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February 28, 2020

Do You Have An Intimate Relationship With Your Partner?

Intimate Relationships Take Work

Congratulations on taking initiative and working to improve your intimate relationship. It’s not easy, intimate relationships are complicated. Even Albert Einstein, who solved great mysteries, developed theories such as the theory of relativity, and is commonly known as one of the most intelligent individuals to have lived, had trouble with his interpersonal relationships. He admitted to failing at being a husband with his first and second wife, and to having an extremely difficult time being a father. Einstein’s eldest son once said, “Probably the only project he ever gave up on was me.” Some of Einstein’s conditions for his first wife were for her to not expect intimacy from him, stop talking to him if he requested, and to immediately leave his bedroom or study at his request. Don’t feel crushed by how tough the challenges in your relationship may feel, instead, focus on what you can do to help improve the intimacy in your relationship.

Interdependence is Key

Intimate relationships involve the personalities, feelings, passions, and goals of two people. As a result, intimate relationships are challenging, but desirable and enjoyable.

Take a moment to ask yourself if your relationship meets the four criteria which define an intimate relationship:

1. Bidirectional interdependence
Do you rely on each other?

2. Considering each other special and unique
Do you think you could easily replace your partner?
What makes them special?
Do they make you feel replaceable?
What does your partner think makes you special?

3. Influence each other across a variety of domains
Do you consider your partner when making a decision?
Does your partner consider you when making a decision?

4. Experience some degree of mutual sexual passion
How often do you want to be physically intimate with your partner?
How often does your partner want to be physically intimate with you?
Are you both happy with your sex life?

It’s shared experiences and continuous interactions that keep people from being strangers even after they haven’t seen each other in a while. The closeness of a relationship is demonstrated in how strong and frequent the various influences partners have over each other are.

Turning Impersonal Relationships into Personal Relationships

Interdependence is key, but not the only key ingredient for a personal relationship. There is interdependence between a teacher and a student, a company manager and an employee, a doctor, and a patient. You cannot have intimacy without interdependence but just because you have an interdependent relationship does not mean you have an intimate relationship. Two individuals looking to turn their impersonal relationship more personal need more than interdependence. Impersonal relationships are task-oriented and tend to be formal. Personal relationships tend to be informal and allow for deeper emotional connections. In order for an impersonal relationship to become a personal relationship, it requires interdependence and mutual admiration between two people. Two people that identify and like the unique qualities in each other and do not believe they can easily replace each other. Often the value we place in a relationship can be measured by how we would be affected and how we would react to losing that person. Losing a parent is different than losing an acquaintance.

Personal Relationships versus Close Relationships

The words personal and close are similar but not all personal relationships are close. Some relationships that are interdependent, and people treat each other as unique, irreplaceable individuals, but how close they are varies. For example, the relationship between an aunt and a niece is different than the relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend.

Close Relationships versus Intimate Relationships

Closeness is crucial, but not the final ingredient missing from the ingredients we’ve discussed will cook up an intimate relationship. Compare and contrast your intimate relationship with your relationship with family members, friends, and coworkers. If you would like, you can make a list and reflect on what those similarities and differences are between those relationships.

One-Night Stands

Having sex outside of close relationships, having hookups without strong and frequent interdependence does not make the cut for an intimate relationship. Just because two people are physically intimate does not mean that they have an intimate relationship. However, the possibility for a close relationship resulting in physical intimacy does take a close relationship to the next level, it makes it intimate. Even unhappy couples with strong interdependence that may result in physical intimacy are considered to be in an intimate relationship even though it is not a happy one. An unhappy relationship is different than a happy relationship, but both are considered intimate relationships.

The Next Level

Taking a close relationship to the next level doesn’t necessarily mean that specific close relationship will become romantically intimate. Both best friends and significant others hold a closer place to our hearts than other relationships with less intimacy. However, remember that the relationship also needs to be set apart according to how interdependent it is, and how frequent various interactions happen between the two.

Take a moment and reflect on the differences between your close friends, best friends, family friends, family members, and intimate partners. Think about the differences in your view of each relationship and how for example, having a conflict with a close friend affects you differently than having a conflict with an intimate partner does.

An easily distinguishable difference between any close relationship and an intimate relationship is whether or not both partners feel sexual tension. That’s an easy way to evaluate if a close relationship has been taken to the next level, that it has become more intimate than other close relationships. Regardless of whether or not any “moves” will be made, the potential to engage in sexual intercourse exists in the minds of both people involved. Once a lustful, sexual, passionate vibe is present and the possibility of having sex exists, a close relationship becomes an intimate relationship.

Intimacy Check

A simplified way to determine if you have an intimate relationship with your partner is to ask yourself if the following is true about you and your partner:

1. Do your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors frequently affect each other?
2. Are you both happy with how frequently you see each other?
3. Do you both text each other when you don’t see each other as often as you would both like to?
4. Do you enjoy activities such as studying, cuddling, eating, or going out together?
5. Do you feel sad when your partner feels sad? Do they feel sad when you feel sad?
6. Do you feel happy when your partner feels happy? Does your partner feel happy when you feel happy?
7. Is physical intimacy a possibility in your relationship?

Relationship Category Breakdown

  • An interdependent relationship is one where the behavior of one partner affects the other.
  • A personal relationship is one where partners consider each other to be irreplaceable.
  • A close relationship is one where partners have a strong and frequent influence on each other.
  • An intimate relationship is one where mutual sexual tension exists, and partners may share and express sexual feelings for each other, possibly resulting in physical intimacy.

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Funding for these programs was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant Number 90FM0063

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