1. Physical. Hugging, kissing, caressing, cuddling, holding, and other forms of physical affection. Physical intimacy certainly includes sex, but doesn’t have to. As long as other aspects of the relationship remain sound, physical intimacy between partners can often last a lifetime, even as sexual potency diminishes due to health, age, and stress.
“Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.”—Jacques Prévert
2. Emotional. The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions, in a manner that's nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same. This includes statements like, "I love you," "I appreciate you," "I like it when we talk like this," "I'm glad we're spending this time together," "You're very important in my life," "How are you feeling?" and "I'm sorry."
"[A person's] heart withers if it does not answer another heart."—P. Buck
3. Intellectual. Brains can absolutely be attractive and sexy, especially for those who feel a sense of kinship when they engage in discussion or endeavor with a partner whom they feel is an intellectual equal.
“The marriage was a meeting of hearts and minds both. Madame Lavoisier had an incisive intellect and soon was working productively alongside her husband (chemist Antoine Lavoisier)…[T]hey managed to put in five hours of science on most days—two in the early morning and three in the evening – as well as the whole of Sunday, which they call their day of happiness."—Bill Bryson
4. Shared Activities. Examples of interactions that build a positive memory bank of shared experiences include playing, cooking, dancing, exercising, art making, traveling, worshipping, and problem-solving together. In this dimension, it's not just the activity that matters, but whether two people are able to bond while interacting with one another.
“When partners spend time together, they can develop unique ways of relating that transform the relationship from an impersonal one to an interpersonal one.”—Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II
Your 1-Minute Compatibility Test
Here’s a 60-second compatibility check to gauge you and your partner's intimacy levels. Start by listing the four dimensions:
Now, next to each dimension, each of you should rank whether this is a Must Have, a Should Have, or a Could Have for you in your romantic relationship. “Must” means this dimension is crucial for you, without which you would feel the relationship was amiss. “Should” means this dimension is good to have, but you don’t necessarily have to experience it every day. “Could” means this dimension is relatively unimportant—you can take it or leave it.
After answering for yourself, ask your partner to do the same. You can also write on your sheet how you think your partner will prioritize.
When you're both done, merge your responses and see what you've come up with. Here's one example:
Partner A Partner B
Physical Intimacy Must Must (Excellent Comp.)
Emotional Intimacy Must Should (Good Compatibility)
Intellectual Intimacy Should Should (Good Compatibility)
Shared Activities Could Must (Poor Compatibility)
Generally speaking, the more must-must and must-should combinations between you and your partner, the greater the possibility of an intimate relationship. But the idea here is to launch conversations about these crucial elements.
If there's is one or more "must-could" combination, have a conversation with your significant other to see if his or her "could" can be transitioned to a "should" (or if your "must" could be). For example, a partner who's not very physically affectionate can learn to give a hug a day, and a spouse who's emotionally reserved can learn to share important feelings when necessary. While some expressions of intimacy may come to some of us more naturally than others, we're all capable of learning and growing in new directions.
Left unreconciled, “must-could” combinations, even if they're manageable in the short term, due, say, to the intensity of your sexual attraction or the relative newness of relationship, may in the long run become problematic. Few experiences in a romantic relationship feel more lonesome than an unmet “must” need.
Relationships are not static, so a couple may very well evolve in one or more dimensions of intimacy. Even similar intimacy preferences need flexibility to mesh and jell. Understanding one another’s priorities, and connecting in ways that are important to both of you can help ensure long-term relationship success.
Download free excerpt of the reference guide (click on title): "Seven Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success" here.
For more on personal and professional success, download free excerpts of my publications "Communication Success with Four Personality Types," "How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People," "The 7 Keys to Life Success," "Wealth Building Attitudes, Values, and Habits," and "Confident Communication for Female Professionals."
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Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.nipreston.com.
© 2013 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
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