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Intimacy and Closeness within Families

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1 Intimacy and Closeness within Families
COM 3013

2 Intimacy in the Family Understanding intimacy within the family realm involves exploring (1) the development of marital and family intimacy, (2) the communication building blocks of intimacy, and (3) the barriers to intimacy. COM 3013 Tami Davis

3 Development of Intimacy
Persons, such as partners or family members, collaboratively create a unique relational culture that represents their understandings of each other and the world. COM 3013 Tami Davis

4 Development of Intimacy
Relational culture is fundamentally a product of communication—it arises out of communication, is maintained and altered in communication, and is dissolved through communication. It is within these relational cultures that intimacy and closeness develop consistent with the understandings of the members, their cultural backgrounds, and family-of-origin experiences. COM 3013 Tami Davis

5 Intimacy Most individuals have a sense of what intimacy means but multiple definitions exist. Some descriptions of intimacy suggest it is about persons seeking someone to reassure them that they are worth loving or a quest for a reflected sense of self. COM 3013 Tami Davis

6 Intimacy Intimacy also means that "we can be who we are in a relationship and allow the other person to do the same" (Lerner, 1989, p. 3). Others refer to intimacy as involving a cluster of interpersonal emotions including love, warmth, passion, and joy that are tied to intimate feelings. Guerrero and Andersen (2000) COM 3013 Tami Davis

7 Marital and Family Intimacy
Marital and family intimacy reflect many similarities. Marital intimacy involves the following characteristics: a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship; a detailed and deep knowledge and understanding from close personal connection or familiar experience; and sexual relations (Feldman, 1979, p. 70). COM 3013 Tami Davis

8 Marital and Family Intimacy
contented couples exhibit a 5 to 1 ratio of positivity that includes: displaying interest, affection, caring, acceptance, empathy, and joy With the exception of sexual relations, these characteristics may be applied to all family relationships (Perlmutter, 1988). COM 3013 Tami Davis

9 Family Intimacy Family intimacy involves interpersonal devotion along intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions. This is demonstrated by shared knowledge and understanding as well as close loving relationships, both of which are reflective of developmental stages and culture. Such a concept of intimacy translates into reality through the communication patterns of families. COM 3013 Tami Davis

10 Family Intimacy Intimacy embodies each member's past intimate experiences, current need for intimacy, perception of the other, and desire for increasing predictability within a relationship. COM 3013 Tami Davis

11 Intimacy The rule of reciprocity in intimacy is controversial.
Expectations of reciprocity promote unrealistic expectations of emotional fusion and is "alien to the acute experience of self and partner as related entities" (Schnarch, 1991, p. 116). Persons have varied levels of tolerance. When one member of a couple feels that the intimacy is becoming too great, he or she will initiate some type of conflictual behavior to decrease the amount of interpersonal closeness. COM 3013 Tami Davis

12 Family Intimacy The same concept may be applied to other family relationships. Each two-person subsystem sets its limits for acceptable intimacy. These limits change over time. These acceptable limits of intimacy reflect the family's ways of showing affection and the depth of the particular relationship. COM 3013 Tami Davis

13 Step Families Intimacy in stepfamilies is exceptionally complex, particularly in the early years. Issues of loyalty, guilt, and loss compound the ability of stepchildren and stepparents to develop intimate ties. COM 3013 Tami Davis

14 Activity Create your own definition of intimacy. Get in a small group
Provide two examples of a marital and family relationship characterized by intimate communication. Discuss some specific communication behaviors. COM 3013 Tami Davis

15 Developing a Relationship Culture
All developing intimate relationships reflect a history-building process. There are multiple perspectives on how this occurs, the most common of which involves developmental stage models. COM 3013 Tami Davis

16 Stage Models Models of linear relationship development based on stages through which the partners move as they draw closer. These researchers hypothesize that interpersonal exchange gradually progresses from superficial, nonintimate areas to more intimate, deeper layers of the self. People assess interpersonal costs and rewards gained from interaction because future development of a relationship depends on their perception of this exchange. COM 3013 Tami Davis

17 Dialectical Approaches
Theorists who question stage models believe they are linear and static, implying relationships remain in the same place for a long time. A dialectical perspective highlights the continual tensions that relationships must manage. COM 3013 Tami Davis

18 Dialectical Approaches
Relationships are maintained by the ways partners manage competing needs and obligations, how they organize and coordinate their activities, the way they introduce novelty and pleasure into their relationship, and how they build a place in which to nur­ture the relationship (Werner & Baxter, 1994, p. 324). COM 3013 Tami Davis

19 Dialectical Approaches
Dialectical tensions raise the questions: How close can we get without interfering with each other? How much closeness do we need? How can we live together without hurting each other too much? These questions are indicators of the tensions all relationships face. A dialectical approach focuses on competing and opposite possibilities that exist in a relationship (Brown, Werner, & Altman, 1994). COM 3013 Tami Davis

20 Dialectical Approaches
Dialectical struggles are especially complicated in new stepfamilies. The adults try to maintain a high level of closeness and connection with each other while dealing with the tensions created as children try to stay tightly connected to their biological parent and distant from their stepparent. COM 3013 Tami Davis

21 Dialectical Approaches
Although all humans seem to have intimacy needs—to be loved, held, touched, and nurtured—there may also be fear of intimacy: a fear of being controlled by another, loved and left by another, or possessed by another. Thus, the needs and fears become part of the struggle. COM 3013 Tami Davis

22 Developing a Relationship Culture
Boundaries influence how much intimacy occurs in family subsystems and how intimacy may be developed with those outside the immediate family. Gender-related attitudes support or restrict the capacity of members to develop certain levels of intimacy. Knowledge about another family member is not sufficient to develop intimacy. Relational growth depends on communication about that knowledge (Duck, Miell, & Miell, 1984). COM 3013 Tami Davis

23 communication as a foundation of intimacy
The basis for all relationships lies in the members' abilities to share meanings through communication. COM 3013 Tami Davis

24 factors in the development of communicated-related intimacy.
talk, confirmation, self-disclosure, sexual communication, commitment, and forgiveness. COM 3013 Tami Davis

25 Talk There are direct and indirect messages that create and reflect investment in a relationship. Direct relational talk occurs when partners share with each other their feelings and desire to grow in the relationship COM 3013 Tami Davis

26 Talk Both direct communication and intentional metacommunication are essential to developing and maintaining intimacy (Schnarch, 1991). Talk creates its own rewards. COM 3013 Tami Davis

27 Confirmation Confirming messages communicate recognition and acceptance of another human being— a fundamental precondition to intimacy. COM 3013 Tami Davis

28 confirming messages recognizes the other person's existence,
acknowledges the other's communication by responding relevantly to it, reflects and accepts the other's self-experience, and suggests a willingness to become involved with the other. COM 3013 Tami Davis

29 Confirmation Confirming communication is characterized by recognition, dialogue, and acceptance, which indicate a willingness to be involved. COM 3013 Tami Davis

30 Self-Disclosure Self-disclosure is an important, complex, and difficult type of communication. self-disclosure- occurs when one person voluntarily tells another personal or private things about himself or herself that the other is unable to discern in a different manner (Pearce & Sharp, 1973). COM 3013 Tami Davis

31 Self-Disclosure It involves risk on the part of the discloser and a willingness to accept such information or feelings on the part of the other. Trust, the essence of which is emotional safety, serves as the foundation for self-disclosure. COM 3013 Tami Davis

32 Self-Disclosure High mutual self-disclosure is usually associated with voluntary relationships that have developed a strong relational culture and are characterized by trust, confirmation, and affection. COM 3013 Tami Davis

33 Self-Disclosure Traditionally, self-disclosure has been considered a skill for fostering intimate communication within families. Selective, rather than total, self-disclosure contributes to intimacy development. Essentially, self-disclosure is coordinated through a boundary management process tied to partner or family rules (Petronio, 2000). COM 3013 Tami Davis

34 Variables in Self-Disclosure
Family Background Spousal Relationships Partner Relationships Parent-Child Relationships Satisfaction COM 3013 Tami Davis

35 Self-Disclosure The self-disclosure process has an overlooked nonverbal component. A sequence of appropriate nonverbal signals occurring in the context of verbal disclosure also contribute significantly to mutual understanding. COM 3013 Tami Davis

36 Self-Disclosure Families create unique opportunities for self-disclosure. Joint living provides the potential for such interaction. Yet, this can take place only where positive social relationships, including trust, exist. COM 3013 Tami Davis

37 Self-Disclosure One is likely to repeat self-disclosing if it is rewarded or met with a positive response. In a family that indicates satisfaction at knowing what the members are thinking or feeling, even if the information itself is not necessarily pleasant, continued self-disclosure is likely. If self-disclosure is met with rejecting or disconfirming messages, the level of sharing will drop significantly. COM 3013 Tami Davis

38 Self-Disclosure Although self-disclosure enhances intimacy development, it can be used to manipulate or control another family member. Partial or dishonest disclosures can undermine trust in a relationship. COM 3013 Tami Davis

39 Self-Disclosure Self-disclosure bears a direct relationship to family levels of cohesion and adaptation. An extremely cohesive family may resist negative self-disclosure because it would threaten the connectedness, particularly if the family has a low capacity for adaptation. COM 3013 Tami Davis

40 Activity Get in a small group and discuss:
Under what circumstances, if any, would you recommend withholding complete self-disclosure in a marital and/or family relationship? COM 3013 Tami Davis

41 Sexuality and Communication
For most partners, sexuality within a marital relationship involves far more than just physical performance; it involves the partners' sexual identities, their history of sexual issues, their mutual perceptions of each others' needs, and the messages contained within sexual expression. COM 3013 Tami Davis

42 Sexuality and Communication
The quality of the sexual relationship affects, and is affected by, the other characteristics of intimacy— the affectionate/loving relationship and a deep, detailed mutual knowledge of the two partners. COM 3013 Tami Davis

43 Sexuality and Communication
Healthy sexuality reflects the balanced expression of sexuality in family structures that enhance the personal identity and sexual health of members and the system as a whole COM 3013 Tami Davis

44 Sexuality and Communication
At both the marital and family level, sexual issues are linked directly to communication. Communication plays an important role in the development of intimate sexuality" (Troth & Peterson, 2000, p. 195). Sex communication implies "people exchanging verbal and nonverbal messages in a mutual effort to co-create meaning about sexual beliefs, attitudes, values, and/or behavior" (Warren, 2003). COM 3013 Tami Davis

45 Sexuality and Communication
Sexuality, including sexual attitudes and behavior, may be viewed as a topic of communication, a form of communication, and a contributing factor to overall relational intimacy and satisfaction. COM 3013 Tami Davis

46 Sexuality and Communication
It is important for partners and family members to talk about sex because sexuality is part of the essence of who we are, and not to talk about it sends messages that there is something wrong with it. Sheehy (1997) COM 3013 Tami Davis

47 Socialization and Sexuality
The basis for a mutually intimate sexual relationship reflects each partner's orientation toward sexuality, particularly that which is learned in the family-of-origin. COM 3013 Tami Davis

48 Socialization and Sexuality
The sexual dimensions of family life are tied strongly to gender identities, boundaries, and developmental change. Much of your sexual conduct was originally learned, coded, and performed on the basis of bio-social beliefs regarding gender identity, learned in your family-of-origin. Parents possess a set of gender-specific ideas about males and females developed from their childhood experiences and from "typical" behaviors of girls or boys of similar ages to their children. COM 3013 Tami Davis

49 Parent-Child Communication
Much of what you learned about sexuality took place within the rule-bound context of your family. Sex communication within the family has become more open in the past decades due to greater societal openness, media references to sex, concerns about health issues, and greater parent comfort. COM 3013 Tami Davis

50 Parent-Child Communication
Many parents "recognize the importance of communication and want to communicate with their children but they lacked good sexual communication role models in their own lives and are unaware of how and when to initiate sexual conversations" (Hutchinson, 2002, p. 246). COM 3013 Tami Davis

51 Socialization and Sexuality
According to Maddock (1989), sexually healthy families are characterized by: respect for both genders; boundaries that are developmentally appropriate and support gender identities; effective and flexible communication patterns that support intimacy, including appropriate erotic expression; and a shared system of culturally relevant sexual values and meanings. COM 3013 Tami Davis

52 Commitment Commitment implies intense singular energy directed toward sustaining a relationship. It is only through commitment that a loving relationship remains a vital part of one's life. COM 3013 Tami Davis

53 Constraint commitment
Personal dedication involves one's internal devotion to the relationship Constraint commitment refers to factors that keep people in relationships regardless of devotion. includes religious beliefs, promises, children, finances, or social pressure. COM 3013 Tami Davis

54 Commitment Commitment is associated with higher relationship satisfaction and stability and with behaviors that maintain and enhance the quality of relationships (Flanagan et al., 2002). Intensity, repetition, explicitness, and codification support commitment talk (Knapp & Vangelisti, 2000). COM 3013 Tami Davis

55 Forgiveness Defining forgiveness is difficult because of multiple meanings. It may be viewed as "a transformation in which motivation to seek revenge and to avoid contact with the transgressor is limited" (Fincham & Beach, 2002, p. 240) COM 3013 Tami Davis

56 Forgiveness Frequently, forgiveness implies an explicit renegotiation of the relationship that usually involves metacommunication. COM 3013 Tami Davis

57 Barriers to Intimacy Building marital or familial intimacy can be difficult and risky. For many-it is more comfortable to maintain a number of pleasant or close relationships, none involving true intimacy, than to become intensely involved with a partner or child. Some family members establish barriers to relationship development to protect themselves from possible pain or loss. COM 3013 Tami Davis

58 Barriers to Intimacy General Fears
There are many reasons for a fear of intimacy, including: merger, exposure, attack, and abandonment. COM 3013 Tami Davis

59 Barriers to Intimacy Jealousy
Although sometimes jealousy is seen as a sign of affection, when it becomes violent or obsessive, it creates a barrier to intimacy. Jealousy is an "aversive emotional experience characterized by feelings of anger, sadness, and fear induced by the threat or actual loss of a relationship with another person to a real or imagined rival" (DeSteno & Salovey, 1994, p. 220). COM 3013 Tami Davis

60 Jealousy cognitive jealousy is negatively related to relational satisfaction; constantly mulling over jealous concerns heightens tension. Jealousy tends to erode relational connections. COM 3013 Tami Davis

61 Jealousy Frequently, family jealousy occurs when members fear they may lose something they value, such as the intensity of a particular relationship. COM 3013 Tami Davis

62 Deception Given that trust appears as a hallmark of intimacy, deceiving another violates the understanding. Most people expect family and loved ones to be truthful as a sign of connection or relational commitment. COM 3013 Tami Davis

63 Deception Deception involves intentionally managing verbal and/or nonverbal messages so that another will believe or understand something in a way that the deceiver knows is false (Buller & Burgoon, 1994). COM 3013 Tami Davis

64 Activity Get in a small group Take a position on the statement:
If you have to work at a relationship, there’s something wrong with it. Defend your position COM 3013 Tami Davis

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