Intimacy is the new buzz word in relationships. But are high levels of intimacy really that great for couples? Historically our perception of romantic love has been influenced by popular media. Through the 1950s romantic love was idealised through popular media. This was particularly so in film, with lovers walking, ‘hand-in-hand through a sunset to a rose-covered cottage.’ A relationship myth developed to suggest that only the fairy tale relationships were true romantic love. From the sixties through to the nineties sex was lauded as the key to a perfect relationship. If you weren’t having a brilliant sex life, then your relationship was doomed to fail.
As the world moved in to a new century there was an increased emphasis on the importance of intimacy in romantic love. Intimacy began to be the new ‘saviour’ to relationship problems. It was deemed that with increased intimacy your relationship would improve and love and sex would blossom. It was suggested that increased intimacy increased trust. Relationships gurus suggested that with complete trust there was nothing to fear.
But has intimacy become an impossible dream in relationships? Has it become like the belief in earth shaking sex in the nineties, something impossible to attain for most couples? Intimacy, like so many other emotions, can be abused or it can be abusive. Intimacy is only good when it is used responsibly. Even when it is used ostensibly to create closeness, intimacy can be misused. Research has indicated that trust, which is a form of intimacy, can be used to manipulate others in relationships.
Other concerns that have been raised about intimacy are; by asking for total intimacy partners lose their boundaries, which can turn their relationship into a mess of togetherness. In a relationship where everything is shared, bank accounts, holidays, friends, bed and life there is a distinct possibility that one partner may develop feelings of claustrophobia. One or both partners may feel suffocated in the relationship and begin to start distancing themselves to feel like an individual again.
When couples place a great deal of importance in the need for intimacy in their relationship they may believe that they have the right to question their partner and receive the absolute truth. But is it useful to know everything about your partner? And has privacy become a dirty word for individuals in relationships?
The concept of an exclusive intimate relationship would be impossible for most people. For many of us we share intimate relationships with our parents, siblings and friends. Depending on the topic many people are more likely to discuss a problem with a close friend than with their intimate partner. Also the focus on intimate relationships fails to acknowledge the importance of other relationships in our lives. Our perception that total exclusive intimacy should be the focus in our relationships may be unrealistic and unachievable.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand