How Much Intimacy Can You Tolerate?

photo by j. gaddisI used to have my life set up for how much intimacy I could tolerate. For example, I would distract, avoid, and medicate myself, isolate and numb out most of the day. Yet underneath, I longed to connect and have greater intimacy. I just didn’t know how.

When I was in my 20’s, alcohol, extreme sports, and weed were my greatest friends. When I was triggered, I climbed, biked, skied, drank, got high, or I took a nap. Yet, the next day when I sobered up, I never felt any better. I would return to my baseline funk/depression. The underlying issue never got dealt with. I did this for years.  To ask me to stop using drugs or alcohol would have been very threatening for me. It wasn’t until I gained new awareness, tools, and support that I could begin to let go of self-medicating.

The primary healing factor in all of it? Relationship. And, it was all directly proportional to how much intimacy I could tolerate. As I learned to tolerate more emotional connection with myself and others, my friendships changed and deepened over time. I attracted a different kind of woman into my life and I attracted different friends into my life.

For example, if you work a lot in a job that is void of intimacy and deep connection, then come home and watch TV or get on your laptop for the rest of the night, chances are you can’t tolerate much intimacy. This isn’t your fault of course, because our intimacy template was laid down in childhood and we didn’t have a choice about that. The good news is, now you do.

Look around in your life and notice how you’ve got it set up. Is it conducive to relationship and intimacy? Specifically, is there space to really “drop in” with yourself or others? Or have you made it so full, that you “have no time?”

The question is this:

Do you desire more intimacy, community, and connection? Do you want real friends that share about what is really going on under the surface? And, if so, what are you going to do about it, starting now?

Eventually the question changes from “how much intimacy can you tolerate?” to “how much intimacy do you want to sustain and grow?”


  • Chris

    Reply Reply August 20, 2012

    Something about this post didn’t quite sit right with me. I think it is this: while I recognize the truth in your idea that we sometimes structure our lives to avoid intimacy, I can also see it from the opposite perspective. A lot of the behaviors that I and others engage in or have engaged in, in the past (drinking, smoking weed, looking at porn) are, I feel, actually born from a desire for intimacy, or a desire to numb the pain created by the lack of intimacy–not a desire to block intimacy out. Perhaps some people (avoidant attachment style) structure their lives to avoid intimacy, but I think there are millions of others who are craving intimacy and engaging in many of the same behaviors you cite out of the pain of not having it in their lives. Just an alternate perspective–I always enjoy reading your posts.

  • Owen Marcus

    Reply Reply August 21, 2012


    Intimacy continues to be a scary dance partner for me. The better I get at accepting it, the deeper I go only to find the next layer of resistance.

    Realizing that we always will have an approach-avoidance thing with it allowed me to relax.

    One trick I accidentally discovered was the more I became vulnerable the less resistance to intimacy showed up.

    Thanks for the good post.

  • Ken

    Reply Reply September 12, 2012

    I want it. Never had it.
    I know I’m not good at it. Ask my kids. Ask my ex wife.

    But back to step one…
    I don’t even know what the hell the word intimacy means?

    Got a real definition?

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