Friday, February 13, 2009

Closeness – One measure of a Quality Relationship

Russ Hardesty, PhD

What are some clues that your relationship is less than you want it to be?
This was a question I read recently on one of many relationship websites. Some of the responses were:
"I no longer want him/her around"
"Decline in sexual attraction"
"Noticeable change in the pattern of sexual intimacy"
"One on one time diminishes"
"No longer spending time together alone"
"Not remembering the last time your partner said 'I love you!'"

Closeness is an Aspect of Intimacy
Three components of love, according to Robert Sternberg, are commitment, passion and intimacy. Closeness is definitely an aspect of intimacy, and a maturing relationship will have increased closeness between partners. Closeness is revealed in times of stress. When a couple is challenged with stress that life presents, the extent of the closeness of a couple becomes very clear. The changing economic enviornment we are experiencing has challenged the closeness in many relationships. Some relationships have grown closer while others have become more distant.

Arne Floh, a professor in Vienna, Austria, describes closeness as a measure of a successful relationship. He states that the idea or concept of closeness can be experienced in several ways:
  • frequent contact
  • impact when in contact
  • diverse kinds of activites
  • length or duration of contact
  • emotional content

Closeness requires frequent contact with your partner.
A couple who had sought out assistance in improving their relationship reported that their relationship was much better since beginning counseling. When asked to identify their evidence of improvement they both told of the increased number of phone calls to each other during the day, more text messages and love notes they had been leaving for each other. Contact doesn’t always mean face to face. During the courtship phase of relationship, frequency of contact is essential for the relationship to progress to commitment.

Something meaningful happens.
Closeness builds when two people come together and value is created for both. Value is created when both have a need met. Sometimes this value is as simple as being heard or being able to express thoughts. Again, in the initial phase of relationship something meaningful happens with each encounter; otherwise the relationship would not continue.

Variety is essential to closeness.
One of the enemies of closeness is habituation. the same ol’ same ol’ is the marker of comfort zone living and the mask of relational demise. To build closeness a couple can experience discovery and wonder together. Growing and expanding thoughts, skills and relationship tools together tap into the creativity and imagination of people. When two individuals work together toward a common goal, closeness occurs. Beginning a new hobby or interest together is a great way to build closeness. Other ways might include sharing a book together, or attending a personal growth workshop together.

Uninterrupted and unstructured time together
Some of the most satisfying and fulfilling times I have spent with my partner were those in which there was no agenda. Just being in the presence of each other without external restraints or demands allow a couple to be in a safe and secure place and to be vulnerable with each other.

Heart to Heart
Many relationships are task-driven. Earning a living, raising children; caring for parents, social obligations and even religious activities can take the place of personal relationship. Closeness builds when there is an emotional connecting. It is possible to have a closeness that comes from working side by side, but closeness is enhanced and deepened when emotions of the heart are shared and demonstrated with each other. A major complaint I have heard in counseling sessions over the years is, „he/she doesn’t share their emotions with me! I just want to know how he/she feels!“ Closeness requires sharing our whole being – our physical presence, our thoughts and our emotions and feelings.

Actions Steps:
1. Rate your participation in each of these areas of closeness.
  • Frequent contact
  • Meaningful Time together
  • Variety of activities
  • Uninterrupted and Unstructured time
  • Heart to Heart
2. Describe two things you can do to improve or create more closeness in your relationship in the next week.

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Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae

What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?

“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey

A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ