Every year around Valentine’s Day people start agonizing about finding the “perfect” gift for their partner, and some spend extraordinary amounts of money on it too. But no matter the effort or financial cost incurred, many of us quickly discover that our gifts provided only fleeting happiness and were quickly forgotten. In order to avoid this outcome, I recommend giving your partner something much more personal this year: touch. It will be much easier on your wallet, and it has the potential to improve your relationship far more than any material object that you and your money can buy.
Entries in intimacy (13)
Intimacy and passion are two key components of a high-quality relationship. But to what extent are intimacy and passion intertwined? In a recent study, couples reported on their feelings of intimacy (e.g., how much they self-disclosed and felt close to one another) and passion in their relationships each day for three weeks. They also noted whether they had sex each day and if that sex was satisfying. Increases in intimacy over time were associated with higher passion, as well as more frequent and better sex.
Rubin, H., & Campbell, L. (2012). Day-to-day changes in intimacy predict heightened relationship passion, sexual occurrence, and sexual satisfaction: A dyadic diary analysis. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 224-231.
Q: A lot of research has been done on long distance relationships, and internet articles abound with advice for those couples. However, what about couples who aren't quite long distance, but certainly aren't geographically close? My partner of over a year and I are navigating this sort of relationship right now (as college students on a budget), where we either live 50 to 90 minutes apart by car, depending on whether school is in session or not. As committed as we are, and as excited as we are, it's not always easy to know how to handle this sort of "middle distance" relationship. Is there any research on this? Thanks!
A: As you might have read about in the research you’ve done, long-distance relationships are full of contradictions.1 For every drawback of long-distance relating—the boring commutes, lonely Friday nights, uncertainty about the timing of the next visit—there seems to be a silver lining. Take, for instance, research suggesting partners can learn to communicate better by seeing each other less.1 Or, consider recent research showing partners can benefit from missing one another.2
I took a weekend ski trip recently with The Consultant. We had great day of skiing, fantastic Bloody Marys with lunch, and enjoyed a much needed break from work and kids. Over an après ski beer at the base of the mountain, some locals told us that there was an outdoor, natural hot spring close by. That sounded like a perfect way to soothe our tired muscles, so we promptly made our way over for a little tub time.
At check-in, we were informed that clothing was optional in the springs. It was dark outside, and there were not too many people there to potentially gawk at us in our birthday suits, so The Consultant and I were comfortable with that. While most other the other guests at the hot spring were naked, there was one woman sitting at the edge of the pool who was considerably more self-conscious in a 1-piece bathing suit.
A few minutes into our soak, a naked man swam over to the single, clothed woman. After some small talk, he immediately launched into a long, dramatic story about his ex-wife. From what we could gather, this guy’s ex-wife tried to take his kid’s birth certificates and sell them to some Mexican outlaws, she racked up huge amounts of debt using his identity, and then tried to break up every new relationship he started, such as texting him when she knew he was on dates. He was rambling on so much that he was oblivious to the fact that the woman he was trying to impress was slowly inching away from him.
Naturally, I thought to myself, “Whoa, dude, too much information!”
At the stage of my life right now, I feel like I should be able to have a grasp of this, but I still don't. I am 27, male, and I've never had a serious relationship. The plain and simple reason is because I don't know how. During high school the girlfriends that I had were always more aggressive in getting what they wanted (me), so I never truly learned how to go for a woman. As I grew older, it seemed to me that the women expect the men to do most if not all of the work when it comes to intimacy. The steps from introduction to actual physical intimacy are very unclear to me; it's like figuring out the meaning of life (yes, it's that much of a mystery to me).
A few years ago, I fell madly in love with a guy shortly before he left for a study abroad program in Barcelona. So I did what any rational person in my position would do: I made plans to stay with him for a month, bought a plane ticket, and spent every possible moment chatting with him via Skype until my long-awaited departure. We both grew increasingly excited about my arrival, and when I finally showed up at the front door of his hostel, things were, well, intense (in a can’t-keep-our-hands-to-ourselves kind of way). Things continued this way for a couple of days. But soon we realized that we didn’t have as much to say to each other as we thought we did, and the passion quickly dissipated. Within a week of my arrival, he dumped me, and I found myself stranded in Barcelona. (If that’s not the title of a country song, it should be).
So, what happened? Where did all of that passion go?
The legendary rockers of the American band KISS may not have been so far off when they belted out, “Baby, I know what your problem is...the first step of the cure is a kiss!” in their hit single, “Calling Dr. Love.” They couldn’t have known it at the time, but current relationship scientists may now agree with Gene Simmons’ medical claims. There might be a little something special to that kiss.
Popular media portrays a range of after sex activities – some partners cuddle, drift off to sleep, spend hours talking, smoke a cigarette, or, in some cases, rush out the door after sex. But, what do we really know about after sex behaviors? As we have discussed in previous articles, researchers have studied when, how often, and with whom people have sex. In comparison, we know much less about what people do after sex. This is unfortunate, because post-coital sexual activities, or the activities that occur during the time after sex (while partners are awake together), could be important for relationship commitment and satisfaction.
“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts.” – Don Draper
In the spirit of the upcoming Mad Men Season Five premiere, I thought it might be fun to do a character sketch of Don Draper, the show’s most central and intriguing character. Don’s creative genius can’t be denied – he outperforms everyone in the 60’s advertising world with his sheer wit and charm. However, Don does not enjoy the same level of success in his personal life. In previous posts, we have discussed how examining a person’s attachment style can help us to better understand their patterns in relationships. Don is an excellent example of an avoidantly attached person: someone who relies on only himself, who pushes other people away, and who tries to avoid intimacy wherever possible.
Like in any boarding school teeming with youngsters, Hogwarts is overflowing with raging hormones. Our three main characters (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) go through not just the angst of trying to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named; they are also trying to reign in the power of their own attraction to each other. We can better understand their failures and successes by viewing each of these characters through the lens of attachment theory, one of the most popular perspectives on romantic relationships.
You don’t have to be a body image researcher to appreciate all the different shapes and sizes at the pool. But as body image researchers who are married to each other, our experiences are a little bit different, in part, because we have done a number of studies examining romantic partners’ roles in determining body image. Some of our findings may even help to alleviate some of your own body angst, provided that the person you care most about impressing at the pool is your own romantic partner.
Last week, as the supposed Rapture was looming, how were things going in your relationship? Did the impending end of the world and your earthly demise change how you were thinking about your partner? You might be surprised to learn that this is something that scholars have studied quite a bit, working from the general perspective of "terror management theory."
A reader asked: How do you define intimacy?
This seems straightforward. I mean, we could just crack open the old Webster's Dictionary and look it up. For relationship researchers, the answer is a little more complex. In fact, it could (and has) fill an entire book. Of the many ways to define intimacy, I'll focus this post on “closeness” which is oftentimes considered synonymously with intimacy.