How Negative Self-Talk Affects Intimacy with Your Partner

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By Grace Wood, MA

Closeness and intimacy are the joys of your relationship with your partner. That is what we see in romance movies and crave--a sense of closeness. However, we can easily dismantle that joy if we fail to curb the critical, snarky, insulting voice so many of us have in our heads.

That voice can be a constant soundtrack of negative self-talk that runs down your self-perception, self-esteem, and partnership. This can happen so thoroughly that you end up sabotaging yourself, your love, and your libido. Intimacy just doesn’t have a chance in that environment.

To be close to your partner, it’s crucial that you recognize the thoughts that put up walls, turn you away, and skew deep understanding in your relationship.

How many times have you let negative self-talk about your ability to be loved or to be a good partner keep you from reaching out? Do you remember the last time you allowed yourself to be emotionally vulnerable? How long has it been since you were physically uninhibited without a mental wisecrack about your body?

Those kinds of thoughts and inner dialogue soon wear on your ability to shake off insecurity and relax into emotional and physical intimacy.

It’s Important to Remember that You are in Control

Deep down you know you want to be intimate with your partner. You surely want that much more than you want to waste time engaging your inner critic.
Fortunately, you have the power to establish a deep, mutually trusting connection. You simply need to recognize the influence of the negativity and choose your thoughts with more inner love.

What’s the first step? Learn to be present and notice negativity when it is happening.

Pay Attention to How Negative Self-Talk Impacts Intimacy with Your Partner

To get started, consider these common ways your intimate time together may be affected:

#1: Negative Self-Talk is an Attack on Your Desire to be Known, Loved, and Accepted

When you are at your most vulnerable, wanting closeness and tenderness, negative self-talk can take advantage of your emotional tender spots.
It picks at anything and everything that makes you insecure and self-conscious. Soon your lover’s gaze feels uncomfortable. You may not want the light on. Or, your defenses go up about what you’ve shared together.

As a result, you withdraw or pull away, insecure about pursuing anything closer.
Negative self-talk can keep us in our heads, too absorbed in bullying ourselves to notice that we’re attacking intimacy, as well.

#2: Negative Self-Talk Weakens Your Feelings for Your Partner

Negative self-talk isn’t satisfied to stay on its own side of the street. It will attack your choices and eventually your choice of partner. Your own negative thoughts become a dark lens, destroying the positive, loving view you once had of your partner. Over time, you may even notice that you’ve become comfortable saying critical and cynical things to yourself about your partner or their attempts to get close to you.

What negative self-talk do you notice affecting your treatment of your partner? Do you wrestle with persistent thoughts that you need to back away from someone who (1) couldn’t really love you, (2) isn’t serious about your relationship, or (3) probably isn’t who they seem?

Perhaps you withdraw from your partner as your self-talk exaggerates little annoyances and personality differences. Do their flaws become an excuse to resist vulnerability and deeper interaction?

# 3: Negative Self-Talk Attacks Your Love Story

Negativity can get even sneakier and more subversive as it becomes a regular narrative, wedging itself between you and your partner.
You may sabotage your relationship and your desire to be intimate with thoughts that your relationship can’t survive or that it never was as strong a connection as you thought.

A constant stream of this type of thinking robs your union of fun and pleasant togetherness. Without correction, your partner may indeed succumb to the hopeless distance and give up on trying to draw closer.

Changing Your Negative Inner Narrative

It’s time to put your inner bully in its place. Quiet down the mean-spirited drain on your attempts to be intimate, and address the thoughts that drive it.

You have a choice. Choose to change your mind.

Find solid support and guidance from trusted friends and family or seek assistance from a counselor to help you switch the inner negative narrative to a positive one. Then commit to the proactive practice of challenging negativity. With practice, you can ward off negativity and discover the joys of love and intimacy freely again.

You may even find that loving yourself is a wonderful aphrodisiac!


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Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If your inner negative narrative is creating barriers between you and your partner, we can help restore intimacy. Schedule an appointment with Grace by calling (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online at the RCC Austin Scheduling page.