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A Look at Men and Intimacy


Barriers exist that keep men from living their most authentic lives. One of those barriers is the idea that “real men” don’t have problems with intimacy. But many men struggle with intimacy and being true to themselves.

Ed Tilton, Chief Operating Officer at Begin Again Institute, sat down with Tom Gentry on the “Men Who Talk” podcast to discuss what intimacy is, why it matters, and how this topic is relevant to modern men and the people who love them.

Men and Intimacy

Intimacy is a closeness with another person. To deepen intimacy, it’s essential to talk about your feelings. Unfortunately, manhood as culturally defined discourages men from talking about emotions. Instead, when men hurt, people don’t want to hear about how they feel because it makes them seem “less manly.”

Sometimes men want to talk about their feelings, but they just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Men should stop denying and start discussing their feelings to be healthier.

Ed said men come to Begin Again Institute to get treatment for their sex addiction and intimacy issues and arrive with what he calls “emotional dyslexia.”

“There’s no connection between their head and their heart,” he said.

A lot of that disconnect, Ed claims, is the result of service to the patriarchy.

“It’s the idea that I’m going to numb that aspect of you that could be problematic to the bigger picture, and you have to conform to a certain way of being. You have to provide in a certain way. You have to love in a certain way. If it doesn’t fit, then you have to discard it.”

According to Ed, encouraging men to discuss their feelings is a big part of what happens at Begin Again Institute.

“We use different interventions to be able to help them really connect with that authentic self that is able to feel,” he said. “That’s how we’re able to help them develop empathy for those they’ve harmed along the journey with their addiction.”

How Intimacy Develops

Much of the way men approach intimacy develops during their first relationships, which typically are with their parents. That’s when people learn how to form attachments to others.

Men with addiction typically fall into one of two categories, Ed summarized. They either grew up in relationships where their parents withheld emotions or emotions were so overexpressed that they were abusive. In both environments, men learn to suppress their feelings and think of them as wrong.

Ed shared that men learn they have to get their needs met themselves because no one else is coming to help them.

“We start to get this understanding that people aren’t going to come. People aren’t going to care,” he said. “If I’m sad, people aren’t going to care. If I’m worried or anxious, people aren’t going to care. So, I need to take care of that myself.”

Some men take care of themselves and cope with past trauma through maladaptive behaviors that become addictions. Part of healing is understanding the relationship between sex addiction and trauma.

“The thing about trauma is that it has no timeline,” Ed said. “We start to really see how those traumas impact us.”

Lingering Trauma

Men carry the impact of different types of trauma with them and respond negatively when those feelings are triggered. This response is because they think they’re meant to suppress those feelings but can’t, so they have to find a way to cope with them. Ed described this lingering trauma like this:

“It’s emotional residue. Like when you peel off the label on a soda bottle and there’s that sticky residue. It’s like that. It clings to every one of your relationships.”

This lingering trauma negatively affects relationships, especially with romantic partners.

“You want a relationship to be able to grow with intimacy, but when you’re dealing with intimacy disorders the closer you get, the more fear exists in the relationship,” Ed said.

People with intimacy disorders respond by pulling away from people they start caring about. They have a fear of intimacy.

Leaning on Others

Men aren’t intentionally trying to develop intimacy issues or even addictions. They’re just trying to survive.

“I think the reality is that everybody’s doing the best they can with what they were given, and nobody has it figured out,” Ed said.

Ed thinks that’s why people are tribal by nature and rely on community. He said people need each other because everyone is trying to figure out how to do the best they can in their unique situations.

That’s why, Ed said, guys need other guys. Not for fantasy football or softball leagues. Not in ways that are just surface and safe. It’s not even about having guy friends. It’s about having people they can really talk to.

Creating this community of openness and vulnerability people who understand is part of what happens at Begin Again Institute.

How Begin Again Institute Helps with Intimacy Issues

Begin Again Institute helps people heal from sex addictions and intimacy disorders. Counselors use the Trauma-Induced Sexual Addiction (TINSA®) model, which treats the root cause of sexual addiction instead of just managing symptoms. This process helps people process their trauma and learn positive ways to cope.

Begin Again Institute offers seven-, 14-, and 28-day intensive treatment programs to meet individual needs. To learn more or sign up, contact us today. You deserve help healing.

  • Category: Intimacy Disorders
  • By Ryan Pryor
  • August 22, 2022

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