Countless experts offer us advice on how to create the "perfect relationship," fostering the unrealistic expectation that forming an intimate bond will be a painless experience. Unfortunately, few experts are willing to confront the powerful challenges and emotions inherent within close relationships today. In contrast to other intimacy books, Too Close for Comfort vividly describes the surprising dangers, damage to self-esteem, inadequacies, and immaturities that characterize the contemporary state of romantic intimacy. Too Close for Comfort compassionately explores the risks and misunderstandings that occur within many intimate relationships. Romantic partners tend to hurt each other not only by insensitivity and neglect, but also by criticism, abuse, and betrayal - most of which spring from insecurity. Dr. Piorkowski, a noted consulting psychologist and educator, focuses on the vulnerability both partners experience in intimacy due to the emergence of strong, unrealistic needs that are almost impossible to satisfy. The author contends that people avoid the perils of intimacy by donning one or more defensive "masks" - ranging from acting superior to mysterious, comical to withdrawn, self-sufficient to dependent - in an effort to protect themselves from emotional exposure. Presenting a fascinating range of clinical examples, she sensitively depicts the fears of intimacy that limit contact, namely psychological concerns about loss of control or autonomy, feelings of disappointment and abandonment, or of being attacked and made to feel guilty. Depicting women's reliance on verbal expression to achieve an emotional connection versus men's dependence on physical contact, Dr. Piorkowski brilliantly elucidates the complex barriers to intimacy, especially the chasms of misunderstanding created by vast sexual differences and attitudes. While this book is unique in its exposition of the dangers in intimacy, its message is not pessimistic.
Many books on intimacy are written like car instruction manuals--as if trouble-free relationships can be attained by just following the directions. But, according to psychologist Piorkowski, ``perfect relationships'' are not only impossible, but intimacy itself usually reawakens and exacerbates feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as well as unresolved fears of abandonment, guilt and loss of autonomy. Numerous clinical examples presented here show how people avoid these perils by wearing ``masks'' such as acting mysterious, superior, needy or always in control. And the more intimate we become the greater the risks, which is why, says the author, we so often ``hurt the ones we love.'' Piorkowski also examines alcohol abuse and violence as extreme defense mechanisms, and she explores the differences in attitudes and behavior of the sexes that create further barriers to intimacy. But the message here is not pessimistic: later chapters suggest that partners can minimize the risk of intimacy and improve troubled relationships through analyses of characteristics of satisfied couples. This scholarly book will be of most interest to professionals.