Revelations in Closeness

couple intimacy

Deeply Intimate Relationships Explained
By Rae Sanders

Impassioned confusion lies between the cracks and crags of human connection. Reflecting on our intimate relationships, however, can shed light on what is happening with ourselves and our partners. Professor Linda Roberts of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-contributor to the intimacy model “Deep Intimate Connection: Self and Intimacy in Couple Relationships,” explains the complexities of connection while identifying three main components of deep intimacy.

In Roberts’ and her colleague Karen Prager’s model of deep intimate connection “two partners [maintain] eye contact and forward body orientation while disclosing feelings of uncertainty about themselves as relationship partners who nevertheless love one another deeply.” Understanding and exposing the “self“ can play a major role in building an intimate connection.

“Being more willing to be vulnerable is a key component, whether you’re talking about emotional intimacy or sexual intimacy,” Roberts says.

The three components of a deep connection are:

  • Self-revealing behavior; it can begin with only one person revealing a part of herself first.
  • Positive involvement with the other, which means being fully present with the other.
  • Shared understanding; when one person reveals and the other responds.

Intimacy is created when the revealing person feels understood, validated and cared for in the interaction.

“Developing intimacy can be learned; it’s a skill,” Roberts says. “There’s lots of ways of being with another, even on a day-today basis, that might involve high levels of interdependence and companionship, but not go to these deeper levels of intimacy.”

In sexual connection, Roberts’ and Prager’s intimacy model highlights that being present in “playful sexual intimacy brings depth and significance to the experience of sexual contact.”

“There’s sexual intimacy and then there’s emotional intimacy, and we know that they feed on each other, especially that sexual intimacy might lead people actually to desire more emotional intimacy,“ Roberts says.

In today’s world, the model of intimacy can be distorted in the media’s portrayal of connection. Roberts says, at times, emotional dialogue is often bypassed on the way to the bedroom.

“We not only need relationship skills, we need self-skills, skills related to managing our emotions, knowing our emotions, being aware and clear about what our values and priorities are.”

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