Intimacy in a relationship
Intimacy in a relationship is more than just sex. To know someone intimately is described as closeness, have attachment, affection, warm feelings, to know someone intimately. Intimacy can also mean sexual closeness, act of love making and comes from the latin word Intus, which means within.
Intimacy in a relationship between two people who care about one another is said to contain the following characteristics in varying degrees, Nelson jones (2006)
The acronym ACCEPT stands for Attraction, open and honest Communication, Commitment to one another, Enjoyment in the relationship and life together, sense of Purpose, and that all important Trust.
To truly have an intimate relationship with someone you must be fully in tune with the other persons thoughts and feelings.
Being present with another in that space calls for a certain level of intimacy within yourself. To truly know your partner you must firstly be in touch with your own thoughts, feelings and perceptions of yourself, both negatively and positively.
How do you perceive yourself?
Do you exaggerate your strengths and weaknesses? How much notice do you pay to negative self talk. What barriers are in the way to stop you truly knowing yourself?
Both males and females can engage in various defensive processes which maintain the current way you view yourself.
Below are various ways that can block intimacy, quite often people are unaware that they use them. (Freud, 1949, McKay 1994, Yalom 1980)
Avoiding, withdrawing and compulsive behaviours.
- Avoiding. you may avoid people and situations that you find threatening, for example, situations where you may be asked to share your internal world or allow another to open up deeply to you.
- Withdrawing. When situations become emotionally charged, you may lower the temperature by either psychologically or physically withdrawing or both. You may play various roles and psychological games that create distance in you relationship.
- Compulsive activity. You may always be too busy to engage emotionally with another person. You may take refuge in your work, hobbies or outside friendships.
- Compulsive relating. You may enter into relationships not because you genuinely find another person attractive, but because you cannot stand the pain of loneliness or the social stigma of not being in a relationship. Because you have entered into a relationship under false pretences, it may be difficult for you to attain intimacy.
- Serial relating. You do not allow yourself to develop a deep relationship with anyone. When genuine intimacy threatens, you end the relationship and move on to the next.
- Compulsive sexuality. You may avoid intimacy with anyone by focusing on them as bodies to be used for sexual pleasure, rather than as persons with whom to develop relationships.
Dependency, denial and distortion.
- Dependency. You may allow yourself to become dependent on another person rather than acknowledge and develop your own strengths.
- Denial. You may repress significant aspects of yourself: for instance, anger, concerns about death or altruistic feelings. You may also deny certain aspects of the feedback you receive from others for instance: their love for you.
- Distortion. You may filter incoming information by magnifying or minimising it: for example, not acknowledging the full extent of a compliment or criticism. You may also fail to acknowledge sufficiently the effect of your upbringing on how you think and feel.
- Projection. Rather than acknowledge aspects of yourself that you do not like, you may become very conscious of these qualities in others: for instance, their need to control and manipulation.
Rationalisation, competing and stereo typing.
- Rationalisation. Excuses, excuses, excuses. You may be adept at finding reasons for your less acceptable thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
- Competing. You may need to see yourself as superior to your partner and to others with who you relate. You exaggerate your virtues and their faults.
- Attacking. You avoid acknowledging your own hurt and inadequacies by inwardly attacking your partner. Outwardly you may criticise, ridicule, nag and blame them. Verbal abuse may be accompanied by physical abuse.
- Identification with the aggressor. You may start making excuses for another’s aggressive behaviour and secretly admire their strength at the same time as denying how furious you are with them.
- Sex-role stereo typing. You may resist seeing qualities in yourself that do not accord with the traditional stereo type of your sex. You think in rigid terms: Women are supposed to ….. Men are supposed to …….
Letting go of defensive thinking and allowing another access to your innermost thoughts and feelings takes time and courage. The greater the level of self-disclosure the more intimacy you will experience in your relationship.