As a ‘Relate Certified Counsellor’ Mark can help you with:
Within a relationship the intimacy will vary from couple to couple and be dependent on many different factors. There are no right or wrong levels of intimacy within a relationship, but it is important that we are able to meet our partner’s needs for affection, encouragement and love appropriately.
Our experiences growing up may well have affected us more than we realise. If you saw your parents being tactile and demonstrative with their feelings towards each other and also to you, the chances are that you will be similar and desire a deep level of emotional and physical intimacy with your partner. Likewise, if your parents were less forthcoming you may be likely (although not always) to be quite similar. If you didn’t receive much affection or see much intimacy between your parents, you may not know how to provide it to your partner or, you may now be looking to your partner to provide it for you.
The early stages of a relationship can be exciting as we discover things about each other and we attempt to spend as much time as possible together, doing things to please each other, often putting in a lot of effort to do so. That time and effort given by each partner helps to create a level of intimacy which strengthens the relationship, whereas the lack of it from either of us or both, is one of the factors which may determine if the relationship is going to continue.
Over time the nature of the relationship does change and the infatuation we may once have experienced decreases. The effects of our day to day living impact the relationship and because we are living together, the effort we once put in to spend time together naturally lessens.
Living together enables us to see our partner in the cold light of day and we become more aware of their faults and failings, the issues that this causes may initially seem fairly minor and we suppress our disappointment and attempt to move on. However, over a period of time these issues can build up and fester, causing the intimacy between us to gradually wear away.
Bigger issues can hurt us and bring about the more immediate response of anger towards our partner, and as a result the emotional intimacy between us decreases rapidly, probably also affecting our sexual intimacy. Failure to communicate openly and honestly may mean that significant issues are not dealt with leaving the hurt and resentment to build up making the task of repairing the situation so much more difficult.
Depending on how far things have gone, restoring the intimacy to our relationship can seem unrealistic, but if we are prepared to put in the same effort we gave at the beginning of the relationship it is certainly possible. Being able to forgive each other for past hurts will be vital, as will finding ways of spending time together on a regular weekly basis.
Through the counselling process, understanding for ourselves and explicitly communicating to our partner how they might best provide us with the love that we require (See ‘Understanding you love language’) will be helpful to us both in building greater intimacy.