Posts tagged intimacy

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7 Ways to Improve Intimacy in your Relationship

Good relationships don’t just happen. Many people have the attitude that, “If I have to work at it, then it can’t be the right relationship.” This is not a true statement, any more than it’s true that you don’t have to work at good physical health through exercise, eating well, and stress reduction.

There are choices you can make that will not only improve your relationship, but can turn a failing relationship into a successful one.

Accept personal responsibility

It may not seem like it, but this is an incredibly important choice that you can make to improve intimacy in your relationship. This means that you learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings and needs and refuse to blame your partner for not making you feel happy and secure.

It means learning to treat yourself with kindness, caring, compassion, and acceptance instead of self-judgment. Self-judgment will always make you feel unhappy and insecure, no matter how loving your partner is.

For example, instead of getting angry at your partner for the feelings of rejection you may experience when he or she is late, preoccupied and not listening to you, or not turned on sexually, you would explore your own feelings discover how you might be rejecting yourself.

When you learn how to take full, 100% responsibility for yourself, then you stop blaming your partner for your unhappiness. Since blaming your partner for your own unhappiness is the number one cause of relationship problems, learning how to take loving care of yourself is vital to a good relationship.

Compassion, understanding and acceptance

Treat your partner the way you would like to be treated. This is the essence of a truly spiritual life. We all yearn to be treated lovingly – with kindness, compassion, intimacy, understanding, and acceptance.  Relationships thrive when both people treat each other with a deep intimacy. While there are no guarantees, sowing intimacy often reaps intimacy in return.

If your partner is consistently angry, judgmental, uncaring and unkind, then you need to focus on what would be loving to yourself, and loving to the other, rather than reverting to anger, blame, judgment, withdrawal, resistance, or compliance. Kindness to others does not mean sacrificing yourself. Always remember that taking responsibility for yourself rather than blaming others is the most important thing you can do.

Seek further help such as counselling or coaching if your partner is still not able to treat you with kindness, or as a very last resort you may need to leave the relationship. You cannot make your partner change – you can only change yourself!

Be open to learning

When conflict occurs, you always have two choices regarding how to handle the conflict: you can become open to learning about yourself and your partner and discover the deeper issues of the conflict, or you can try to win, or at least not lose, through some form of controlling behaviour.

We’ve all learnt many subtle ways of trying to control others into behaving the way we want: anger, blame, judgment, niceness, compliance, caretaking, resistance, withdrawal of love, explaining, teaching, defending, lying, denying, and so on. None of these promotes healthy intimacy within the relationship and in fact they create even more conflict. Remembering to learn instead of controlling is a vital part of improving intimacy in your relationship.

For example, most people have two major fears that become activated in relationships: the fear of abandonment – of losing the other – and the fear of engulfment – of losing oneself. When these fears get activated, most people immediately protect themselves against these fears with their controlling behaviour. But if you choose to learn about your fears instead of attempting to control your partner, your fear would eventually heal. This is how we grow emotionally and spiritually – by learning instead of controlling.

Make sure you have regular dates

When people first fall in love, they make time for each other. Then, especially after getting married, life happens in all its busyness. Relationships need time to thrive. It is vitally important to set aside specific times to be together – to talk, play and make love. Intimacy cannot be maintained without time together.

Gratitude instead of complaints

Positive energy flows between two people when there is an “attitude of gratitude.” Constant complaints create a heavy, negative energy, which is not fun to be around. Practise being grateful for what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. Complaints create stress, while gratitude creates inner peace. Gratitude creates not only intimate, emotional relationship health, but physical health as well.


We all know that “work without play makes Jack a dull boy.” And so too does work without play make for dull relationships. Relationships thrive when people laugh together, play together, and when humour is a part of everyday life. Intimacy flourishes when there is lightness of being, not when everything is heavy.


A wonderful way of creating intimacy is to do service projects together. Giving to others fills the soul and makes the heart sing. Serving moves you out of yourself and your own problems and supports a broader, more spiritual view of life.

If you and your partner agree to these 7 choices, you will be amazed at the improvement in your relationship!


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How Intimacy is Developed

Intimacy is one of the main ingredients of a successful, ‘ideal’ relationship along with passion and commitment (Hanna, 1991). Intimacy is a journey – it is not a tangible thing. It takes place over time, is ever-changing and is not stagnant. In fact, any kind of stagnation in a relationship may damage intimacy.

It is important in the counselling process to have an understanding of how intimacy develops in a relationship as well as some of the factors that could potentially be harmful to the development of it. The following factors will be discussed in relation to the development of intimacy including:

1.            Conditions that make it more likely to develop

2.            Gender differences

3.            Individual differences

Conditions for the development of intimacy

There are a number of conditions that are more beneficial to the healthy development of intimacy in a relationship. Intimacy requires time to develop as well as dedication and is a challenging task to not only develop intimacy but to maintain it. Another condition is trust; trust is required to allow each person in the relationship to feel comfortable to self-disclose and be vulnerable with each other (Brown & Brown, 1995).

Trust is defined as the “reliability, fairness, and faith” one has in his or her partner and without a certain level of trust the likelihood of intimate interactions is lessened (Prager, 1995).

Affection is another condition that goes hand in hand with intimacy as there should be a certain amount of positive feelings between the couple for the want or need of intimacy to be present (Prager, 1995). Cohesiveness is another factor that is generally required for intimacy in a relationship.

Cohesiveness refers to the sharing of time and activities in a relationship and for intimacy to occur spending time together is required (Prager). Finally, commitment between the couple is also a condition in which intimacy is more likely to occur (“Intimacy”, 1993).

Gender differences

Intimacy is generally viewed differently by males and females in relationships and this may impact on the development of it in a relationship due to the differing expectations (Brown & Brown, 1995; Prager, 1995). Women are more likely to view emotional intimacy in a relationship as more important whereas men tend to favour sexual intimacy and experiential intimacy.

Women have a heightened propensity to initiate verbal conversations about their feelings than men as well as being more likely to express when their intimacy needs are not being met. Men are more likely to look at how to resolve a problem rather than talk through their feelings about it (Brown & Brown).

Some research has also suggested that men may be less intimate in their relationships due to defining themselves in terms of autonomy and not requiring the level of emotional intimacy that women do (Heller & Wood, 1998). This may be due to the way in which the genders are socialised from a young age.

For example, in the past, men have been taught to be assertive, autonomous, self-confident and to not express intimate feelings. Women on the other hand are taught to maintain the emotional aspects of family life thus enhancing their expression of intimacy (Mackey, Diemer, & O’Brien, 2000).

Individual differences

Individual differences in the relationship may also impact on the development of intimacy. Individual differences include culture, economic and social status, childhood development, and personality factors.

Although the research on intimacy and cultural differences is limited, there is a substantial amount of information on cultural differences that impacts on the functioning of the relationship which could potentially impact on intimacy. The major theme in the literature is that cultural variations lead to differences in expectations and attitudes about relationships (Brown & Brown, 2002).

For example, some cultures may be more likely to discuss and analyse a problem in the relationship whereas others may not be as willing to do this. Due to this type of influence being ingrained from a young age, issues in intimacy may arise if one partner is willing to open up and the other is not.

There may also be differences in gender roles (as previously discussed under gender differences) as well as the relationship with other family members. For example, some cultures are heavily involved in each others lives and as such may “intervene” in a couple’s relationship rather than allowing them to talk to each other about what is happening and resolve the problem on their own (Brown & Brown).

Economic and social status may also have an impact on intimacy in a relationship. One reason for this is when a couple decide to share finances, the couple may have differences in opinion in how they want to spend money. For example, one person in the couple may want to spend the money whereas the other may want to save (Hanna, 1991).

Childhood Development has also been linked to the development of intimacy in relationships. As individuals develop in childhood, they experience intimate relationships with the people around them. This develops ways of behaving in interactions and relationships and may be transferred to intimate relationships later on in life (Prager, 1995).

Personality has also been linked to the level of intimacy developed in a relationship. People that are shy, anxious in social situations, have poor social skills and/or have difficulty trusting people have more trouble forming intimate relationships. Other traits affect the deepening of relationships such as those that use self-monitoring behaviour. There are personality traits that impact the likelihood of an ongoing intimate relationship.

Traits such as self-consciousness increase the level of intimate disclosures therefore increase the ongoing nature of the intimate relationship. Other traits include perspective-taking capacity (ie. how well one accepts another’s perspective), neuroticism, openness to experience, empathy, intimacy motivation, intimacy capacity, and self-esteem also impact on intimacy in the relationship (Prager, 1995).

Another factor relevant to each person is the perceptions of risk by each individual. This is the risk of exposure, being rejected, losing control, or being manipulated or betrayed in intimate exchanges. If an individual perceives a high risk in intimacy, they are less likely to engage in these behaviours and therefore more likely to have lower-quality relationships (Brunell, Pilkington & Webster, 2007).

Overall, the development of intimacy in a relationship may be influenced by many aspects including conditions that make it more likely to develop such as trust and time as well as differences between genders and other individual differences such as personality and perceptions of risk.


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