6 Important Elements of an Intimate Relationship

What are the differences you see in intimate relationships?
What are the differences you see in intimate relationships?

In the previous post on relationships, we explored the human need to belong and how to satisfy that need, and today, we’ll talk a bit about relationships and how casual ones differ from more intimate connections.  Before we get any further, you might have some questions about the definition of ‘intimate.’ Although ‘intimate’ can also refer to non-romantic relationships such as close friendships, we’re going use intimate to refer to romantic relationships here. Take a moment to reflect on the intimate relationships you’ve had – how were they different than your friendships?

Intimate relationships are different from casual ones in at least 6 ways:

  1. Knowledge: People in romantic relationships have extensive (and often confidential) personal information about each other.  They’ve probably shared feelings, desires, and info about their histories they don’t reveal to other people they know.
  2. Caring: Affection is higher between romantic partners, who feel more affection for each other than they do for most others.
  3. Interdependence: The lives of intimate partners are intertwined to some degree, since your behavior and what you do will affect not only you, but also your significant other. It’s the extent you need and influence each other.
  4. Mutuality: As a relationship get more exclusive and/or serious, people start to consider themselves to be a couple instead of two separate individuals. It’s when you start thinking in terms of “us.”
  5. Trust: An expectation that our significant other will treat us with honor. If trust is broken, we often stop wanting to be as open, and that affects the level of interdependence.
  6. Commitment: The expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely. When people are committed, they invest the time, effort, and resources to make that happen.

So there it is: the 6 important ways romantic relationships stand out from other more casual relationships. You don’t absolutely need these factors for intimacy to happen, and each can exist even when others are missing. Take an unhappily married couple as an example: they might still be very interdependent, but without much caring or trust. You can imagine that their relationship is still intimate, but to a lesser degree.

Keep in mind that intimacy can vary over the course of a relationship, but generally, our most meaningful and happy relationships include all 6 factors described above. Do you feel that this accurately reflects your most satisfying intimate relationships?

Photo by: zz77

This is a guest post by Stacey Yan, a good friend of mine. Stacey has just completed her MSW degree (also has a BA in Psychology) and is currently enjoying her off time hiking around the various trails of Southern California.

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11 thoughts on “6 Important Elements of an Intimate Relationship”

  1. This is a great post, I especially love the photograph at the top – just beautiful! I think that you are right, these are six very important pieces to a relationship. I have recently heard a lot of talk about non-traditional “intimate” or romantic relationships. Those ideas certainly break the mold and would not fit into these descriptions. However, when it comes to traditional relationships, these definitions are dead-on.

    Trust is crucial and so is the “us” mentality. When you commit to a loving relationship, you must begin thinking of, not only yourself, but your partner as well.

    Thanks for the post!

    .-= Dena´s last blog ..Heaven is a Place on Earth: How to End Your Personal Suffering =-.

  2. These 6 concepts seem easy enough to understand yet is the most complex relationship I know of. Intimate relationships go deeper, (can) hurt more and on the other hand, have rewards that are beyond any other type of relationship.

  3. @Dena: Thank you for your comment! Trust is definitely a crucial part in any relationship and even more so in a intimate one.

  4. @joseph: Thank you for stopping by, intimate relationships, like any other require us to open up, which can be seen as ‘uncertainty’ but like you said, the rewards are much more than the risk.

  5. Hi Ken. This is a nice article. Using when I think of intimacy, I think of romance. But you hit it on the spot when you mention that there are also other factors that create an intimate relationship such as caring, trust, and commitment. I definitely think that if you trust someone and they trust you, you guys will be as open to each other, which produces intimacy. Thanks for this man. 🙂

    1. @Hulbert: Intimate relationships are one of the strongest bonds we can make in life, so it’s always good to take time to make the best of it!

  6. @Dena: You make a great point about non-traditional relationships — human relationships are so complex & varied, although I would say that most would probably still include at least one of those elements (knowledge) to some degree.

    @Joseph: This is what keeps us trying, even after failed attempts — the rewards of a satisfying intimate relationship are worth allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

    @Hulbert: The 6 elements definitely play a crucial part in building lasting intimate relationships, although romance is important too 😉

    To all: thanks for reading and commenting!

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