Understanding Intimacy

  1. Why do we become intimate? Why do we work in teams? Why do we cooperate in order to achieve different goals? Why is intimacy considered a way of giving back to society?
  2. Erikson’s Theory on  intimacy
  3. Erikson’s Theory on isolation
  4. An understanding of intimacy and Valliant’s Theory
  5. When it comes to friends or spouses, the features we look for
  6. Intimacy as a cause and effect force
  7. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love and the practical aspect of intimacy. 
  8. Intimacy prepares us for future experiences in relations. Gender-based relations and friendships can be explored at same-sex or other-Sex levels


Why do we become intimate? Why do we work in teams? Why do we cooperate in order to achieve different goals? Why is intimacy considered a way of giving back to society?

We are human beings and we are biological organic beings.
We are human beings and we are social animals. 
As biological beings we need to be cared for psychosocially.
As organic beings we organically relate.
As social beings we work within hierarchical settings.
These are the five intimacies we need to understand so well.

We are obsessed by what we organically are. This is the basic intimacy within ourselves. We are wired to breathe, sleep, eat food, enjoy sex, excrete and run on a balance of things called homeostasis. 

We need to be safe. We need security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property.

We have to benefit from love and belonging. We benefit from friendship, love and sexual intimacy.

We must be assured of institutional contexts in which we feed, are healthy and can relate well. We therefore expect to be respected as we are expected to respect others. It goes both ways. If we are to love we must love as well. We have to assured of self-esteem, confidence, achievement and respect.

We must maintain the institutional contexts within which what we cherish survives. So, we must commit to morals, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and an ability to seek and accept facts. Erikson’s theory on  intimacy and isolation throw more light on the practical aspects of intimacy.



Erikson’s Theory on  intimacy shows that intimacy enables us to:

  1. make a permanent commitment to intimate partners 
  2. make other close relationships: friends, work, communities, educational institutions
  3. be involved in giving up some newfound independence, redefining identity
  4. Strengthen our identities
  5. Successfully invest in plans and resources to prepare for generativity – Caring for the next generation and improving society 


Erikson’s Theory on isolation shows that isolation enables us to:

  1. compare ourselves in relation to independence. People – define themselves in terms of their partner – sacrifice self-respect and initiative 
  2. realize and measure our performances without in relation to intimacy – We are able to find what we can do while we are experiencing loneliness and self-absorption
  3. secure a sense of intimacy which enhances the quality of other close relationships
  4. hesitate to form close ties
  5. be empowered to gauge ourselves as in embracing other views or suggestions. We weigh our fears of losing identity – we learn to compete – we reject differences – we enact boundaries within which we can enjoy closeness

An understanding of intimacy helps us as we move on in years. We turn to Valliant’s Theory to address this

Vaillant’s adaptation to life is as follows:
  1. in one’s 20s –we experience intimacy concerns
  2. in one’s 30s – we experience career consolidation
  3. in one’s 40s – we experience generative roles and duties
  4. in one’s 50s–60s –we take on roles of being  “keepers of meaning” 
  5. in one’s 70s – we adopt the spiritual and reflective roles

We need to understand ourselves well in order to use our potential to contribute to our own development and that of the community. We can do this by using different tools such as the social clock. The social clock enables us to adopt:
  1. age-graded expectations for life events – i.e. 1st job, getting married, birth of 1st child, buying a home, retiring, or making other investments
  2. learning or reading culture to enable one be more efficient. We are able to answer the question: How am I doing for my age? If not how am I compensating? How am I moving from the epsilon level where I am not so independent to the alpha where I am pretty much doing what I cherish and gain immensely? 
  3. flexibility but at the same time establish milestones
  4. an ability to following a social clock which lends confidence and contributes to social stability
  5. means to find where one is going wrong, build resilience to address distress if not following or falling behind

When it comes to friends or spouses. We need to be conversant of features we look for in others. These could be used when selecting a mate. It could be due to:


  1. physical proximity and a realization that there is an element of compatibility and utility
  2. most select partners who are similar 
  3. attribute differences –intelligence, ambition, financials, morals, attractiveness, domestic skills

Intimacy to be fulfilled and perceptible needs to be practical, accessible and cause results. We turn to Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love to show the practical aspect of intimacy

  1. Sternberg outlined the necessary components which are: – Intimacy: emotional component;  passion: physical and psychological component; and commitment which is a cognitive component leading to a decision to love and maintain love. Passionate love (sexual attraction) is strong at the beginning of a relationship, but then transitions to companionate love (warm, trusting affection and caregiving). Commitment is what determines whether a relationship survives.
  2. Intimacy in a household setting involves childhood attachment and adult romantic relationships. There are three forms of experiences in all aspects. There are three paths followed here and these are the: secure, avoidant and resistant paths. The premise for a secure path are characterized by  being comfortable with intimacy; unafraid of abandonment.  In adult relations, this means trust, happiness, friendship. The premise for an avoidant path is that ones is stress independent, mistrusts easily and is has an anxiety about closeness. in adult relations this means there are tendencies for jealousy, emotional distance and little physical pleasure. In other words one is not eager to make friends. The premise for a resident path is so possessive, seeks quick love and complete merging. In other words one does not allow a partner to seek other forms of friendships. In adult relations, this is characterized by jealousy, desperation, frequent emotional highs and lows.

Intimacy prepares us for future experiences in relations. Gender-based relations and friendships can be explored at same-sex or other-Sex levels

Gender-based relations and agape (where sexual attractions are not involved) friendships explored at same-sex levels enables us to identify gender differences. It explores individuality and builds on differences. The longer the friendships the more intimate they become. When it comes to single people, e.g. those who are widows or widowers there is a tendency to be more intimate with friends.


Gender-based relations and agape friendships explored at other-Sex levels are fewer, shorter-lasting than same-sex. They occur more among educated, employed women. There are benefits to both genders – Men: opportunity for expression. For women: new views. 























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