• Christine; McKenzieFriend

NEGATIVE INTIMACY - Are you asking yourself….How did it get like this? Or “I hope we can be friends.

So how do I answer - Can you really become friends at the end of a bitter dissolution? It’s helpful to think about how relationships develop.

When we meet people, we start with a business relationship. We use more formal language, make few assumptions, make clear agreements, have minimal expectations and are not very attached to or invested in the relationship. At the beginning we are private, explicit, cool and reserved.

As we get to know someone and move to friendship, we are less formal, begin to make assumptions and have expectations and are therefore more invested in the relationship. When the relationship becomes intimate, we become very informal with each other, act based on assumptions formed from past experiences with the individual, give the benefit of the doubt, and are very invested in the relationship. We move to being vulnerable, implicit, hot and intense.

If a couple reach the point of a contested divorce containing animosity from at least one of the parties, the relationship moves from one of positive intimacy to negative intimacy. We move from the positive qualities to the opposite of those qualities. For example:

· Shared to abused confidences

· Loyalty and trust to disloyalty and distrust

· Positive assumptions to negative assumptions

· Benefit-of-doubt to suspicion and blame

What individuals need to realise is, when in a place of negative intimacy, there is very little chance of ever going back to a friendship, the best you can expect is a business-like relationship, nothing more.

The best way to disconnect and move on, so as to not allow negative intimacy to hinder one’s life is to step back immediately into a business relationship modelling respectful communication; not make assumptions but ask short questions to clarify; strive to be trustworthy at all times; make clear agreements in writing; create healthy boundaries relating to times and means of modes of communication; and stick to the facts rather than being emotionally reactive and retaliating.

Don’t sweat the small irrational stuff being sent your way - Only respond when you think it is necessary and never reply immediately. Think about what to say first. Don't make a song and dance and reply as briefly and to the point as you can. Where possible answer 'yes' or 'no'. That's all. If your first answer is not accepted, don’t bother arguing over and over. If your ex doesn’t want to accept your position, that’s their issue, not yours.

Getting to a workable business type relationship takes time and hard work, and for some, therapy! Over time, it is possible to create a business-like friendly relationship, but you will never be friends in the true sense of the title.

If you need guidance on how to communicate when stuck in a negatively intimate relationship, what to do or say if your ex is harassing you, or assistance with responding to legal correspondence on property or children, or even thoughts on setting boundaries to achieve a happier life, call McKenzie Friend.

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