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Lesson 3: Intimacy

What is intimacy? In today’s culture, this word has become synonymous with sex. We often hear people say, “We were intimate,” meaning that they had sexual intercourse. Many people have sexual intercourse and don’t have intimacy. Many people have intimate relationships with others, but not sexual relationships with them. So why is this concept of intimacy so challenging?

In many ways, intimacy describes a closeness to another person with whom we feel warmth and affection. We have a unique attachment to them, unlike most of our relationships. We are confident in the relationship. We can be ourselves—the good, the bad, and the ugly— without the fear of judgment or rejection. We are loved and accepted. We are safe.

Intimacy is a result of first feeling secure in our own self-worth. From this position of security we share our self, our emotions, our intellect, our mind and, at times, our bodies. We can, in our own security, reveal ourselves in safety—and we receive this reality from another without judgment, allowing them to feel their own emotions without intervention. The result of this type of appropriate giving and receiving is intimacy.

My husband turned his back so I quickly changed out of my clothes and into pajamas without him seeing me. We have been married five years, but I still feel uncomfortable every time I am changing around him. When we are having sex, I really try to be a little more relaxed, but it is challenging for me to be naked. In the midst of having sex, I often feel self-conscious, tensing up all over, and my mind begins racing to other places. I start making the grocery list and thinking about my presentation at work the next day. Needless to say, sex is not something I enjoy; I try to have a good attitude about it and have sex with my husband at least once a week. I often wonder, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I enjoy sex with my husband like I am supposed to?”

I grew up in a very strict Christian home. My father was a pastor and talking about sex in my home was a huge taboo topic. If we were watching a movie as a family and any scenes came up with kissing or other forms of appropriate affection, my father would immediately fast forward the scene, saying, “We don’t need to see that.” If it was anything more than kissing, my father just skipped over the scene without saying a word. When I turned 14, my parents handed me a little a booklet that talked about sex and said, “You should probably read this at some point.” I read the booklet and felt so much shame reading it. My parents probably had good intentions, but the way they chose to approach the topic of sex created an extremely shame-filled environment.

I steered clear of boys until I met my husband in college. We kissed a little while dating, but tried to maintain good physical boundaries before marriage. Once we got engaged and with our wedding night approaching, I began to think more about sex. I wanted to be excited about sex, but my whole childhood did not set me up for healthy sexual intimacy with my husband. My body would become so turned off physically, mentally, and emotionally every time we had sex. Even the thought of sex made me tense. It left me questioning over and over, “What is wrong with me?”

Even more confusing is that outside of the bedroom, we are especially close and everything else in our marriage is great! I can’t help but wonder if we could experience more connection with a better sexual relationship.

Heidi

PERSONALIZING INTIMACY

Intimacy can be a challenging concept to grasp. In our modern culture, intimacy often refers to sex, but it is really so much more. In so many ways, intimacy is a social construct. It is not based on a specific, sustainable definition, but one that is more fluid, continuously changing based on subjective human interaction. Historically, the word intimacy has carried several interesting meanings.165
• Collaboration with at least one other person
• Existing in the thought and affection of another
• A level of sexual involvement: greater sexual involvement=greater intimacy
• Correlated with the health and happiness of the relationship
• The act of revealing personal information to others
• A very special instance of self-disclosure
• The emotional bonding individuals feel toward one another
Even still, the meaning of intimacy and its role in relationship continues to change. There is much debate on whether intimacy is something confined to a sexual relationship or if intimacy can possibly exist in a variety of relationships. One thing is clear: intimacy refers to a mutual satisfaction of needs and a closeness to another human being on a variety of levels.
For the purpose of this exercise, we’re going to focus on the relationship of couples. Intimacy in relationship is often observed on several levels.166
Emotional intimacy: experiencing a closeness of feelings
Social intimacy: the experience of having common friends and similarities in social networks

Intellectual intimacy: the experience of sharing ideas
Sexual intimacy: the experience of sharing general affection and/or sexual activity

Recreational intimacy: shared experiences of interests in hobbies, mutual participation in sporting events
Think of intimacy as a process: something that occurs over time and never reaches completion. Too often, couples think they have arrived at intimacy. With this mindset, they fail to maintain or improve the level of intimacy in their relationship. In other cases, since intimacy carries an individual level of subjectivity, many couples differ on their expectation of intimacy in the relationship. There is no single way to measure the acceptable or ideal degree of intimacy in any relationship; however, there is a way to assess the realized and expected level of intimacy in a relationship.

The PAIR Inventory—Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships—is used to gather information on five types of intimacy in a relationship. Individuals, either dating or married, evaluate the relationship based on their current perception (realized), and also based on what they would like the relationship to be (expected).

Although the score may have meaning worth exploring, the PAIR Inventory is not intended to simply reveal a score within each category of intimacy. It is most effective in identifying differences in the realized and expected levels of intimacy a couple may have for the relationship. Ideally, each partner would fill out the inventory twice: first indicating how the relationship “is now” and then as they would “like it to be.” From the information gathered, a scored profile is plotted on a graph, providing a visual representation of the couple’s realized and expected levels of intimacy.

To get the best results from this assessment, it is ideal to involve our partners in this exercise. This can be especially challenging when our relationships are stressed. As hard as it is, be brave. Including our partners in this exercise will enhance what we can learn from it. We have done the hard work for months and have experienced change in ourselves and those around us. Using this exercise will teach us and our partners how we can become more intimate in our relationship.

When using this inventory, here are a couple things to keep in mind: this is a selfassessment based on individual feelings. There are no right or wrong answers. It is important to rate each statement honestly based on your perception. At its core, this inventory is giving insight to the current levels of intimacy in the relationship, as well as providing areas of intimacy for the couple to improve.

The five-point scale ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” When reading each statement, decide how well the statement describes your relationship. It may be helpful to think of each statement in the context of “does not describe me/my relationship” (strongly disagree) or “describes me/my relationship” (strongly agree).

Within the context of this workbook, the PAIR Inventory provides a realistic view of each partner’s needs and the degree to which they are being met. In many ways, it takes the “magical concept of intimacy out of the clouds of romance”167 and puts it in a context that is useful in helping couples identify areas of strength and weakness in their relationship. It gives couples the opportunity to experience new levels of intimacy as they grow together in relationship.

Note: Many of us who struggle with relationships may not currently be in a relationship. If so, we can still use the PAIR Inventory as an insightful tool to raise awareness of the discrepancies between our perceived and expected levels of intimacy in relationship. As we continue to learn how our behaviors influence our interactions with others, this tool can shed light on the specific areas of intimacy where we may need to change and grow.

If this is the case, fill out the PAIR Inventory based on your feelings of a recent or previous relationship. Use the Intimacy Profile graph as a visual of your scores. When completed, answer the questions found on page 315.

PERSONAL ASSESSMENT OF INTIMACY IN RELATIONSHIPS (PAIR)168
PHASE 1:

 Rate each statement based on how it is now in your relationship. Write the number that corresponds with the best answer.

In my relationship now…
____ 1. My partner listens to me when I need someone to talk to.
____ 2. We enjoy spending time with other couples.
____ 3. I am satisfied with our sex life.
____ 4. My partner helps me clarify my thoughts.
____ 5. We enjoy the same recreational activities.
____ 6. My partner has all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a mate.
____ 7. I can state my feelings without him/her getting defensive.
____ 8. We usually “keep to ourselves.”
____ 9. I feel our sexual activity is just routine.
____ 10. When it comes to having a serious discussion, it seems we have little in common.
____ 11. I share in very few of my partner’s interests.
____ 12. There are times when I do not feel a great deal of love and affection for my partner.
____ 13. I often feel distant from my partner.
____ 14. We have very few friends in common.
____ 15. I am able to tell my partner when I want sexual intercourse.
____ 16. I feel “put-down” in a serious conversation with my partner.
____ 17. We like playing together.
____ 18. Every new thing that I have learned about my partner has pleased me.
____ 19. My partner can really understand my hurts and joys.
____ 20. Having time together with friends is an important part of our shared activities.
____ 21. I “hold back” my sexual interest because my partner makes me feel uncomfortable.
____ 22. I feel it is useless to discuss some things with my partner.
____ 23. We enjoy the out-of-doors together.

____ 24. My partner and I understand each other completely.
____ 25. I feel neglected at times by my partner.
____ 26. Many of my partner’s closest friends are also my closest friends.
____ 27. Sexual expression is an essential part of our relationship.
____ 28. My partner frequently tries to change my ideas.
____ 29. We seldom find time to do fun things together.
____ 30. I don’t think anyone could possibly be happier than my partner and I are when we’re with one another.
____ 31. I sometimes feel lonely when we’re together.
____ 32. My partner disapproves of some of my friends.
____ 33. My partner seems disinterested in sex.
____ 34. We have an endless number of things to talk about.
____ 35. I think we share some of the same interests.
____ 36. I have some needs that are not being met by my relationship.

 Complete the following calculation to obtain your realized level of intimacy in each category. Add the score for each numbered statement as listed below. After calculatingeach category score, obtain the correlating percentage from the table below.
EMOTIONAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 1, 7, 13, 19, 25, and 31: ________________ Percentage: _______
SOCIAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 2, 8, 14, 20, 26, and 32: __________________ Percentage: _______
SEXUAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 3, 9, 15, 21, 27, and 33: __________________ Percentage: _______
INTELLECTUAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 4, 10, 16, 22, 28, and 34: ___________ Percentage: _______
RECREATIONAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 5, 11, 17, 23, 29, and 35: ____________ Percentage: _______
CONVENTIONALITY SCALE* | Add scores for 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36: __________ Percentage: _______
PERCENTAGE CONVERSION TABLE
Percentage conversion: the following list indicates the corresponding percentage based
on the potential inventory score. The percentages are round to the nearest whole number.
*The Conventionality Scale is included and scored separately in order to assess how much the individual is attempting to create a good impression.

PHASE 2:

 Rate each statement based on how you would like it to be in the relationship. Circle the number that corresponds with the best answer.

In my relationship, I would like it if…
____ 1. My partner listens to me when I need someone to talk to.
____ 2. We enjoy spending time with other couples.
____ 3. I am satisfied with our sex life.
____ 4. My partner helps me clarify my thoughts.
____ 5. We enjoy the same recreational activities.
____ 6. My partner has all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a mate.
____ 7. I can state my feelings without him/her getting defensive.
____ 8. We usually “keep to ourselves.”
____ 9. I feel our sexual activity is just routine.
____ 10. When it comes to having a serious discussion, it seems we have little in common.
____ 11. I share in very few of my partner’s interests.
____ 12. There are times when I do not feel a great deal of love and affection for my partner.
____ 13. I often feel distant from my partner.
____ 14. We have very few friends in common.
____ 15. I am able to tell my partner when I want sexual intercourse.
____ 16. I feel “put-down” in a serious conversation with my partner.
____ 17. We like playing together.
____ 18. Every new thing that I have learned about my partner has pleased me.
____ 19. My partner can really understand my hurts and joys.
____ 20. Having time together with friends is an important part of our shared activities.
____ 21. I “hold back” my sexual interest because my partner makes me feel uncomfortable.
____ 22. I feel it is useless to discuss some things with my partner.
____ 23. We enjoy the out-of-doors together.
____ 24. My partner and I understand each other completely.
____ 25. I feel neglected at times by my partner.

____ 26. Many of my partner’s closest friends are also my closest friends.
____ 27. Sexual expression is an essential part of our relationship.
____ 28. My partner frequently tries to change my ideas.
____ 29. We seldom find time to do fun things together.
____ 30. I don’t think anyone could possibly be happier than my partner and I are when we’re with one another.
____ 31. I sometimes feel lonely when we’re together.
____ 32. My partner disapproves of some of my friends.
____ 33. My partner seems disinterested in sex.
____ 34. We have an endless number of things to talk about.
____ 35. I think we share some of the same interests.
____ 36. I have some needs that are not being met by my relationship.
 Complete the following calculation to obtain your expected level of intimacy in each category. Add the score for each numbered statement as listed below. After calculating each category score, obtain the correlating percentage from the table below.
EMOTIONAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 1, 7, 13, 19, 25, and 31: ________________ Percentage: _______
SOCIAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 2, 8, 14, 20, 26, and 32: __________________ Percentage: _______
SEXUAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 3, 9, 15, 21, 27, and 33: __________________ Percentage: _______
INTELLECTUAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 4, 10, 16, 22, 28, and 34: ___________ Percentage: _______
RECREATIONAL INTIMACY | Add scores for 5, 11, 17, 23, 29, and 35: ____________ Percentage: _______
CONVENTIONALITY SCALE* | Add scores for 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36: __________ Percentage: _______
PERCENTAGE CONVERSION TABLE
Percentage conversion: the following list indicates the corresponding percentage based
on the potential inventory score. The percentages are round to the nearest whole number.

CREATE A PROFILE

Use the percentages from each inventory to create a profile on the graph below.. Make sure to use a different line designation for the results of each inventory (e.g., solid, dashed, or dotted lines; various colored pens or pencils).

Based on the numbered scale on the edge of the graph, place a dot at the appropriate percentage point for each vertical line indicating a category of intimacy. After all five dots are positioned on the graph, connect the five dots with a line. Complete this process for your inventories and for your partner’s (additional PAIR Inventories are located in the appendix). See page 341 of the appendix to see what a completed graph should look like.

Mark on the graph the Conventionality Scale score for each partner, but do not include this plot point in the drawn lines. The Conventionality Scale score shows that the information can be trusted when partners score within 18 points of one another.169 This score assesses the truthfulness of each partner’s answers, indicating whether they are trying to make a good impression or “faking” their answers.

As with many other areas of our lives, we can learn new ways to create intimacy in relationship. Raising awareness is a great step in the right direction.

Looking Ahead

Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.

Assignments