Research Paper: Marriage and Intimacy

Pages: 10 (4021 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] For minor stresses that are daily occurrences, a couple may want to seek a therapists help for some objective advice in what each partner feels is a stressful daily event (is it something small, like always having to drive the kids to school? Or something bigger like a partner is always staying late at work?), and once each partners' daily stresses are written out, the therapist can guide the couple in finding more intimate activities that can mediate the stresses (Harper, Schaalje, & Sandberg, 2000). This is a great way to deal with those daily hassles that can't be changed, and also a great way to see which hassles can be changed (such as, every week each partner has a turn in driving the kids to school).

For stressors that are a little more serious, there are effective ways of coping, and having a family dynamic high on intimacy, communication, hardiness and social support set up a family for success in weathering the storm (Lauer, & Lauer, 2009). If only one partner is dealing with stress (for example, a parent has just passed away), then the other partner can step in and increase their level of intimacy such as more physical attention like hugs, or small notes such as affirmations of love, or going out to do a favorite activity the couple enjoy together (Harper, Schaalje, & Sandberg, 2000). This is known as "intimacy-building interventions," and can greatly support couples who need help getting through any type of stress that may be hindering marital happiness (Harper, Schaalje, & Sandberg, 2000).

In addition to intimacy as a mediator, some other coping techniques for stress are taking responsibility for the problem as a couple or as a family, and find a new way to move past it, which means not being in denial that the stress is occurring and is having a negative impact, not avoiding the situation and acting like everything is fine, and certainly not trying to scapegoat and pass the responsibility to someone else (Lauer, & Lauer, 2009). Another technique is affirming your worth, and believe that there is something that can be done, that as a couple or family there is an ability and capacity to cope with the stress in an effective way (Lauer, & Lauer, 2009). Another great way of dealing with stress in marriage is to "reframe" the situation, and look at it from a different perspective (personally I like to call this "looking for the blessing in disguise"), the situation may seem hopeless, but hiding underneath there is some new way of looking at it and finding out where the lesson is (Lauer, & Lauer, 2009).

Vulnerability, Men & Intimacy

Intimacy is also so often a part of vulnerability, because it involves ever-increasing amounts of self-disclosure with your partner, which literally you are opening yourself up for anything. Indeed, men seem to equate a chore or task with expressing intimacy rather than showing emotions or using language the way that women do (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). Due to the fact that men often avoid feeling overly feminine, or expressing their emotions in a feminine way (i.e. crying), it makes sense that men have very different views on what construes intimacy with their partner, which also helps to explain why some men may have a hard time with intimacy because it involves a certain level of vulnerability as well (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009; Livingston, 2004). A relationship with high intimacy is best served with one partner allowed to meet the needs of the other solely, and then having the roles changed to have their needs be taken care of next, so that neither feels "objectified" and allows a development of self within the marriage (Livingston, 2004). This is important for men, because most men equate being intimate with a specific action: sharing, where intimacy involves differing levels of sharing something, whether it be an activity, or a feeling of being safe together, or sexual activities (or a chore or task as previously noted) (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). In this way, when a woman is feeling vulnerable and needs intimacy with her husband she can almost expect him to perform some action meant to convey intimacy, rather than provide deep outward emotions or conversation with her.

Another form that intimacy takes for me is the idea that they can be themselves with their partners in comparison to their friends, because with women their different "masks" they use are unnecessary, and they are able to "reveal parts of themselves that they were scared, uncertain, or ashamed of, without fear that they would be rejected for doing so." (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). This point is very important for women who may be having a deep self-disclosing session with their husbands who may be revealing parts of themselves that might take them aback, and they may react badly, thus damaging the vulnerability that their husbands just shared. An example from Lauer and Lauer (2009), in the section about lack of daily communication between partners and why this may occur, talks about a couple where the husband reportedly learned to not talk about his ambitions of starting his own firm or changing careers because his self-disclosure (and goals, apparently), were met with derision from his wife. Of course, after a while of not making real conversation with each other the wife wondered what was wrong, and when prompted about her reactions to her husband's goals, she admitted that it scared him to hear her talk about their future this way (Lauer, & Lauer, 2009). Instead of being equally honest with her husband and telling him in a calm manner that the prospect of this made her nervous, she met his vulnerability with ridicule. To be sure, trust was rated as an extremely important factor to men for establishing a solid intimate relationship with their significant other, stating that this type of trust with their partners was unlike anything other kid of trust held with friends or family (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). This suggests that allowing a man to be open, trusting, sincere, and vulnerable when talking about something of great consequence is crucial to the health and well-being of a marriage. Without this level of trust, men will have an even greater time trusting that they will not be rejected or ridiculed (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). Men felt, in general, that a relationship with a woman was the only place where he could actually express feelings of doubt, vulnerability, intimacy, or fear because there is a significantly less chance that a woman would reject him, but a man would never allow himself to expose those feelings to a male friend because there is always a chance of rejection (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009). That is a huge amount of responsibility for woman to be the sole outlet of intimacy and closeness for their partner, where discretion and sincerity is paramount.

Nonverbal communication is a big part of intimacy as well, for both men and women, but men have more mixed feelings about sex as an intimate experience than women do (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009; Crooks, & Baur, 2008). Nonverbal communication can include facial expressions, physical closeness (being in each other's space bubble, in other words), touching, and making sounds (Crooks, & Baur, 2008). Basically men feel that "sex could occur without intimacy but intimacy could not occur without some expressions of physical expression." (Beckenbach, & Patrick, 2009).

Marital Satisfaction & Dealing with Infidelity

It has now been well established that the foundation for a great marriage is a high level of intimacy between partners, which can manifest itself in several ways, but most commonly are "behavioral interdependency, fulfillment of needs, and emotional attachment." (Greeff, & Malherbe, 2001). The highest and successful levels of intimacy involve a deep understanding of one's partner, meeting their needs, and seeing the "true self" of one's partner (Greeff, & Malherbe, 2001). Marital satisfaction does not just rely on intimacy alone, but also the ability to work out problems in a healthy way, communicate effectively with one another, and have high levels of self-disclosure between partners (a variant of intimacy) (Greeff, & Malherbe, 2001; Lauer, & Lauer, 2009).

Marital satisfaction relies on effective communication between partners, and some patterns of successful communication are outlined in Crooks and Baur (2008) where John Gottman's Constuctive Communication Tactics are discussed. Leveling and editing is one such tactic, where someone will edit saying something potentially harmful and instead use an "I" statement, and discussing topics that are only useful and relevant to the conversation at hand, not throwing everything in all at once (Crooks, & Baur, 2008). Validating is another tactic of effective communication, in which a partner will confirm that they can see their point-of-view on the matter, and understand why there might be (confusion, anger, resentment, etc.…) which helps to "facilitate constructive dialogue." (Crooks, & Baur, 2008). And lastly, another tactic for keeping the flame alive is…arguing! It may seem counter-intuitive, but according to Gottman couples who never… [END OF PREVIEW]

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