The 10 Early Warning Signals
No, it’s not a typo. We really did mean to write IDD rather than ADD. While IDD is a serious and potentially relationship-threatening condition, you won’t find it listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). IDD or Intimacy Deficiency Disorder is a widespread phenomenon that affects vast numbers of couples in America and other industrialized nations.
As the name implies, IDD refers to a deficit of intimacy in a primary relationship. As many couples have learned from their own experience, such a deficit can have profound consequences that can jeopardize the foundation of even long-term partnerships, often leading to deep resentment, apathy, hopelessness, boredom, disinterest, affairs, depression, addictive or compulsive behavior and divorce.
Sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because of it’s tendency to gradually and subtly insinuate itself into relationships, IDD often first shows up as a minor irritant or disappointment that is experienced by one or both partners. If IDD is not acknowledged and addressed promptly, there is a strong likelihood that it will begin to erode the foundation of the relationship and do severe damage to trust, affection, appreciation, and other fundamental qualities that healthy relationships require in order to thrive.
As the name implies, this condition is caused by an inadequate amount of quality connection time in the relationship. While the word “intimacy” is generally associated with sexuality, relationships that are affected by IDD aren’t necessarily lacking in sexual relations. Intimacy isn’t simply an experience that involves sexual or even physical contact. In many cases we’ve found that there can be an abundance of sexual engagement but very little deep emotional connection. While some people continue to maintain the discredited belief that having sex fulfills one’s intimacy needs, this isn’t necessarily the case. Although, sex can provide a pleasurable experience that temporarily distracts both partners from the absence of genuine intimacy, it cannot fulfill the need for emotional closeness that fulfilling relationships require in order to thrive. If one partner cannot experience true intimacy (physical or non-physical) without compulsively sexualizing the connection, over time, the spirit of good will and openheartedness will deteriorate in the relationship.
Marriage researcher, John Gottman, has stated that relationships that are the most at risk are not the ones in which partners tend to have frequent arguments, but rather are those in which differences have not been adequately addressed and appropriate repairs work made that restore trust and support to what he refers to as the “fondness and affection system”. When differences are unresolved, particularly over a long period of time, there is an accumulation of “incompletions”, otherwise known as “unfinished business”. When business is unfinished, it creates a major break in the couple bond.
Although few couples have difficulty in finding reasons for their failure to spend sufficient meaningful time together, these explanations are generally the symptoms rather than the causes of any underlying deficiency in intimate connection. While there is no doubt that most couples are faced with numerous commitments, there may be other compelling factors that influence them to hold emotional intimacy as a low priority.
There can, for example, be resistance to emotional closeness if there is a fear that this experience could activate unresolved issues that might be letter left unspoken, particularly if there is a lack of confidence in the ability to successfully address unresolved issues. There may be a fear of activating a relationship meltdown, or resistance to the states of the vulnerability and openness that intimate connections involve, or an unwillingness to risk jeopardizing the current homeostasis or balance of the relationship.
By the time the symptoms of neglect to the relationship have outwardly shown themselves, the damage can be extensive. The notion that no news is good news does not apply here. Just because there aren’t complaints being voiced, it doesn’t mean that a relationship is healthy and thriving. By the time symptoms of relationship erosion are apparent, substantive damage may have already occurred. If there is a timely response to the warning signs of neglect, it’s possible to avert a potentially destructive breakdown.
Here are a few of the symptoms to be on the alert for:
- A noticeable diminishment in the frequency and or enjoyment of sexual relations.
- Preferring to spend a greater amount of time alone or with others, rather than with your partner.
- A diminishment or disappearance of daily rituals like good night kisses, affectionate touch or hugs during the day.
- Taking your partner for granted and not acknowledging them for simple acts of kindness and generosity.
- Finding yourself feeling excessively critical and judgmental of your partner.
- A pervasive sense of grievance and an unwillingness to express your concerns to your partner.
- Frequently finding reasons and justifications to excuse disrespectful words or actions on the part of your partner.
- Feeling increasingly disinclined to give affection and care to your partner.
- Withholding feelings that are relevant to the relationship such as disappointment, resentment, appreciation, or gratitude.
- Frequently talking to others about relationship problems rather than expressing them directly to your partner
The earlier you detect and respond to these indicators, the sooner you can restore a higher level of good will and good faith back into your relationship.
Part two of this blog will identify the steps that couples can take to repair the damage that may have been caused by IDD and describe how this crisis can ultimately be the source of motivation and intentionality to co-create a relationship that exceeds each partner’s initial hopes and expectations. Stay tuned!