Degrees of Closeness: Some Like It Hot, Some Cool


It makes sense that each of us enjoys a different amount of closeness with others. This is especially true with our more intimate relationships.

When we are getting to know someone or are in a committed relationship, enjoying the level of closeness we are comfortable with affects our mood and happiness quotient.

Many people assume that the closer people are the better, and a high degree of closeness is usually the ideal portrayed in movies and popular novels. However, not everyone enjoys the same degree of togetherness and some people find that less is more.

Forget about what is considered ideal. Whatever degree of intimacy you naturally enjoy is OK (unless it is causing harm to yourself or another). The issue is not how much you want but in finding someone who delights in about the same amount of closeness you do. Or, two people with different intimacy preferences who are willing to adjust for the needs of the other can have an enjoyable relationship as well.

Science Meets Common Sense

It’s great when science catches up with common sense. “It’s best not to make too many assumptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship,” said Dr. David M. Frost. “Rather, we need to hear from people about how close they are in their relationships and how that compares to how close they’d ideally like to be.”

Dr. Frost, PhD, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, is the lead author of a research study about closeness and relationship satisfaction. His study of 732 men and women from Canada and the U.S. indicates that a discrepancy between a person’s desired closeness in a relationship and the closeness they actually experience is correlated to poor relationship satisfaction and symptoms of depression.

So . . .

  1. If you enjoy a high degree of closeness in a relationship and do not receive it, you will experience some dissatisfaction with the relationship.
  2. If you enjoy a low degree of closeness in a relationship and receive more than that, you will experience some dissatisfaction with the relationship.

What Is Too Much or Too Little?

If an individual is functioning well enough and reports being happy with the way things are, why should anyone insist that they want something else?

There is room for improvement in all our lives but until we want the improvement it will not happen. We might realize the improvement is a good idea, but other people pointing it out is historically a poor motivator.

However, when people need so much closeness, or so little, that they are hurting others, themselves, cannot take care of daily business, function at work, or school, then their hunger for or dislike of intimacy can be considered pathological.

Things To Ponder

  1. It is not difficult to find yourself attracted to, or even in love with, someone who enjoys a different amount of closeness than you do. You might even be married to someone like that. If so, it is something both people need to be aware of and willing to discuss. Unless the difference in closeness is extreme, couples with good enough communication can find creative ways to live with the difference.
  2. If you enjoy a low level of closeness in relationships, there is nothing wrong with you. If you veer away from intimacy out of fear, consider getting professional help with that. However, if you sincerely enjoy less closeness than most then just be up front about it with those you spend time with.
  3. Consider in what other aspects of your life you are comparing yourself to an unrealistic ideal. Trying to live up to a standard that is not your own will cause suffering. Yet, people who challenge themselves throughout life are generally happier. It is not always in our best interest to accept things as they are.

Science Daily


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