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:
- 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.
- Caring: Affection is higher between romantic partners, who feel more affection for each other than they do for most others.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.|