Intimate relationships are very important, whether they are with a lover or a best friend or an understanding parent. Humans need many different kinds of close connections because these are the sources of emotional well-being. People who are in intimate relationships – and this does not refer solely to lifelong or sexual relationships – get many benefits from them:
- A sense of calmness and security, confidence in a continuing connection
- Mental and emotional support, ideas and feelings shared
- Affirmation and validation, acceptance and approval of who you are
- Personal growth, a nurturing place to learn about yourself and to develop maturity
Ultimately, intimacy supports making transitions in your professional life. Unless you have stability in your close personal relationships to back you up, you may not feel secure enough to take the risk that might be an opportunity. Instability in intimate relationships may make you unable to focus and be successful in your work, or to share the joy of success.
The closest personal relationships, the ones we call intimate, are necessary for our health and spirit. We need to know we are cared for and we need to care for someone. Not all relationships are or should be intimate, but some have the potential to become immensely satisfying and fulfilling – that warm, comfortable, and loving place we all want to be. Those deserve our care and commitment. And we deserve the intimacy.
Healthy intimate relationships
Healthy relationships can take many forms. Some examples are:
- The way a coach puts a bit of himself into the development of the players on the team
- The way old friends who have not seen each other in years pick right up with conversation and sharing
- The way neighbours can sometimes step in and know what needs to be done in a crisis
Following are some guidelines that will help you identify healthy relationships. You may find that your relationships already have some of these characteristics, but you may not have acknowledged them as signs of the level of closeness you might call intimate.
Characteristics of intimate relationships
- Respect for each other’s needs – mutual willingness to negotiate some needs for the best interest of the relationship.
- Acceptance – both feel that weaknesses and strengths are understood.
- Safety – physical and emotional trust that goes both ways.
- Affirmation – validation and support that goes beyond tolerance.
- Listening – value on both sides for what the other has to say.
- Openness – ability to express guilt, anger, dreams and disappointments, and know they will be handled in a kind way.
- Closeness – physical closeness with an emotional level of comfort comparable to your favourite childhood toy.
One key word characterises these relationships: reciprocal. The parties involved value and support each other in mutual ways – though perhaps not always at the same level at the same time.
There is a lot of work involved in bullying satisfying intimate relationships because:
- Neds must be shared and met
- Talking must be paired with listening
- Respect must build trust
But nothing keeps us going, keeps us alive, like knowing there is someone who cares for and about us.
The way to transform ineffective relationships into solid, intimate ones is first to identify problem relationships.
Common characteristics of ineffective relationships
- Lack of communication – feelings and ideas are not exchanged freely.
- Lack of commitment – indecision and distance prevent intimacy.
- Unresolved anger – resentment exists from past and present hurts.
- Conflicting goals – differences appear in what each needs and is willing to give.
- Conflicting values – disagreement occurs over what is important.
- Thoughtlessness – disregard emerges for the feelings of the other.
- Irresponsibility – carelessness causes mishandling of possessions or duties.
- Self-centeredness – demands or self-satisfaction becomes constant.
Even one or two of these characteristics can block growth and development in a relationship. Granted, there are very few perfect relationships. But a failure to acknowledge and deal with any of these problems can lead to the breakdown of the connection between two people.
McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.