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Emotional Fitness for Intimacy

How do you define intimacy?

Intimacy is the feeling that your partner and you really get each other. It is a closeness that breeds security, understanding, and romance. Think of it as "real love" rather than "in love" (which is temporary insanity).

Remember that sex is only a small part of an intimate relationship. Couples can learn to reverse the negative effects of too little intimacy by finding ways to eliminate bad behaviors and by creating new behaviors with an open-to-intimacy attitude. Ask each other exactly what intimacy means to you and what you need from your mate to feel more of it. From a gentle caress to an overflowing heart, the art of intimacy always begins with the desire to be as close as humanly possible.

What is the difference between interdependence and codependence?

Codependence is most easily described and "neediness". Interdependence is how you relate when you love someone enough to let him or her be who they really are and don't feel threatened by it.

Focusing on integrating continuous positive behaviors into your overall lifestyle is paramount to maintaining a good and loving connection. Codependents find it difficult to cope with major but common challenges, like finances, kids, and even illness. Once you incorporate relationship enhancing techniques, and move closer to interdependence, your issues will become more manageable and your connection deeper.

How can interdependence increase intimacy in a relationship?

When you are loved because you are wanted versus needed, it is empowering rather than burdensome. We all need emotional support, but generally we are more attracted to someone who has good self-esteem and enjoys his or her life than to a person who needs to be emotionally taken care of.

Keeping a relationship balanced is also key to keeping it on track. Once couples begin to get back on course romantically, they need to remember that maintaining a satisfying relationship requires regular attention and upkeep in all areas. Truth is that all it really takes is ten minutes a day to check in with your partner. Just as a successful physical fitness program requires a lifelong commitment, when it comes to emotional fitness, it's impossible to overstate the importance of regular relationship maintenance.

Can you explain what you mean by saying that there are cat people and bunny people?

Cat people like to take naps and lounge in the sun while bunny people are happiest when they are out and about going, going, and going. The interesting thing is that the two combined can make for a great relationship because they balance each other out.

Although love is the bedrock of romantic relationships, it is only a part of what makes a relationship great. What most couples don't understand about love is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum, nor does it stay alive simply because we say the words "I love you." Love requires that you take action and do things for and with your partner that show you care. Having differences makes a relationship interesting and it gives you more to talk about. Even if you don't agree, as long as you're not disagreeable, a little razor-sharp repartee can be fun and even sexy.

Do you have any recommendations in your book for couples with children?

You mean in addition to putting a dead-bolt lock on the bedroom door? Yes, of course. Many couples begin to experience a loss of intimacy as soon as they start having children, so the importance of keeping the closeness is even more profound.

Flowers and dinners out are commonplace at the beginning of a relationship, but it is surprising to learn how few couples recognize the importance of keeping romance alive throughout their lives, even when the novelty or the desire to impress is long gone. Truth be told, a relationship done right is romantic. Just follow your heart and don't ignore your feelings or needs.

How can people whose partners have lost their jobs in the recent economic downturn be supportive?

First, refrain for blaming, shaming or complaining; your partner feels bad enough right now. Spend your energy working together to make a plan. As your partner is looking for a new job, you can also look at what expenses you can cut and perhaps how to bring in a little extra money with something part-time or together creating a small, home-based business.

While talking through problems doesn't always take away the pain, communicating gently and effectively can help couples avoid the pitfalls that cause unnecessary issues from surfacing in the first place. Most successful couples share certain behaviors, skills, and practices, and the most essential of these is good communication. Couples must learn that communicating with each other is the most important thing in their relationship. If you don't take the risk to speak what's in your heart, it will become too heavy; your true feelings will leak out, and this usually happens in inappropriate ways.

You recommend that couples discuss their finances together - what can this do to deepen intimacy?

Actually, dealing with adversity as a couple is a bonding experience. Money issues are the number one reason couples break up, so learning how to talk about them and deal with finances as a team is paramount to maintaining an emotionally fit relationship.

Fulfillment comes from building the life you have dreamed of. To create a great and loving relationship, you first need a strong foundation. Making sure that the cornerstones of your life are solid will give you the ability to weather the storms of real life. When money stress surfaces people can't be as intimate as they would like, so getting those financial issues handled or at least out of the closet is very important to maintaining a close relationship.

One of your chapters is called "Relationships are about Running Errands." What do you mean by that, and why is it important for couples to do little things together?

Most of our time is not spent at The Ritz; it's spent at Target. Having someone take on the task of living along with you makes it easier and even a little fun. If you feel that you are doing all the legwork in your relationship, it's going to cause some resentment, and it certainly won't make you feel intimate. Sharing in the daily grind makes your life a little sweeter because you know you are not alone or being taken for granted.

The key is that seemingly little things can make an astonishingly big difference. A cup of coffee, a text message, or a spontaneous romantic kiss will work. Follow your heart (and your partner's lead) and commit to making intimacy a part of your daily life.

Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Emotional Fitness for Intimacy by Barton Goldsmith

PhD Page last modified or reviewed by athealth on February 4, 2014.