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Intimacy

Intimacy Regulation In Couple Relationships

In order to reap the rewards of intimacy without experiencing undo anxiety and rejection, couples look for ways to regulate intimate contact in their relationships. Each couple seeks their own balance between intimate encounter and risk, based on their respective individual intimacy capacities and preferences and on the other strengths of their relationship (Fitzpatrick 1988).

One way that couples regulate the risk of rejection and relationship dissolution is through selective disclosure and withholding of disclosure. Leslie A. Baxter and William W. Wilmot (1985) found that disclosure regarding certain topics (e.g., extra-relationship activity, relationship norms, conflict-inducing topics) was avoided in college student dating relationships because these topics were perceived as threatening to the relationship. Secrecy may also be used to prevent some of intimacy's risks (Finkenauer and Hazam 2000).

Couples also need to regulate intimacy in order to preserve each partner's perception of himor herself as a distinct individual. Because intimacy involves some blurring of individual boundaries in the interest of each knowing the other and maintaining the bond between them, intimate times need to be balanced with time alone or time for separate interests. Intimacy and autonomy may exist in a dialectical tension in relationships, in which neither needs to conflict with the other but both can and must coexist for a relationship to function well (Baxter and Wilmot 1985). In support of this notion, Karlein M. G. Schreurs and Bram P. Buunk (1996) found that, in lesbian relationships, intimacy and autonomy were both positively related to satisfaction. Emotional dependency, in contrast, was not, nor was it positively correlated with autonomy; it was, however, to intimacy. Perhaps intimacy can coexist with either autonomy or emotional dependency, but the highest levels of satisfaction accompany intimacy and autonomy in combination.


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KAREN JEAN PRAGER

Additional topics

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