Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


The Road to Intimacy

How close do you want to be to your partner or s/he to you?

Have you ever seen a long-term couple that has grown together to such an extent that they even look like each other? Two individual “I’s” have disappeared into a “we." “We get our haircut at Snippit Salon.” “We don’t care for Korean food.”

At the other end of the extreme is a long-time couple who are together without being “together." One plays golf, the other goes to book club. They each have their social friends and get together only on family occasions such as holidays. One senses little warmth between them, let alone intimacy.

Somewhere in between lie most other couples, probably yours. Where on the warmth and intimacy scale yours lies is immaterial as long as both of you are happy with it. No one else gets to judge. In the likelihood you would prefer some changes, what can you do? Hoping is unlikely to get you anywhere.

Do some thinking about what you would like to change between you—not only how you would like your partner to change! Once you are clear about your wishes make a specific appointment for a conversation where you can talk and listen without distraction. You are not lecturing your partner but opening up a discussion where both of you get to share opinions and feelings. After you have stated your case make some suggestions to change things.

Two excellent writers on relationships and how they work are Tina Tessina and Marty Klein. A fine writer on sexuality in particular is Michael Castleman. If you want to take your explorations further, consider workshops for couples such as those offered through groups like the Human Awareness Institute.

There are many ways of learning about intimacy and how to attain it, but in any specific couple the degree of intimacy, closeness, and self-disclosure that each person wants may vary greatly from his or her partner’s. Yes, a person can learn to open up and/or come closer, but the desire to do so has to be there. Going beyond one’s comfort level with the one who is most in your life may be too much of an ask.

If there is too wide a gap in the desired intimacy level, the couple may split up, or one live without what he or she wants, or, most likely, a compromise will be found where each learns to accommodate somewhat. It’s certainly possible to maintain couplehood where one’s intimacy needs are not being met within the partnership. That choice is made by looking for what is needed among friends or family and thus building a satisfactory life.

Most people who are willing to do any self-examination will know whether their needs for intimacy are being met. If one is not introspective, they will make the discovery when they are blatantly not being met—when a mate is gone.

More from Isadora Alman MFT, CST
More from Psychology Today