This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship

Dear Neil: I grew up believing I had to be strong. I had a difficult childhood and grew up really fast. I never received the nurturance I needed, but I often took care of other family members. I believed I was very strong, but now I realize I am very guarded. I survived my childhood and have an adult life I am very grateful for. I have a good education, have traveled the world with my job and I have amazing friends. I no longer need to be guarded to protect myself from abusive parents and a rough neighborhood. I was able to succeed in so many areas of my life, but I continue to remain very guarded, and as a result, I cannot have an intimate relationship. I used to think that this was because there were no good men around, but I am now realizing that it is not them, it’s me. It’s not that there are no men who want to date me, I just don’t let my guard down. I want to change this, but I don’t know how.

Can’t let my guard down in New Jersey

Dear New Jersey: “Distant intimacy” is about being in a relationship with a guarded heart. It allows you to keep your emotional armor in place so you don’t get hurt if things don’t work out. You want this much safety because you’re afraid of being rejected, betrayed, abused, controlled or of losing yourself in a relationship—and you’re afraid of repeating your childhood if you aren’t “strong.” Another way of saying that is that being emotionally aloof makes you feel less vulnerable, and therefore stronger. So you aren’t permitting yourself a deep personal investment with men, which gives you the feeling of safety, but not closeness or connection.

The problem is that “intimacy from a distance” isn’t very satisfying, because there is so much less emotion, intensity, passion, engagement and heart. And there is truth to that old adage that says “nothing risked, nothing gained.” A passionate and engaged intimate relationship requires of us that we risk our hearts, thereby giving someone else the power to hurt, betray or reject us.

So what can you do? Plenty, if you’re willing to take the risk. You could, for instance, look at:

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