The What and How of True Intimacy
An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional Psychological consequences of intimacy problems are found in adults who have difficulty in forming and maintaining . Evidence also points to the role of a number of contextual factors that can impact intimate relationships. The data on divorce lead us to conclude that intimate relationships have Yet the quality of our closest relationships is often what gives life its primary meaning. . of intimacy--of emotional and physical closeness--has a truly powerful effect on. Attachment theory suggests that people's intimate relationships are related to their relationships with Commitment, defined as the intention to remain in a relationship, Partners affect each other's lives through the behaviors they exchange.
Imagine observing two house painters whose brushstrokes seemed to be playing out a duet on the side of the house. They may be shocked to think that they were engaged in an intimate activity with each other, however from an experiential point of view, they would be very intimately involved. Physical intimacy occurs in the latter but it is governed by a higher-order strategy, of which the other person may not be aware.
One example is getting close to someone in order to get something from them or give them something. That "something" might not be offered so freely if it did not appear to be an intimate exchange and if the ultimate strategy had been visible at the outset. Emotionally intimate communal relationships are much more robust and can survive considerable and even ongoing disagreements.
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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. May Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle gently entwist; the female ivy so enrings the barky fingers of the elm. O, how I love thee!
How I dote on thee! Love is qualitatively and quantitatively different from likingand the difference is not merely in the presence or absence of sexual attraction. There are three types of love in a relationship: Sacrificial love reflects the subsumption of the individual self will within a union and is said to be expressed within the Christian Godhead and towards humanity.
Companionate love involves diminished potent feelings of attachment, an authentic and enduring bond, a sense of mutual commitment, the profound feeling of mutual caring, feeling proud of a mate's accomplishment, and the satisfaction that comes from sharing goals and perspective. In contrast, passionate love is marked by infatuation, intense preoccupation with the partner, throes of ecstasy, and feelings of exhilaration that come from being reunited with the partner.
These couples often provide the emotional security that is necessary for them to accomplish other tasks, particularly forms of labor or work.
Empirical research[ edit ] The use of empirical investigations in was a major revolution in social analysis. Some of the attributes included in the study were kindnesscheerfulness and honesty. Two characteristics that children reported as least important included wealth and religion. There were limited studies done on children's friendships, courtship and marriagesand families in the s but few relationship studies were conducted before or during World War II.
Today, the study of intimate relationships uses participants from diverse groups and examines a wide variety of topics that include family relations, friendshipsand romantic relationships, usually over a long period. Research being conducted by John Gottman and his colleagues involves inviting married couples into a pleasant setting, in which they revisit the disagreement that caused their last argument.
I've appreciated the fact that she has been the one who will raise an issue or problem for the purpose of resolution or improvement, and not just because she's angry. She seems to be willing to take that initiative. I didn't grow up in that kind of setting, so I think that's one reason this has worked. I think we both each really like the other one a lot There was a bond early on, in part because it was a different kind of relationship I can be much more vulnerable now I look to her for help with it, which wasn't something I knew how to do before.
As the couples in this study grew older together the experience of psychological intimacy was marked by a deepening sense of relational communion between them, yet a respect for their differences, as illustrated in the relationships of that couple.
A heterosexual couple reflected on the meaning of intimacy in their relationship that had lasted 30 years. The wife experienced her spouse as: My best friend, best lover Unfortunately, we have not had parents for many years. He is my parent as well as my friend. He is the person who most cares what is happening to me. The meaning of intimacy to her husband was described by him: I just like her to be next to me, near me. If you don't have that feeling, I think there is a piece that is missing.
I think we are our own people, but we do it together. You just have to respect the other person The responses of these four partners reflected several themes that were central to understanding and defining psychological intimacy.
One theme, openness, reflected a sense of comfort in "being one's self," to be able to reveal and say things to a partner that one felt could not be said to others; the use of the expression, "best friend," was often used by participants in describing this reciprocal dimension of their relationships. The second theme, interdependence, referred to maintaining separateness within the attachment to a partner. Maintaining interpersonal boundaries in these relationships apparently helped to sustain a sense of psychological intimacy; that is, individuals felt "safe" in revealing their inner thoughts and feelings because they could count on a partner to respect their separateness and to accept, if not understand, them.
Third, psychological intimacy was not a constant in relationships but a sense or a representation in one's mind that one could confide in a partner if one needed to discuss personal matters. For both women and men, themes of connectedness, separateness, and mutuality were apparent in their responses, although men tended to emphasize proximity and women mutuality.
The variable had to be identified in previous studies as a significant factor in shaping psychological intimacy. The variable had to be related significantly to psychological intimacy in the chi-square analysis see Table I and not be correlated substantially with the dependent variable. Based on these criteria, the independent variables were: There were questions that explored the nature of conflict. If disagreements and differences between partners had a negative effect on a participant and were viewed as disruptive to relationships, such as a cut-off in all verbal communication, conflict was coded as "major.
Direct or face-to-face discussions of interpersonal differences between partners were coded "confrontive. For example, mothers at home with children often made decisions about discipline without talking with their partners. The criteria dealt with predominant modes of making decisions about significant matters, such as major purchases. The questions were framed as follows: Participants were asked about physical affection, which referred to physical contact, such as hugging.
As the frequency and satisfaction with genital sex declined, psychological intimacy developed among most participants. Physical affection, such as hugging and touching, remained relatively constant throughout the years in contrast to the regression in sexual intimacy and the progression in psychological intimacy. Despite the change in sexual intimacy, genital sex continued to be seen as important from early through recent years.
Personal and demographic factors did not have a statistically significant relationship to psychological intimacy during recent years i. The number of years together,and 40 or more was not significant. Indices of socioeconomic status were not significant: Other social factors that were not significantly related to psychological intimacy in recent years included religious backgrounds Protestant, Catholic and Jewishrace white and non-whiteand whether couples had children.
Table I shows the relational variables that were related significantly to psychological intimacy in recent years p [less than]. More than 9 out of 10 participants described their relationships as psychologically intimate in recent years if they had also reported positive sexual relations and physical affection.
Eight out of ten participants felt psychological intimacy in recent years was significantly associated with minimal relational conflict, a confrontive conflict management style in one's partner, mutual decision-making, a sense of relational equity and a continued importance of sexual reactions in their relationships.
Table II shows the phi coefficients of a correlation analysis between the dependent variable and each of the independent variables.
Based on this analysis, communication was not included as an independent variable in the theoretical model tested with logistic regression. The rationale for that decision was discussed under the definition of psychological intimacy in the Methods section. Low to negligible correlations were found between psychological intimacy and the independent variables of gender and sexual orientation. These variables were included in the two theoretical models: Table III shows the results of a logistic regression analysis--this includes variables from Table I, which had also been found in previous research to be related significantly to psychological intimacy.
Included in the model was the sexual orientation of couples. Variables in the model that were not related significantly to psychological intimacy included decision-making, the quality of sexual relations, and the importance of sexual relations to relationships. Compared to the gay males and heterosexuals, lesbians were more likely to report that their relationships were psychologically intimate in recent years: To clarify whether the differences between lesbians and the other two groups was a matter of sexual orientation or gender, a second model was constructed and tested with logistic regression.
Gender was substituted for sexual orientation of couples in that model. The results are shown in. Factors that contributed to understanding psychological intimacy in the first regression analysis continued to have a similar effect in this modified model.
Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Psychological Intimacy To examine the interacting effects of gender and sexual orientation on psychological intimacy, we returned to the original qualitative data. The four elements in the theoretical model for this study discussed earlier in this paper proximity, openness, reciprocity and interdependence were useful in this task.
Subtle differences were found in how these elements were weighed by participants, as they talked about the meaning of psychological intimacy in their relationships. Themes of proximity and interdependence were evident among males, as illustrated in the responses of a gay male: Emotionally, things are really good now I'm very social and I have a lot of friends, and he's not as social and he doesn't have as many friends. We both place a really great importance on togetherness. We make sure that we have dinner together every night and we have our weekend activities that we make sure we do together.
I think that both of us understand it's also important to be an individual and have your own life. I think you become really uninteresting to each other if you don't have another life you can come back and share. You need to bring things into the relationship. The importance of proximity in the connection to his partner became evident as this individual responded to our inquiry about psychological intimacy. At the same time, he noted the value that he placed on separateness from his partner.
By implication, he was also talking about the element of interdependence as he expressed the joy of "growing old" with his partner in spite of the differences in their individual psychological makeups. He emphasized proximity along with interpersonal differentiation as he discussed the relationship in recent years. The responses of many women tended to reflect themes of openness and mutuality, along with differentiation in the psychologically intimate connection with their partners.
A lesbian participant spoke of those elements in her relationship: What has been good is the ongoing caring and respect and the sense that there is somebody there who really cares, who has your best interest, who loves you, who knows you better than anybody, and still likes you. There is something spiritual after awhile. It has a life of its own.
This is what is really so comfortable. Variations by gender may have reflected how individuals perceived and valued different elements of psychological intimacy within themselves and in their partners. Because of the gender differences between partners in heterosexual relationships, these variations on the theme of psychological intimacy were manifested in a different way. The following observations of a heterosexual male illustrated those variations; he viewed his wife as very unselfish, and she would sacrifice so that I could go out and do my thing.
One thing that we have always done, always, is talk constantly to each other. I don't know what we talk about, and I don't know what we've had to talk about all these years, but we still communicate with each other. And then she feels very bad, and this may last a day or two, and then it passes and everything is fine again.
She's more open than I am. I keep a lot inside and I don't let it out, and that's probably not good. But, that's the way I am. Many heterosexual males viewed observable qualities in their wives, such as support and their style of managing conflict, as important in developing and maintaining a sense of psychological intimacy in their marriages. Females, on the other hand, often commented on the observable and then went on to identify their understanding of the underlying dynamics that shaped behavior.
More than men, women talked about the interplay of relational dynamics. The spouse in this marriage reported that she filled certain needs in him, and I know he filled certain needs in me. I may have boosted his confidence a lot. He tells me I go ballistic over stupid things, and he is outwardly very calming. I don't always agree with him, and he does not always agree with me. I don't even know how to describe it, you just have that closeness.
I don't know you, and we don't have anything. Themes of connectedness and separateness in these four interview passages were important dynamics in understanding the meaning of psychological intimacy to participants. The elements of proximity, closeness, mutuality, and interdependence may have been shaped most significantly by the interaction of males and females in same- and opposite-gender relationships.
That is, it may not be gender alone that accounts for the differences between males and females. If women value attachment in relationships in a way different from men, then the data may suggest a mutually reinforcing process toward strengthening connectedness in lesbian relationships.
In heterosexual and gay male relationships, the value that males place on separateness in relationships may temper the quality of attachment that develops over the years, and therefore results in different forms of psychological intimacy.
Psychological intimacy between lesbian partners had a different relational history from that of heterosexual and gay male partners. From the early years to recent years, our data suggest a progressive shift toward psychological intimacy between lesbian partners. Lesbians were as evasive of face-to-face discussions of conflict as heterosexual and gay male males, during the early years of their relationships.
For lesbians, the avoidance appeared to be a consequence of fearing abandonment by their partners if they openly confronted differences. Only as lesbian couples became increasingly disenchanted with their relationships did modification in conflict management styles occur.
Usually, one partner took the risk of expressing her unhappiness. Based on the reports of lesbian respondents about the meaning of therapy to their relationships, being involved in treatment may have supported the development of psychologically intimate communication between partners.
The richness of data elicited through the method used in this study is quite different from data collected through other means, although there are concerns about validity and reliability, as well as the nature of the sample. It is difficult to assess the validity of the data in the traditional sense of that concept, since we were eliciting the personal perceptions and evaluations of participants about the meaning of psychological intimacy in their relationships at a particular point in time.
The candor of participants on highly personal matters, such as the decline in sexual relations because of sexual dysfunctionssuggests that participants were equally candid about other aspects of their relationships, such as psychological intimacy. By interviewing partners separately and asking them to talk about themselves, as well as their observations of their partners in these relationships, we were able to compare responses to determine if there were significant differences over common realities.
For example, did both partners assess the nature of conflict in their relationships similarly? Did a participant, in commenting on an aspect of a partner's behavior, come close to the partner's observations about the same factor? Correspondenc e between partners was permitted in the study, which was illustrated in the responses to conflict management styles, when participants were asked to describe their style as well as the style of their partners. For example, partners who described themselves as having an evasive style were viewed by their partners in an equivalent way.
Intimate relationship - Wikipedia
In a cross-sectional design in which participants are asked to report on their life today and in the past, traditional measures of reliability are inadequate. The meaning-of-life events and an individual's response to these events will vary, and may even vary within the same person at different points over the lifespan. While longitudinal designs may be superior in contending with problems of validity and reliability, cross-sectional designs that use interviews to uncover the meaning of behavior have the strength of eliciting the richness in the experiences of human beings.
There is a shortfall in recoding the data from multiple categories into dichotomous ones. This step built onto the earlier qualitative analysis by offering a different lens through which to understand the data. To offset the potential reductionistic effects of recoding, we have incorporated a discussion of the qualitative data into the results.
The integration of qualitative and quantitative procedures was intended to enhance the theory development objective of the research. The use of an interdisciplinary team throughout the research process enhanced the quality of the study. Issues of bias, misinterpretation, and other matters that could affect the validity and reliability of the data were discussed. One of the principal investigators read all interview transcripts and served as a second blind coder for each interview.
Having one researcher read and code every interview provided for continuity in the operational definitions of variables. To insure that there was both a male and a female perspective on the data, the second coder was a woman. As a measure of inter-rater reliability, Cohen's kappa was used and ranged from. The sample was selected purposively to include participants not often included in other studies in lasting relationships; namely, people of color, blue-collar participants, and same-gender couples.
The goal was not to test theory but to develop an understanding of a subject--psychological intimacy among an older group of diverse partners in lasting relationships--that has not received much attention by researchers. The sample fit with the goal of this exploratory study. Defining intimacy is a challenge, as is the importance of specifying the operational parameters. We defined psychological intimacy as the sense that participants had of their relationships as a place in which they could share personal thoughts and feelings about themselves and their relationships not expressed customarily with others.A psychologist explains how important sex is in a relationship
In this definition, positive communication was a quintessential component of psychological intimacy. We focused on cognitive themes about the meaning of relationships to individual partners rather than on specific interpersonal behaviors.
The sample consisted of heterosexual and same-gender couples in relationships that had lasted approximately 30 years. A chi-square analysis of all research variables with the independent variable revealed that social and demographic factors such as age, race, education, income, and religion did not have significant relationships to psychological intimacy in recent years. That finding is important to the process of understanding factors that contribute to the quality of psychological intimacy in committed relationships that last for many years.
It may also suggest that factors within relationships are more important than are socioeconomic and demographic factors in shaping psychological intimacy between partners in these relationships.
In the chi-square analysis, several factors were associated significantly with reports of psychological intimacy in recent years, defined as the last 5 to 10 years of these relationships.
They were the quality of communication between partners, minimal relational conflict, conflict management style of partners, couple decision-making, relational equity, quality of sexual relations, importance of sexual relations, and physical affection. Phi coefficients were then computed to determine the strength of the associations between the dependent variable and each of the independent variables.
In this study, it is appropriate to consider psychological intimacy as psychologically intimate communication. The first model included the sexual orientation of couples heterosexual, lesbian, or gay male as an independent variable. The results pointed to five factors predictive of psychological intimacy in these lasting relationships. The fifth factor was sexual orientation of couples: To assess the significance of gender over sexual orientation on reported psychological intimacy, gender was substituted for sexual orientation in a second model.
That finding is compatible with those of Parks and Floydwho argued that gender role identification of males and females is not as powerful a factor in shaping intimacy in friendship relationships as may be assumed. The results suggested that factors within relationships themselves had a more powerful effect in shaping the meaning of psychological intimacy than did social and demographic factors.
The data suggested that a sense of psychological intimacy was nurtured when interpersonal conflict was kept to minimal levels, when one's partner dealt with conflict in the relationship by initiating face-to-face discussion of differences, when one had a feeling that the relationship was fair, and when there were expressions of affection between partners through touching and hugging.
Perhaps, a reason that these relationships endured was that these factors nurtured a sense of psychological intimacy that contributed to relational stability. The data offer hypotheses for exploration and testing in future research on lasting relationships. In addition to the factors that had a shaping effect on psychological intimacy in recent years, subtle differences were found between lesbian and other participants.
Differences based on gender and sexual orientation suggest a subtle interacting dynamic of these factors on psychological intimacy in relationships that last. We suggest that a mutually reinforcing dynamic between two women committed to personal and relational development may explain the subtle yet important differences between lesbian couples and the other couples in this study.
We hope that these findings and our observations about them will be helpful to other researchers engaged in the study of lasting relationships. A Journal of Research next: Looking for Better Sex? Attraction and close relationships.
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Big Theories of Intimate Relationships
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