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Trajectories For Intimacy Over Time

All types of long-term couple relationships, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status, have demonstrable declines in frequency of intimate interactions over time. Sexual intimacy declines most precipitously within the first to second years of a relationship (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983). There are documented declines in affectionate expression, in the number of pleasing things partner do for one another, and in the time partners spend in joint leisure activities (Huston, McHale, and Crouter 1986; Kurdek 1995). Possibly, as couples become more secure with one another they no longer need to "touch base" as frequently and may even take each other for granted.

Intimate interactions appear to become less emotionally intense over time, perhaps leading partners to conclude that they are less intimate than they once were. Some writers have argued that emotional intensity is a critical part of intimate experience (e.g., Sternberg 1988) whereas others have argued that it is only the memorable intimate experiences that are emotionally intense (Lippert and Prager 2001). Emotional intensity may signal the newness of intimacy between partners because new relationships are characterized by uncertainty and novelty, each of which add excitement and anxiety to intimate experience. As partners get to know and become increasingly predictable to one another, the emotional intensity of their interactions may wane even though they are still sharing and responding sensitively to one another and are therefore still engaging in intimate interactions (Berscheid 1983).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsIntimacy - Conceptions Of Intimacy, Intimate Interactions, Openness And Self-disclosure , Partner Responsiveness , Communication Of Positive Regard