Monday, May 28, 2007

When is a Spouse Avoiding Intimacy?

Comments to the last posting have stirred up an interesting discussion...

Tom Allen wrote:
For the longest time - like, for about 10 years of our marriage - Mrs. Edge was on all sorts of committees, worked full time, did all sorts of baking and stuff. Her friends used to call her "the next Martha Stewart". I used to call her "June Cleaver on Steroids."

It took a long time to figure out that she was doing most of this as a substitute for intimacy.

This brought reactions of skepticism from Cat:
...I am just curious did your wife admit to you that she was doing most of it as a substitute for intimacy? Does it still have to be either or. If a wife is interested in those things she isn't interested in intimacy or her husband? Is it outside of the realm of possibility to be Martha on steroids and genuinely enjoy it?

and the Drunken Housewife:
As a stay-at-home mommy, I'm a mix of over-achiever and lazy slob. My daughters each have beautiful quilts I made them on their beds, which were huge projects. I make them the best Halloween costumes I've ever seen. And my cooking... I'm the best non-professional cook anyone will ever meet...

I don't do that stuff to avoid intimacy with my husband.

I suspect that this area could slide quite easily into overgeneralizations, so it might be worth backing up a bit and asking Tom to clarify what events led him to his conclusion.

I don't think that passionate dedication to kids or a cause is necessarily an intimacy dodge, but it certainly can be used that way, much in the same way that husbands use long hours at work or sports to stay away from their wives.

I can't articulate any criterion, other than outright disclosure by the avoider, that could be used to identify this unambiguously. But based on my own experiences, I think that there are some implicit indicators.

  1. The degree of involvement in the avoidance activity is so deep that it results in the routine neglect of prior key division of labor commitments.

  2. The avoider seldom initiates intimate activity.

  3. The avoider is not fully engaged during intimate moments.

  4. The avoider uses shame, hostility, and denial when the partner tries to have a discussion on intimacy

I'm sure Digger Jones could probably work this in with his studies of the low libido personality.
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