1. Do you spend time alone on a regular basis? When you are alone, are you comfortable or do you get anxious?
2. When your partner wants to spend time alone, do you feel rejected, scared or unloved?
3. Do you get jealous or upset when your partner spends time with other friends or family members?
4. Are you afraid that when your partner is out of sight, you are no longer in his or her thoughts?
Autonomy is the Foundation of Intimacy
If you are puzzled about what autonomy has to do with the capacity to be alone then keep reading. Autonomy gives us the ability to make choices according to our own free will. Without it, we feel like victims. If you cannot tolerate being alone, then you will choose to spend time with anyone but yourself. You will sacrifice your autonomy, your very sense of personal freedom, in order to feel connected.
If you feel that you cannot survive being alone, then fear will be in the driver’s seat. When run by fear, people choose partners who aren’t good for them (or are even dangerous) just to avoid being alone or rejected. On the other hand, if you know that you can be alone—and take care of your own needs—then you can risk being the unique individual that you are. You are able to let your partner come and go, both physically and emotionally instead of desperately clinging on for dear life.
The Balance Between Closeness and Distance
Most people value their relationships above everything else. Half of my clients come to therapy longing to find a healthy relationship, and the other half seeking to improve an already existing one. We are, by nature, social animals. But living in close quarters with family members is anything but easy. Part of what makes the dance of relationship so difficult is the ongoing tension between closeness and distance, connection and autonomy.
Unfortunately, too many people fall prey to the myth that intimacy is only about connection. Authentic connection is a big part of it, of course, since …