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Creating Intimacy, Creating Distance

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Creating Intimacy, Creating Distance

Every person in a relationship is responsible for co-creating whatever they experience in the relationship.  If you are in a relationship, review the two lists below and see what you are creating more of:  intimacy or distance.   If you want to create more intimacy, this list is a good guideline for how to do so behaviorally.  If you are unable or unwilling to do the things on this list consistently, you may need help in learning how to do so.


  • regular, consistent attention for one another and the relationship

  • respect for one another and the relationship

  • regular healthy verbal communication

  • regular physical contact (frequency and type mutually agreed upon)

  • frequent eye contact -passion, excitement and fun together

  • promotion of physical and emotional safety at all times

  • spontaneous surprises on occasion

  • regular expression of caring & tenderness as defined by your partner

  • regular expression of feelings

  • using conflict resolution skills when conflict emerges

  • creating regular time alone together, without distraction

  • anger and resentments expressed and resolved

  • realistic expectations which are regularly communicated

  • asking for what you want

  • saying and/or doing what is truthful and honest for you

  • being honest and straightforward with your partner

  • acceptance of your partner's personality and characteristics

  • promoting your partner's growth as an individual

  • taking responsibility for your relationship/life problems

  • understanding the impact of your family of origin on your relationship

  • taking the time to listen to what your partner thinks and feels

  • living in the present and envisioning a positive future together

  • emphasize solutions and positivism



  • lack of attention to one another and the relationship

  • lack of respect for one another and the relationship

  • lack of healthy verbal communication

  • lack of physical contact

  • lack of eye contact

  • lack of passion, excitement and fun together

  • verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse

  • predictable, routine interactions

  • few expressions of caring & tenderness

  • unexpressed feelings

  • avoiding conflict or avoiding resolution of conflict

  • avoiding time alone together

  • presence of unspoken or unresolved anger and resentment

  • unexpressed or unrealistic expectations and assumptions

  • being afraid to ask for what you want

  • saying and/or doing only what you think your partner wants

  • lying, deceiving, game playing, passive aggression

  • trying to change your partner's basic character

  • stifling your partners' growth as an individual

  • blaming your partner for most or all of your relationship/life problems

  • ignoring the impact of your family of origin on your relationship

  • assuming your know what your partner thinks and feels

  • living in the past

  • emphasize problems and negativity



Intimacy can be evaluated in many ways. These are nine questions that can give you a sense of whether your relationship is in need of an intimacy tune up. Remember that there are no right or wrong answers!

Nine Intimate Questions (often, often enough, not enough, or rarely)

  • 1. How often do you show affection for each other?

  • 2. How often do you laugh at each otherís jokes?

  • 3. How often do you say something nice to each other?

  • 4. How often do you compliment your partner in front of others?

  • 5. How often do you make love?

  • 6. How often are you playful with each other?

  • 7. How often do you look each other in the eyes while talking?

  • 8. How often do you give each other a little surprise?

  • 9. How often do you say "please" or "Iím sorry"?

If you are disappointed or dissatisfied with your answers or if you wish more of them were "often" or "often enough", then consider this a sign that your relationship needs reviving.

Given that most of us are working very hard and that a stressful life existence can be considered the "norm", it is likely that our relationships are not getting the attention that they deserve. Here are some pointers for you to consider without adding yet another demand in your already busy world. These tips are intended to help you cope and increase the intimacy and passion that are necessary for a healthy relationship.

1. It takes WORK. No surprise but if you can remember that a relationship requires us to put energy into it on a daily basis than you will be able to foster the growth of a healthy and developing union.

You are a TEAM. We are required to make many decisions in life regarding our careers as well as our social and community involvements. Regardless of what decisions you make, remember you are part of a relationship. The decision you make will affect the relationship. Before you make a decision, ask yourself this question, ďWhat will the choice I am making do to the people I love?Ē. Try to make the decision that will have the least negative impact on your relationship and your family.

Be PROTECTIVE. If you do not protect your relationship who will? Separate your partnership and your family from the rest of the world. It might mean refusing to work or worry on certain days or nights. You might end up turning down relatives and friends who want more time with you than you have to give - saving energy for your relationship. It may mean even saying no to your children to make sure you have time with your partner.

Good enough is as PERFECT as it gets. The reality is that we all have to make sacrifices and compromises in life. You may have to settle for a job rather than a career that demands too much time or travel. You may have to settle for less income in order to have a job that allows you the time and energy for a healthy family life. Most of all, you will have to accept that there is not enough time at this point in your life to do and be all that you might aspire to be.

Communicate. Unless you constantly communicate, signaling to your partner where you are and getting a recognizable message in return, you will lose each other along the way. Create or protect communication-generating rituals. No matter how busy you may be, make time for each other. For example, take a night off each week, go for a walk together every few days, go out to breakfast if you canít have dinner alone, or just sit together for 15 minutes each evening simply talking, without any other distractions.

Manage your ANGER. Try to break the cycle in which hostile, cynical attitudes fuel unpleasant emotions, leading to aggressive behavior that stress others and create more tension. Donít confuse assertion with aggression. Watch your non-verbal signals, such as the tone of your voice, your hand and arm gestures, facial expressions and body movements. Deal with one issue at a time.

Declare Devotion. True long term relationships require repeated affirmations of commitment to each other. Donít forget that love is not only in what you say but also in how you act. Do the dishes without being asked and of course, the age old custom of bringing flowers to the one you love!

Give each other PERMISSION to CHANGE. It is fascinating to note how much more couples know each other early in their relationship than they do once they have been together for years. The reason? People stop paying attention. If you arenít learning something new about each other every week or two, you simply arenít observing closely enough. You are focusing on other things, not one another.

Have FUN. Human beings fall in love with the ones who make them laugh. They stay in love with those who make them feel safe enough to come out to play. Keep delight as a priority. Put your creative energy into making yourselves joyful and producing a relationship that regularly feels like recess.

Be TRUSTWORTHY. People trust the ones who validate them. Always act as if each of you has thoughts, impressions, and preferences that make sense, even if your opinions or needs differ. Realize your partnerís perceptions will always contain at least a few truths, and validate those truths before adding your perspectives to the discussions.

Forgive and FORGET. Donít be too hard on each other. If your passion and love are to survive, you must learn how to forgive. You and your partner regularly need to wipe the slate clean so that anger doesnít build and resentment wonít fester. Holding on to hurts and hostility is a way of blocking real intimacy. It will only assure that no matter how hard you otherwise work at it, your relationship will not grow. Be compassionate about the fact that neither of you intended to hurt the other as you set out on this journey.

Cherish and APPLAUD. The most fundamental ingredient in the intimacy formula is cherishing each other. You need to celebrate each otherís presence. Be gracious. Acknowledge all those small acts of kindness each other performs in the everyday tasks of life. People are amazingly resilient if given at least a little reinforcement for their efforts.

Remember that there are no perfect relationships. Keep these points in mind and may they help you foster the love, intimacy and passion that we all need and deserve - even if we are stressed!

Adapted from Supercouple Syndrome: How Overworked Couples Can Beat Stress Together. By Wayne and Mary Sotile.

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Last updated: 07/11/09

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