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Do You Flow Or Block Intimacy In Your Relationship ‒ Which Energy Type Are You?

Written by: Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Remember those first few dates? Perhaps walking around a festival, hand-in-hand, feeling excited and enjoying being in the moment? The connection flowed so naturally. If energetic states started so balanced and unified at the beginning of your relationship, how did they go sour? Better yet, how do we resolve the imbalance to get back to a place of synergy and connection?

Energy Theory & Relationships

Energy exchange in relationships can be highly variable and unique to each dynamic. The health of any relationship (not just romantic) is defined by the presence of reciprocity, equality, and a continuous flow of energy within the system. Ultimately, energy is energy. It can be molded and reformed into healthy or unhealthy expression, depending on our actions, inactions, intentions, or situational context of energy expression. Satisfying relationships that last tend to have continuous contributions of positive energy from all parties.

When we think of energy exchange in a romantic dyad, having a concrete image in mind can be helpful. My clients often respond well to this analogy: Energy is like a medicine ball that we pass back and forth in a fun game with our partner(s). It takes effort and intention to throw the ball, but that effort is worth it when it comes back to us from our partner's effort to engage in the game. What happens when we throw the ball and either it doesn't reach our partner, but falls to the ground, or our partner steps aside and doesn't catch the ball? We have to exert extra energy to pick up the medicine ball and throw it again without having received any energy back between exertions. This is why non-reciprocal energy contributions are not sustainable. Eventually, the ball sender will stop throwing because they feel they gain nothing from the experience or are simply too drained to continue.

As a clinical therapist and sexologist who specializes in guiding partner fulfillment across all 8 forms of intimacy, I see love expression and contribution as a gift of energy that fuels the relationship. Partners reach out to me when they feel an imbalance or depletion of energy within the system but don't quite understand how to reset it. Couples therapy is about identifying those blockages that create uneven flow states and reforming unhealthy expressions of energy into healthy manifestations for sustainable energetic dynamics.

Energy Blocks & Flows

What exactly does it look like to experience a blockage of energy in your relationship versus an abundance of reciprocal energetic flow between yourself and your partner(s)? Let's map it out in layman's terms.

Decades of research in the field of marriage and family therapy show that the variables in relationships that block intimacy are: negative thinking or thinking that focuses on bad moments of the past, negative assumptions about your partner when the context of a situation isn’t fully disclosed, or failed repair attempts that compound overtime and build resentment and emotional dysregulation. States of anxiety or emotional dysregulation redirect the energy of our brain and make it more difficult for us to access the areas responsible for productive dialogue, emotional articulation, future-oriented thinking, and clear decision-making.

Other intimacy blocks include: toxic communication expressions, such as Gottman’s Four Horseman, or gaslighting, untreated mood and/or personality disorders, imposition of self and others' goals, secrecy, living out of integrity, financial distress, irrational thoughts, mental health struggles, inauthenticity, nutrient deficiency, pain, trauma, addiction, abuse, neglect, ego, stagnancy, and disconnect of self.

Research in marriage and family therapy shows that the variables in relationships that encourage the flow of intimacy are the 4 S's of attachment (Safe, Seen, Soothed, Secure), trust, and engaging in the forgiveness of past pain to prevent future suffering. Self-verification encourages the flow of intimacy because by knowing and accepting oneself, you are then able to feel truly seen by your partner(s) at a level of depth that is deeply connective.

Other flow variables in relationships include flexibility or agreeableness, emotional attunement, support towards others and self, personal growth, alignment with integrity, positive bias, intuition, connection with nature or a higher being, physical touch, mindfulness, creative expression, sunlight, intention, love, and excitement.

Healing Energy Insufficiency

First, I ask these 3 questions to gather the right information about where energy is going and what might be draining it. Next, we identify the energy type of each partner. Then, we begin to modify the types and frequencies of contribution. The 3 filtering questions that I ask to better understand energy dynamics are:

  1. How much energy is being created and offered by each partner?

  2. Is the amount of energy contributed by each partner fair and equitable to make the recirculation sustainable long-term?

  3. What are the observable expressions of that energy and is this congruent with what’s really energizing for the receiving partner?

The 6 Energy Types Within Relationships and What They Mean

In working with complex relationship systems in the clinical field for well over a decade, I've discovered 6 unique patterns of energy flow that manifest in romantic relationships.

Sympathy Type - Absorbs very little positive energy, gives back a lot

These partners tend to live in a state of significant imbalance, being in a state of energetic depletion most of the time. I often find that these partners struggle to assert healthy boundaries for themselves and advocate for fairness in their personal relationships, sometimes rationalizing this imbalance that their life purpose is to provide for others. Supporting the health of Sympathy Types often includes building self-esteem, disrupting self-sabotage cycles, and healing attachment wounds from the past.

Surge Type - Absorbs energy consistently, gives back through infrequent bursts

When healthy, these partners can present as quiet with bursts of unexpected spontaneity. When unhealthy, these partners can present as reactive and unpredictable. Often, their self-protective nature is to stonewall or placate. Surges build energy over time until their threshold is met, at which point their energy cannot be contained any longer, and it floods toward their partner.

Self-generating Type - Creates independent energy flow

Self-sustaining energy flow is developed using strategies that indirectly connect them with other energetic beings. Energetic fulfillment sources for Sponge Types can look like compersion (the joy from seeing others experience joy) gift giving as the giver, self-care and nature-based re-energy tools like Earthing. These partners can also receive energy from others so they often feel fulfilled. Their partner(s) can sometimes feel unwanted, unseen or uncertain about the purpose of their relationship due to the high independence of Self generating Types.

Sponge Type - Absorbs copious amounts of energy, gives back very little

These partner types tend to be the "life of the party" or "class-clown", as they need high amounts of energy to sustain fulfillment. Due to the high energetic demand, there are limits to what 1 partner can provide so Sponge Types naturally adapt to their needs by becoming sociable. This offers multiple energy streams. Their partners tend to compliment them, often presenting as Stream or Sympathy Types as a way for the system to secure balance.

Stream Type - Absorbs energy consistently, gives a lot away

These partners have a tendency to over-function in their relationships and take on excessive amounts of responsibility in various life domains. They tend to be life achievers, but with sacrifice to health due to stress and deprioritized self-care. In healthy presentations, Stream Types can manifest a Synergy-like energetic flow in their romantic relationships while expressing additional energy lines toward outside systems that are aligned with their values or life purpose (like volunteerism or passionate hobbies).

Synergy Type - Balance in the flow of giving and receiving energy

This is the healthiest of the 6 types and most opportunistic for partner experiences of balance and fairness within the romantic relationship. Although the observable expression, or contribution, of energy from each partner may look different, the amount of energy and frequency of contribution remains consistently equitable between all partners. This ensures that no partner experiences periods of energetic emptiness that might prohibit connection, hinder mental and physical health or create resentment down the road.


What energy type do YOU exchange in romantic relationships? Take your free QUIZ or share with your friends for some fun!

In addition to 1-1 client sessions, Dr. Bathurst offers 90-day online Relationship Coaching Programs and in person Hawaiian Couples Retreats.

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Dr. Stephanie Bathurst, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Stephanie Bathurst is an expert Clinical Sexologist, Relationship Therapist, and Holistic Healer who applies evidence-based techniques that blend holistic and traditional therapies. As a provider, she aims to energize relationships, unblock barriers in the 8 forms of intimacy, and treat the whole system for clients to see long-lasting effects. Acknowledging the heaviness in our world, Dr. Bathurst strives to lead unhappy partners toward better sex, effective communication, and release of resentment so that together we can create a more loving, more stable connection. With her primary office in Oahu, HI, Dr. Bathurst offers coaching to clients across the globe, couples retreats, and hybrid relationship programs for immersive healing. Dr. Bathurst is the CEO of Bathurst Family Therapy, LLC., and has won numerous awards of excellence in her fields. Her integration of degrees in counseling and sexology combined with certifications as an Integrative Medicine Specialist for Mental Health and Pelvic Floor PFilates instructor makes Dr. Bathurst a truly unparalleled provider.





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