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This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
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Stay Cool and Miss Out on Real Love

cool couple sunglasses

I had an insightful conversation with my fabulous neighbor the other day. She’s in her 70s, beautiful and fascinating. She did not meet her husband (also an incredible and good human) until she was in her 30s. Prior to that she said she spent a lot of time playing it cool with the men she dated. She didn’t want to appear too into them or too dependent. She made an effort to keep things ‘casual’. She lived and dated during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Those decades celebrated sexual and career freedom. We still do. Staying strong and independent feels like the way to go.

Saying I want or need you 

I’ve noticed today most humans have a hard time letting it be known we are into someone. Not just admitting we like someone, admitting another person has become very important to us — we may even need them to make our world feel good, happy and safe. We still find it difficult to express outward enthusiasm about a relationship or a special person. We don’t want to risk being teased or looking dependent. We make efforts to appear self-contained and bravely autonomous.

I know many women who act sassy and flirty, rather than admitting interest. I know men who purposely don’t call a woman for a few days after a date. They don’t want to appear too eager to connect. Both men and women settle for purely sexual relationships because they are too scared to ask for more or will take the sexual contact over no contact at all.Danny from Grease

Distancing protects us

We do a fair amount of distancing to protect our images and hearts.

We spend so much time playing it cool and keeping things casual, we miss out on connecting. Sure, there is the fear of rejection. That is understandable. No one wants their heart stomped on. Exposing the heart leaves us open to incredible pain. But opening our arms and exposing the heart also creates a wide open space for a loved one to crawl in and feel embraced.

Distance feels like loss

I’ve had two female clients tell me they are moving a substantial distance from their boyfriends. The men have been supportive and positive about the moves. One even hinted about visiting and moving to the same city himself. But neither boyfriend said, ” I am having a hard time dealing with you moving away”  or “How does this affect us?” It might not have even risen to their consciousness or they might not have had the language to express such feelings.

Instead, the boyfriends withdrew or experienced anxiety. The gentleman who withdrew would take his girlfriend out on a lovely date and then not call or text for a few days. Withdrawing is a protective action. It is supposed to keep us from feeling more rejection or emotions by limiting our exposure to the source of suffering. Unfortunately, withdrawing usually increases the distress in relationships.

The other man kept to himself but then called his girlfriend when he felt overwhelmed by anxiety. There are many reasons for anxiety but it is possible a portion of this stress was a physiological reaction to what felt like a loss of a nurturing person. Our nervous systems and brains are wired to find relief in relationships.

Vulnerability moves us closer

Both men kept their distance when their vulnerability could have enhanced intimacy. Not that their admissions would have necessarily changed their partner’s move plans, but their admissions could have prompted their girlfriends to provide more reassurance about the long-term prospects of their relationships. Their admissions could have given the women a deeper understanding and empathy regarding their partner’s feelings, thus increasing intimacy.

What the men in these situations don’t know is both women want a secure and consistent relationship with them. They want their man around but don’t want to ask for their companionship or help or attention. They themselves then risk rejection or the possibility that their partner can’t be there for them. They don’t want to burden their partner or scare the man away or make themselves (the women) look needy. God forbid!

If we act cool, we are safe?

boys acting coolSometimes we assume men are tough and can handle our absence. We make such assumptions because that is the message we are often fed. Men need freedom and don’t want a woman around all the time. The truth, according to Laurie Helgoe and her husband Barron, in their book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Boys“, is that from an early age, boys learn a posture of indifference protects them from ridicule and embarrassment. If they remain low-key and don’t stand out, (i.e. act cool, casual), they won’t become an easy target for picking on.

How do we get past cool and into warmth?

So what helps us get past this cool removed posturing and into warm close intimacy? Trust and security.

We have to reach out and not be rejected enough times to allow that cool exterior to melt. We have to know our partner is a kind, considerate person who will do their best to comfort us. They may make mistakes, but the majority of the time they are dependable. They have our best interest at heart. They reassure us instead of worrying us. We do the same for them.

We have to offer praise and appreciation for inherent traits and behaviors of our partner. If we let them know we value them for who they are and what they bring to the relationship, they feel more secure in their worthiness and more able to move closer to connect.couple close touching

Maturity helps

As in my fabulous neighbor and her husband’s case, it helps to have experience and maturity behind you too. The more experience and perspective we have, the easier it is to see the big picture. The more likely we have been exposed to other secure people who have no trouble expressing their feelings or desires. They expect to be treated well and intend to treat others with the same consideration.

My neighbor often mentions the things she loves and values about her husband. She is not afraid to show her dependence on their relationship. Yet, she is uniquely her own person. They have different personalities and different gifts. It seems they are cool in their own ways but also warm in their affection for each other. There’s a loving interdependence I admire and find very cool.


How cool are you in your relationships? Do you keep it casual to protect yourself? Would you like more warmth? 

If you’d like help increasing the intimacy in your relationship, please contact me for relationship coaching



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  1. Ronnie Bellocq November 29, 2018 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Fear of Intimacy,we all have it to some extent.Our greatest need is to love, and be loved.Emotionaly. Nurtured. What if we love and it is not appreciated or returned. Introverts actually have an advantage here. Fewer people that we’re going to tell someone all about us, and risk rejection.
    And, I have a sence of who I can be emotionally intimate with. “I’d rather have friends I love ,than lovers I don’t “Ronnie B.

    • Brenda Knowles December 4, 2018 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      Intimacy and connection wherever you can find it. The quantity is not important. It’s the quality. Sounds like you’ve figured that out.:)

  2. Sue September 1, 2017 at 5:08 am - Reply

    This is an interesting article. But what I find wierd is the fact that people can go to bed with each other before they know each other at all. I am probably hopelessly old fashioned, but I think you should get to know someone and have some feelings for them before doing anything physical. From a woman’s point of view with what is involved, would I let someone I hardly knew literally insert a part of himself into me, I don’t think so. Also considering going to bed often leads to a pregnancy (contraception doesn’t always work, just ask my sister in law who had a baby despite being sterilised and the doctor saying that it was physically impossible for it to happen) why risk having the ‘father’ not be around to help look after it?. It seems strange to me that people can become physically intimate with someone they hardly know, but can’t talk to them.

    • Sue September 4, 2017 at 5:40 am - Reply

      To add more to my post. A woman who I used to work with went out with a man for a few weeks. Of course she was sleeping with him. After a couple of months she realised that he was not the man for her. However by this time she was already pregnant. She kept the child. She still sees the man, but he comes to see his son, not her.

      And also there was a drama series on recently. In the episode description for the second episode it said that “Cathy realises that she is developing feelings for Andy.” She started sleeping with him in episode one, apparently before she had any feelings for him. So I just think, really!

    • Brenda Knowles September 5, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

      I hear what you are saying Sue. I definitely prefer emotional intimacy before physical intimacy, but others are more comfortable or prefer communicating physically at earlier stages. Thanks for sharing your perspective.:)

  3. Jestagurl May 29, 2017 at 12:28 am - Reply

    This was me as a young girl from aged about 8 years to about 28 years.
    I loved being an island, not needing anyone, being super strong and wouldn’t let anyone in. I thought I was safe and smart being that way until one day eating out at a cafe I noticed laughter and joy and asked how could I experience that.

    I watched a few TED talks on Vulnerability and started to implement them in my life. I’m now an ambivert in a traditional relationship with a man’s-man, I have so many friends now with different personalities… a mixture of crazy fun out-there friends and what I call my quiet analyzer friends. All of us exchange words of love often (probably too often where the word of affection sometimes lose their meaning)

    Being open and vulnerable has allowed me such amazing connections and has given me so much pleasure. Had I not had that pang of jealously I would never have changed. Experiencing lust, then falling in love has been the greatest pleasure of all. It’s worth the vulnerability.

    What people sometimes dont know how to do is balance putting someone on a pedestal and being open about their needs. Finding that balance is key.

    • Brenda Knowles May 29, 2017 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story. I love how vulnerability led you to such abundant and eclectic relationships. I found your last paragraph intriguing. Could you explain further what you mean by balancing having someone on a pedestal and being open about their needs. Thank you again for your thoughtful comment. TedTalks are so good!

    • Jestagurl May 29, 2017 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for responding Brenda. It was pretty exciting to get a response from someone I have admired for so long (for your writing).

      To explain my last paragraph ….

      In my experience, putting someone on a pedestal is when we give our partners many compliments about their traits and abilities. We share how wonderful and important they are to us. Sometimes it’s welcomed and a warm bubble is created around you both but sometimes such direct openness creates an imbalance in the relationship where they may take us for granted, view us as less than them or undermine how wonderful the relationship really is. It was my first lesson in dropping my pride, becoming more open to love and acknowledging my boyfriends great qualities. Unfortunately being open and vulnerable backfired on me and he thought he was too good for me.

      In my personal experience, I have found the secret to a successful relationship is 1. find a secure-attachment style personality 2. being open and vulnerable but not too often. In the past if I heard any formula that filters my true thoughts, I would balk at the idea. I’d complain I’m not a game player and refuse to play but over time I realized it’s an attraction dance not a game and the dance is delicious. It uses the mind, the emotions and the body and once you taste it, it’s hard to return back to the cold, strong and indifferent woman I once was. So that’s what I meant by balance.

      Vulnerability, for me, has replaced my indifference and it’s been my biggest strength as a woman.

      • Brenda Knowles May 30, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

        Thank you for clarifying your statement. I’m sorry the one boyfriend did not honor your openness and admiration. I’m thinking about the attraction dance you mentioned. I remember learning from the book, Give and Take by Adam Grant, that givers can be the most successful types if they give with an element of self-interest. Those who give all the time and receive nothing in return become doormats. Those who give but also receive some benefit, are better off. It is good to maintain a little mystery too. I think much of solid relationships comes down to trust. If we can trust our partners with our admiration and vulnerability, then the relationship is much more on solid ground. It sounds like you grew into a more secure attachment type through experience and willingness to learn. Bravo! Much happiness to you!

  4. Michael May 26, 2017 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    We have become very afraid, very cautious, as a people. Expressions of love, appreciation, admiration, respect, gratitude, telling someone how important he or she is to us … these have become much more rare. The reasons are many and complex, and I’m sure I don’t appreciate what most of them are. We play it safe … and risk the greatest joys we could ever know.

    The simple truth is, to the extent that we allow ourselves to be hurt, to the extent we are transparent about who we are … yes, we can get crushed. But the other way that pendulum swings is that we experience the ecstasy and joy and beauty and depth of truly loving someone, and yes, being very, very dependent on that person in our lives.

    We are yin and yang. We are independent … and we are a shell of who we could be when we are all alone. We need no one … and we need someone as though he or she were breath itself. We almost hate ourselves for our contradictions. But we are those contradictions. Jung spoke about these things a lot. Our shadow self. Our dark sides. Our hidden sides.

    We strive so hard to be ‘good’ in this world, we haven’t a clue as to how vast we really are. But the vastness includes ‘the dark,’ the shadow, the not so nice parts.

    Jung said, ‘I don’t want to be a good man; I want to be a whole man.’ Something like that. To get to ‘whole’ is a lifelong journey. Most don’t journey there, or want to journey along with someone who prefers ‘whole’ over ‘good.’ The concept is, to most, it seems, very foreign.

    • Brenda Knowles May 29, 2017 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      Interesting points from Jung. It is very hard to let our darker shadowy truths come out to ourselves and even harder to others. But if we are brave enough, to be vulnerable and show our love, admiration, need, darkness, etc. and we are accepted by another… heaven. If we can be whole and completely accepted by another? Wow! I’m striving for whole, but hope to do some good along the way.:) Thank you Michael.

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