Intimacy in Abusive Relationships

April 28, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

When I think of intimacy, I think of the ability to share personal insights or facts with another person who will keep them between the two of us and hold them gently. Holding my personal fears, joys, mistakes and successes gently is important to me. When my abuser would manipulate the intimate facts of me to control me, I felt he betrayed me just as if he had stood on a rooftop and blurted private facts of me into a bullhorn.

And yet, although my intimacies often came back to bite me in the butt, I kept sharing them with him! Why? Because I thought that sharing brought closeness, appreciation, understanding, and love. I thought I could force him to love me the way I wanted by being completely open and honest.

Some Ways My Intimate Behaviors Fueled Abuse

I continued "setting the example" by sharing my newest insights about our children, the world at large, my dreams and goals and all because I wanted him to love me wholly, respectfully, ... gently like a lullaby. I laid my throat bare for him because I thought showing him how to love like I wanted to love would lead him closer to me.

I wanted him closer to me because if he truly understood me, he wouldn't hate me so much. I was sure of it. But I was wrong.

I was wrong in at least two ways:

  1. I transferred my motivations onto him and expected him to act the same way I acted (co-dependent expectation very similar to abusive expectation albeit completely different motivation and behavior).
  2. The more I revealed myself to him, the more he fought to contain me (remember, abuse is about controlling the victim, and to best control the victim you can't have them having thoughts of their own...the victim must behave like a programmed robot and the abuser must do the programming).

In essence, the more intimate I became towards him, the greater my participation in the cycle of abuse, and the more abuse I suffered.

Some Ways His Intimate Behaviors Fueled Abuse

There were times, especially in our early years together, that I felt he opened up to me without fear. I don't know what the triggered his shut-down, but it seems to have happened right after we were married. After our marriage, there were no new intimate revelations from him. For example, everything I know about his childhood I learned before our marriage.

Sometimes, rarely, he would break down and share one of those old stories. I would run to him, encourage him to release the pain or some such nonsense, and all would be good between us for awhile no matter what abuse instigated his break-down. I was so happy that he "opened up" to me that I could overlook the immediate past for the silent promise that "now things will be better".

Let me tell you, the same stories, repeated over and over and over again, do not prove or enhance intimacy! In hindsight, the only thing repeating the same stories proved was that my husband did not grow or change based on new, more adult, understandings about his childhood or parents. His repetition of the same old stories served to remind me why he was the way he was and why I should forgive him for any transgression.

I never stopped to consider that maybe he used his intimate thoughts just as he used mine - to get the upper-hand in our relationship.

Remember, intimacy is possible even when there is distrust, disrespect, and abusive disruptions in the relationship. In an abusive relationship, "sharing yourself" and "knowing him/her" intimately guarantees only a stockpile of ammunition.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, April 28). Intimacy in Abusive Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

May, 14 2012 at 10:40 pm

I was so open about everything, and told him about how I was abused in the past. Every single day, he is using this against me. Every night reminding me of abuse and rape, and trying to make me repeat how much i have enjoyed it, making me say that i miss that guy, that i miss my abusers.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Mar M
December, 20 2017 at 10:10 am

Abusers love their abuse, its an addiction

Kellie Holly
May, 15 2012 at 4:34 am

Nikky44, I am so sorry you are experiencing this abuse. Abuse on top of abuse because he is triggering you to remember the past while he is abusing you! Except for ditching this guy, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from further abuses is to close yourself off to him. Don't give him any more information about what you think or feel.
You're in my prayers,

June, 9 2012 at 11:02 am

I shared my most intimate memories,thoughts and fears with my ex-husband in the hope it would make us more intimate and create/fix our relationship both emotionally and mentally because then he will understand and support me the way a spouse should. What happened instead was he painted a negative image of me in his own mind (not ideal wife/damaged), tried to manipulate me using my weaknesses, broke my trust by telling his & my family my thoughts and feelings regarding them (all out of context) in order to try and gain their support for his needs/desires (to abuse me more) while they turn against me (so I am alienated by my own family). What I realised is if you know/feel you are in a "wrong"/abusive relationship be very cautious and don't share your intimate details with them - It never will work in your favour. A healthy relationship is where you feel safe to share & know for sure you are loved & protected.

July, 20 2016 at 11:36 am

Its been almost 3 years, I managed to leave for 4 months only to return to the madness.I was doing well, on the upswing when we got together. Now I am cowering in my parents home afraid to go back to where he is. Where most of my stuff is. I have no money left and have not had the spirit to work in weeks. The weight I gained in the four months has fallen off and because I am an older woman in this position I sometimes - like now - feel so scared and depressed and consider bad things. The thing is also that it is even rougher when you just leave, Still I look forward to getting over that patch, Just to go home now is a problem. I dont want to hear how horrible I am, Tired of it. Tired of the burning anger when he calls me bitch. Tired of not breathing well in anticipation of an attack. FEe Fi Fo Fum..... I wish I could get a hold of one months worth of lving expenses and I would find somewhere quietly and never contact him.

July, 20 2016 at 11:42 am

Oh so on the subject matter which I entirely forgot while writing..... I told him about me and my family. I dont get along with my mom. My dad has always allowed her to walk on mr and their system has always been to prefer my sister. He knows these things. I told him. He also knows about my brother in law having an affair In one of his rants he told me that me and my sister are same type of handicapped people and no one from my house can do anything and that no wonder my bro in law had an affair in her face because that is how people like us should be treated, So much for intimacy, Sorry to stray in comment @#1

April, 5 2020 at 8:51 am

[quote]Remember, intimacy is possible even when there is distrust, disrespect, and abusive disruptions in the relationship. In an abusive relationship, "sharing yourself" and "knowing him/her" intimately guarantees only a stockpile of ammunition.[/quote]
I'm confused about this statement you made in the very last sentence of this piece. Intimacy is possible even when there is distrust, disrespect, and abusive disruptions in the relationship?
No way. It should read is IMPOSSIBLE.
I've left three times and came back in hopes things would be different. The third time I kicked my husband out and forced him into a treatment program for abusers. Throughout the whole program he insisted he wasn't like those abusers because he never hit me. Wow? Really? Verbal/emotional abuse creates the same scars as physical abuse and no one sees them.
It's gotten worse over the years and the more intimate I am the worse the abuse gets. I could've written the article you wrote above. His newest words "bitch" and "shut the f--- up" are his favorites. The other day he said out loud, "I won't tell you to 'shut the f--- up' because I'm in control and I won't do that." Impressive. I didn't fall for it. He might as well said it because that's exactly what he really did say. Gaslighting. I get it. It's a mind f--- game for him. Since then I've spoken only a few words to him.
The abuse worsened when he forced an issue about getting a puppy. I wasn't ready for new puppy. He was. He's always been in control so he got his way. Since then our relationship has gone down hill fast. The last 7 months of been a personal hell in my own life due to many years of extreme childhood abuse. I kept saying I couldn't handle it and he didn't care. It's a cute puppy and it's not for me at this time in my life. A cat would've been far better for me.
It wasn't until the puppy coming into our lives that I realized my husband has always been in control. Yet he goes around saying I'm the one who's the controlling one. I finally get that he is what he calls me.
I'm in a situation right now with the COVID-19 pandemic that I cannot just leave here. We're in a lock up situation. I'm in the group that's most vulnerable to get it and possibly die from it.
I'm in counseling with an excellent therapist and doing Tele-health appointments thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank goodness I have that and it's all paid for right now.
I think my only recourse now is to put my half of the bed in my office. My half of the bed is to an adjustable bed frame and is currently separated anyhow. I've got a locked door in my office.
I cannot see anything else I can do to further separate myself from this bastard of a man who continues to oppress and abuse me. It's been a long haul of 35 years. Too long. I long to be on my own and live without any further abuse.

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