Running from Intimacy
Do You Run From Intimacy?
The way we relate in intimacy is largely determined in our early years of development – the first 18 months of life.
While these patterns of relating are established early on in life they can be changed once we are aware of them.
So how do you know if you’re a runner?
You’re likely to follow these types of behavioural patterns in relationship:
• Struggle to commit
• Overwhelm and suffocation arise
• You listen and take action to the voices that say its not right – even when it felt great yesterday
• Spending long periods of time out of intimate relationship
Underneath these behavioural patterns is a nervous system that doesn’t feel safe when sharing intimacy with another.
Based on formative experiences there are often fears of:
• Loss of control
• Loss of identity
• Loss of self
The early experiences of being close with another resulted in loss, pain, and suffering.
And that as a child you couldn’t change your circumstances as you were dependent upon your care givers for your survival, so rather than change them you needed to change yourself through changes in your behaviour.
Yet beneath the changed behaviour is a nervous system that didn’t get the chance to play out its responses fully – so we end up with patterns of fight, flight and freeze looping, along with corresponding stress hormones, in our bodies.
When we enter intimate relationships we take with us the unresolved nervous system and emotional patterns.
With those of us with a pattern of running in relationship – also known as avoidance – we have a nervous system that’s in dire need to complete the mechanism of flight – but we use our relationships as a place to play this out.
• Always running away.
• Always ending things.
• Feeler safer on our own.
• And perhaps questioning if intimacy is really for us.
• Even convincing ourselves that we’re better off on our own.
Yet to be human is to be close to another.
• Our bodies need safe touch.
• We need to be seen by another with kind eyes.
• To hear vocal tones that soothe.
• To share meals together.
• To be in rhythmic connection with another – resting a head on a chest to hear a heartbeat.
So we may reach a point in life where we recognise that to run is to face more loss than to stay.
And what do we do about that?
In some ways its simple.
The nervous system is longing for successful completion of the flight response – so we need to give it conscious experiences of ‘running away’.
This may look like:
• Physically running
• Imagining you’re running – the nervous system doesn’t know the difference between the imagined and the real
Knowing this is your pattern and being willing to communicate this in relationship is crucial.
Things you can say to your partner.
• ‘I’m feeling overwhelmed in this moment and my body need to know it can get away from this – I’m going to picture myself running far away until my body feels safe again.’
• ‘I’m feeling trapped right now – I need to take some space – my body needs to run this off.’
• ‘I know I said we’d meet up tonight but part of me feels unsafe and I know if I go running that feeling will subside.’
As you give your body more opportunities to physiologically get away – you’ll have less need to permanently exit your relationship and the quality of your experience of intimacy will radically change – for the better.