Christine Chiu, MFT

November 18, 2009

Growth Goal #2: Intimacy (not the same as intensity)

Goals for Emotional Health or Maturity:

#1) Understanding, Desiring, and Pursuing, Integrity.
#2) Understanding, Desiring, and Pursuing, INTIMACY.

Growth Goal #2 towards Emotional Health, is being able to accurately define INTIMACY, in order to walk on a healthy path towards developing/maintaining intimate relationships. We must also learn to discern the difference between Intimacy & Intensity. Intensity is not required in order for intimacy to be present.

The Vacillator “Love Style”, one of the “Attachment Injury Styles” is the person who is constantly pushing you away while at the same time, pursuing you to engage. The person with this kind of love style is someone who craves connection but will often confuse intensity with intimacy, thinking they are one in the same.

We are all craving some sort of emotional connection and intimacy… Human beings were created to be social beings, not isolated ones. But it is important to know the CORRECT definition of intimacy, and what it is we are really desiring:

From Wikipedia, “Genuine intimacy in human relationships requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity. As a verb, “intimate” means “to state or make known”. (Intimacy is getting to know one another at a slow pace). To sustain intimacy for any length of time requires well developed emotional and interpersonal awareness. Intimacy requires an ability to be both separate and together participants in an intimate relationship. This is called self-differentiation. It results in a connection in which there is an emotional range involving both robust conflict, and intense loyalty. Lacking the ability to differentiate one self from the other is a form of symbiosis, a state that is different from intimacy, even if feelings of closeness are similar.”

The vacillator, however, wants NO differentiation. Any feeling of being separate means they are not close and things are now “all bad” (black and white thinking). When there is no intensity in the relationship, they feel no connection or “intimacy”.

It is important to note, however, that TRUE intimacy involves self awareness and self differentiation. It is not necessarily an intense gaze, conversation, and connection, ALL the time. It requires a healthy balance of rationality/thinking, and emotion/feeling.

Other Interesting/Helpful Information in understanding Intimacy (also from wikipedia!):

“From a center of self knowledge and self differentiation, intimate behavior joins family, close friends as well as those with whom one is in love. It evolves through reciprocal self-disclosure and candour.”

“Poor skills in developing of 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.”

And on physical/ sexual intimacy:

“It is worth distinguishing intimate (communal) relationships from strategic (exchange) relationships. Physical intimacy occurs in the latter but it is governed by a higher order strategy, of which the other person may not be aware. For example getting close to someone in order to get something from them or give them something. That ‘something’ might not be offered so freely if it did not appear to be an intimate exchange and if the ultimate strategy had been visible at the outset. Mills and Clark (1982) found that strategic (exchange) relationships are fragile and easily break down when there is any level of disagreement. Emotionally intimate (communal) relationships are much more robust and can survive considerable (and even ongoing) disagreements.

In new relationships, sexual intimacy may develop slowly and in a predictable way. Research by Desmond Morris, a behavioral psychologist, found that most new relationships followed 12 predictable steps on the path to sexual intimacy. Couples that rushed through the steps or skipped steps were most likely to break up. The 12 steps he identified (in order) are: Eye to Body, Eye to Eye, Voice to Voice, Hand to Hand, Arm to Shoulder, Arm to Waist, Mouth to Mouth, Hand to Head, Hand to Body, Mouth to Breast, Hand to Genitals, and finally, Sexual Intercourse.


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