An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy involves feelings of liking or Love one or more people, and may result in physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic love, sexual activity, or other passionate attachment. These relationships play a central role in the overall human experience.Miller, Rowland & Perlman, Daniel (2008). Intimate Relationships (5th ed.). McGraw-Hill. Humans have a general desire to belong and to love, which is usually satisfied within an intimate relationship.Perlman, D. (2007). The best of times, the worst of times: The place of close relationships in psychology and our daily lives. Canadian Psychology, 48, 7–18. Such relationships allow a social network for people to form strong emotional attachments.
In human relationships, the meaning and level of intimacy varies within and between relationships. In anthropological research, intimacy is considered the product of a successful seduction, a process of rapport building that enables parties to confidently disclose previously hidden thoughts and feelings. Intimate conversations become the basis for "confidences" (secret knowledge) that bind people together.Moore, M. (1985) " Nonverbal Courtship Patterns in Women: Contact and Consequences", Ethnology and Sociobiology, 6: 237–247.
Sustaining intimacy for a length of time involves well-developed emotional and interpersonal awareness. Intimacy involves the ability to be both separate and together participants in an intimate relationship. Murray Bowen called this "self-differentiation," which results in a connection in which there is an emotional range involving both robust conflict and intense loyalty.Aronson, E. (2003) The Social Animal, Ninth Edition, New York: Worth Publishers. Lacking the ability to differentiate oneself from the other is a form of symbiosis, a state that is different from intimacy, even if feelings of closeness are similar.
Intimate behavior joins family members and close friends, as well as those in love. It evolves through reciprocal self-disclosure and . Poor skills in developing 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. Psychological consequences of intimacy problems are found in adults who have difficulty in forming and maintaining intimate relationships. Individuals often experience the human limitations of their partners, and develop a fear of adverse consequences of disrupted intimate relationships. Studies show that fear of intimacy is negatively related to comfort with emotional closeness and with relationship satisfaction, and positively related to loneliness and trait anxiety.Khaleque, A. (2004). Intimate Adult Relationships, Quality of Life and Psychological Adjustment. Social Indicators Research, 69, 351–360.
The interdependence model of Levinger and Snoek divides the development of intimate relationship into four stages: the first one is zero contact stage, which is no contact between the two parties in the relationship; The second stage is awareness, which means people don't have any superficial or deep contact with each other, but just know each other; The third stage is surface contact, in which both parties know each other and have had superficial contact; The fourth stage of coexistence phase (mutuality), refers to the mutual dependence has greatly increased, there are also deep contact existing,
The study by Monroe was the first to mark the significant shift in the study of intimate relationships from analysis that was primarily philosophical to those with empirical validity. This study is said to have finally marked the beginning of relationship science. In the years following Monroe's study, very few similar studies were done. There were limited studies done on children's friendships, courtship and marriages, and families in the 1930s but few relationship studies were conducted before or during World War II. Intimate relationships did not become a broad focus of research again until the 1960s and 1970s when there was a vast amount of relationship studies being published.
The study of intimate relationships uses participants from diverse groups and examines a wide variety of topics that include family relations, friendships, and romantic relationships, usually over a long period. Current study includes both positive and negative or unpleasant aspects of relationships.
Research being conducted by John Gottman (2010) and his colleagues involves inviting married couples into a pleasant setting, in which they revisit the disagreement that caused their last argument. Although the participants are aware that they are being videotaped, they soon become so absorbed in their own interaction that they forget they are being recorded. With the second-by-second analysis of observable reactions as well as emotional ones, Gottman is able to predict with 93% accuracy the fate of the couples' relationship.
Terri Orbuch and Joseph Veroff (2002) monitored newlywed couples using self-reports over a long period (a longitudinal study). Participants are required to provide extensive reports about the natures and the statuses of their relationships. Although many of the marriages have ended since the beginning of the study, this type of relationship study allows researchers to track marriages from start to finish by conducting follow-up interviews with the participants in order to determine which factors are associated with marriages that last and which with those that do not. Though the field of relationship science is still relatively young, research conducted by researchers from many different disciplines continues to broaden the field.
Evidence also points to the role of a number of contextual factors that can impact intimate relationships. In a recent study on the impact of Hurricane Katrina on marital and partner relationships, researchers found that while many reported negative changes in their relationships, a number also experienced positive changes. More specifically, the advent of Hurricane Katrina led to a number of environmental stressors (for example, unemployment, prolonged separation) that negatively impacted intimate relationships for many couples, though other couples' relationships grew stronger as a result of new employment opportunities, a greater sense of perspective, and higher levels of communication and support.Lowe, S.R., Rhodes, J.E., & Scoglio, A.A. (2012). "Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36", 286–300. doi: 10.1177/0361684311434307 As a result, environmental factors are also understood to contribute heavily to the strength of intimate relationships.
A Northwestern University research team summarized the literature in 2013, finding that "negative-affect reciprocity" – retaliatory negativity between partners during a conflict – is arguably the most robust predictor of poor marital quality. However, this degradation can be softened (according to their 120 heterosexual couple Chicago sample) by undertaking a reappraisal writing task every four months.
One study suggests that married straight couples and cohabiting gay and lesbian couples in long-term intimate relationships may pick up each other's unhealthy habits. The study reports three distinct findings showing how unhealthy habits are promoted in long-term intimate relationships: through the direct bad influence of one partner, through synchronicity of health habits, and through the notion of personal responsibility.
Aristotle also suggested that relationships based on virtue would be the longest lasting and that virtue-based relationships were the only type of relationship in which each partner was liked for themselves. The philosophical analysis used by Aristotle dominated the analysis of intimate relationships until the late 1880s.Vangelisti, A.L., & Perlman, D. (2006). The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
In 1891, William James wrote that a person's self-concept is defined by the relationships endured with others. In 1897, Émile Durkheim's interest in social organization led to the examination of social isolation and alienation. This was an influential discovery of intimate relationships in that Durkheim argued that being socially isolated was a key antecedent of suicide. This focus on the darker side of relationships and the negative consequences associated to social isolation were what Durkheim labeled as anomie. Georg Simmel wrote about dyads, or partnerships with two people. Simmel suggested that dyads require consent and engagement of both partners to maintain the relationship but noted that the relationship can be ended by the initiation of only one partner. Although the theorists mentioned above sought support for their theories, their primary contributions to the study of intimate relationships were conceptual and not empirically grounded.
Donald Nathanson, a psychiatrist who built his study of human interactions off of the work of Silvan Tomkins, argues that an intimate relationship between two individuals is best when the couple agrees to maximize positive affect, minimize negative affect and allow for the free expression of affect. These findings were based on Tomkin's blueprint for emotional health, which also emphasizes doing as much of the maximizing, minimizing and expressing as possible.