By Anita Anand July 2008 ‘Intimacy requires identity development, which means that you have to know yourself and your inner self in order to share yourself with another.’ says Peter Fox, Couple’s Therapist In a healthy relationship:• There is spoken and unspoken dialogue. It is frank and direct with space for difference in world views.• There is Empathy – or accurate understanding of the other’s world as seen, felt and understood from the inside. • We are curious about how the other thinks as well as what they think. and unspoken dialogue. It is frank and direct with space for difference in worldviews.• There is room for individuality and at the same time cohesiveness.• Power is distributed equally and conflict handled transparently through negotiation, without force or threat. • There is expression of strong emotion and deepest fear by each person without abuse or causing harm.• Adults do not involve children in the normal disagreements.• There is forgiveness and redemption, which releases each without charge, from bondage to past, present or future.Written by Peter Fox on www.peterfox.com.au/family_howto.html You are with someone, but do not feel close. You are in a relationship, but you feel lonely. You desperately want to share something, but feel you may be misunderstood, or that people may repeat what you have told them in confidence. You spend an entire evening with your closest friends and nothing personal is exchanged. In all these cases, as in many others, intimacy is missing. Defining intimacy is not easy. Its meaning varies from relationship to relationship and within relationships over time. In some relationships, intimacy is entwined with sex, and feelings of closeness may be connected or confused with sexual feelings. In other relationships, intimacy has more to do with shared moments than sexual interactions. It is linked with feelings of closeness among partners in a relationship. Intimacy and healthy relationships go hand in hand. Indeed, intimacy is a basic ingredient in any meaningful relationship. Jane Austen, in her novel, Sense and Sensibility, writes, “It is not time or opportunity that determines intimacy, it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” The main forms of intimacy are emotional and physical. Intellectual intimacy, familiarity with a person’s culture and interests, is common among friends. Members of religious or philosophic groups may also perceive a ‘spiritual intimacy’ in their commonality. Intimacy can also be identified as knowing someone in depth, knowing many different aspects of a person or knowing how they would respond in different situations, because of the many experiences you have shared with them. ‘In its most basic form, intimacy is the ability and the choice to be close, loving and vulnerable. It requires identity development, which means that you have to know yourself and your inner self in order to share yourself with another. Knowing yourself makes it possible to stand up for yourself in an intimate relationship, without taking over the other, or losing yourself to the other. This is self-differentiation.’ says Peter Fox, Couple’s therapist Self-differentiation – or one’s ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from that of the family, was popularised by Dr Murray Bowen, an American psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University in the US. Beginning in the 1950s, Bowen was among the pioneers of family therapy and founders of a systems theory of the family and systemic therapy. Bowen spoke of people functioning on a single continuum or scale. Individuals with ‘low differentiation’ are more likely to become fused with predominant family emotions. They depend on others’ approval and acceptance. They either conform themselves to others in order to please them, or they attempt to force others to conform to themselves. They are thus vulnerable to stress, and they struggle to adjust to life changes. From a centre of self-knowledge and self-differentiation, intimate behaviour joins family, close friends, as well as those with whom one is in love. It is a give and take, building on self-disclosure and openness. However, poor development of intimacy can lead to getting too close, too quickly, struggling to find the boundary and to sustain connection, being poorly skilled as a friend, rejecting self-disclosure or even rejecting friendships and those who have them.Self-disclosure is both the conscious and unconscious act of revealing more about us to others. This may include but is not limited to thoughts, feelings, aspirations, goals, failures, successes, fears, dreams as well as our likes, dislikes, and favourites. Many people attempt to avoid ‘self-disclosing’ to their colleagues or a possible love interest for fear of being judged negatively by them. In self-disclosure, we get to know each other and self-disclose things. We continue to build and develop our relationships with them. If one person is not willing to ‘self disclose’ then the other persons may stop disclosing information about themselves also. Self-disclosure is an essential building block for intimacy. Intimacy cannot be achieved without it. Self-disclosure also needs to be reciprocal and appropriate. Most self-disclosure usually occurs early in relational development, but more intimate self-disclosure occurs later. There are male and female differences in self- disclosure. Generally, it is perceived that women self-disclose to enhance a relationship. Men’s self-disclosures relate to control and vulnerability. Men initially disclose more in heterosexual relationships. Men usually enjoy having women disclose, whereas women may not enjoy the disclosure of men because it may show weakness in their mind. Women tend to put more emphasis on intimate communication with same sex friends than many men do. Intimate relationships differ from strategic relationships. Intimate behaviour occurs in the latter but it is governed by a higher order strategy, of which the other person may not be aware. For example, getting close to someone in order to get something from him or her, or give him or her 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.Secrets are generally hostile to intimacy in a committed relationship, but not knowing of the existence of a secret, one can continue to believe there is intimacy. Maintaining the illusion of intimacy may be a strategic skill where there is an imbalance of power brought about by the existence of a secret. Knowledge is the currency of power. Betrayal of intimacy can be a traumatic experience. The person can feel cheated as well as humiliated.Intimate relations When a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, something wonderful happens – the two are liberated from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they do not want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment. No one would think that it is the intimacy of sex, or that mere sex is the reason each lover takes so great and deep a joy in being with the other. – PlatoAn intimate relationship is a particularly close interpersonal relationship. It is a relationship in which the participants know or trust one another very well or are confidants of one another, or a relationship in which there is physical or emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterised by romantic or passionate love and attachment, or sexual activity. It is sensual proximity and/or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself and/or be an expression of feelings (such as close friendship, love, and/or sexual attraction) which people have for one another. Examples of physical intimacy include being inside someone’s personal space, holding hands, hugging, kissing, caressing, and sexual activity.Emotional intimacy is a dimension of interpersonal intimacy that varies in degree and over time, much like physical intimacy. The degree of comfort, effectiveness and mutual experience of closeness might indicate emotional intimacy between individuals. Intimate communication is both expressed (talking) and implied (friends sitting close on a park bench in silence). It depends primarily on trust, as well as the nature of the relationship and the culture in which it is observed. Depending on the background and conventions of the participants, emotional intimacy might involve disclosing thoughts, feelings and emotions in order to reach an understanding, offer mutual support or build a sense of community. On the other hand, it might involve sharing a duty, without commentary. Love is an important factor in physical and emotional intimate relationships. Though love is notoriously difficult to define, it is not only quantitatively different from liking, and the difference is not merely the presence or absence of sexual attraction. According to one analysis, love in relationships could be passionate and companionate. Passionate love is intense longing, and often accompanied by physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate). Companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy, and is not necessarily accompanied by physiological arousal. When I am with you, we stay up all night. When you are not here, I cannot go to sleep. Praise God for these two insomnias and the difference between them. – Mevlana RumiBuilding intimacy and healthy relationships “Loving behaviour doesn’t grind you down, keep you off balance, or create feelings of self-hatred. Love does not hurt; it feels good
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