a 5 or 6. You wonder if you should continue with the relationship. But I tend to be with you, Jeremy, that if someone is below a 7 on chemistry, you’re probably better off letting them go.

      Anyway, your description of the what a “5” and “6” are was very helpful.

    4. 5.5
      Tron Swanson

      Hmm, perhaps that’s my issue: I’ve never been much of a “friends” person, and I’ve never met anyone that I’m particularly compatible with. I’ve only ever had chemistry, and maybe half of one of the other two.

    5. 5.6
      Noquay

      Jeremy

      Extremely well put.

    6. 5.7
      SSJ4Gogeta

      Sounds good. Well put.

      I guess this what people really mean when they say it takes a lot of work and putting yourself out there to find the person that is right for you.

      I reckon I would struggle a lot of the last two C’s. But then I would guess if one is really struggling with the last two, you either have a lot of self improvement to do or just accept that relationships aren’t for you.

      I feel the first C is easy enough for most to achieve, maybe not so often achieved with the other two.

  6. 6
    Yet Another Guy

    @Evan

    This letter is so bizarre that I am finding it to be difficult to think of anything to write.  That is a first. The guy is obviously getting what he desires from the LW; otherwise, he would move on.  What we have here is a full-blown comfort relationship.   A lot of marriages are comfort marriages, but they usually do not start out as comfort relationships.  The LW does need to walk away.

  7. 7
    Bunny

    What I find interesting is that Jeremy and Email, the original assume it was I who lost interest in sex.  That is not the case.  I stopped asking because I got tired of being turned down.

    1. 7.1
      Emily, the original

      Bunny,

      I didn’t write anything about you losing interest in sex.

    2. 7.2
      Jeremy

      No such assumption was made, Bunny.  What I wrote is that relationships need a certain amount of chemistry, friendship, and compatibility.  It sounds like yours has neither chemistry nor friendship.  There’s no point faking a relationship just to say you have a boyfriend and impress your family, especially when that relationship makes you miserable.

       

      There will be many readers here who won’t understand your paragraph above where you worry about the judgment of your family (and BF) when you end the relationship.  They will ask you why you’re so concerned with what everyone else thinks.  But there’s a whole subset of personalities who do just about everything based on what others think – values derived from the external, values so internalized that the self no longer knows what it wants organically, only what it is supposed to want.  I’ve spent over a decade trying to convince one such personality that it’s ok not to be so concerned with what everyone else thinks.  Futile because while she knows this to be true intellectually, she just can’t internalize or apply it.  It’s just not who she is, not her personality.

       

      So instead of advising you to ignore what others will think of your decision to leave the BF who is wrong for you, I’d advise you to do 2 things instead.  First, come up with a script for your explanation – something like “It might have seemed that we were great for each other from the outside, but on the inside I was miserable.”  And second, make a list of all the things you’re worried about hearing, and give yourself a certain number of points each time you hear them.  Something like 5 points for each “You know, you’re not getting any younger,” 10 points for each “What, did you want a prince?” And 15 points for each “If you’re too picky you’ll end up an old maid.”  Every 50 points, treat yourself to something special like an hour at the spa.  Makes you stop dreading the statements you fear, and actually start finding them funny.  And remember, for your next relationship, what makes relationships work.  If it wasn’t clear from what was written here, hire Evan and he’ll walk you through it so as to avoid misunderstandings like the one that cost you 2 years.

    3. 7.3
      Mrs Happy

      Dear Bunny,

      Write anything about sex on this blog and people’s assumptions about your life will be strong enough to bounce across wide brown lands and over oceans.

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