What Makes a Great Intimate Relationship...Really!

Recently I was on the phone with a, bright, fast paced, hard working 27 year old from New York City.  She asked me what really made a great intimate relationship.

At first I felt old and wise. Then I felt compassion for her innocence and the journey ahead of her as one of the sexy white women. Then I wondered how on earth I would answer her question. So I said “do you really want to know my answer?”

“I really do”, she chirped. She didn’t have much time and I knew it.  But I dove in anyway.

“Well, after 40+ years of working with many couples, and a 30-year marriage here is what we’ve come up with so far:

  1. A great friendship – you genuinely like each other even when sexual attraction, warm feelings, and In-Love feelings wax and wane.
  2. Willingness to be aware of your own challenges without shame, take responsibility for your mistakes, and do whatever YOU need to do to change, as a way to contribute to the health of your relationship.
  3. Your ability to make genuine repair when you’ve hurt your partner and say, 'I’m sorry'."

There was a long silence.

“Wow. Cool”. Another pause.

“Do you mean, I’m not supposed to look for someone with particular qualities that are compatible with mine? I’m not supposed to look for great sex?

“If you want my advice, look for someone who’s willing to grow themselves, who is as interested in your well being as their own, and who’s able, over time, to stick with you even during the hard times.”

Another silence. “I have to go now. Thanks a lot”.  We hung up.

I made up a whole story about what might be going through her head:

“ Hmph. I think sex is really important; and being in love too. What does she mean, 'in love feelings wax and wane?' That’s never happened to me. I mean that’s the glue that holds a relationship together, isn’t it?"

Isn’t it????

Well, no actually it’s not. Sex is wonderful and a very important part of being connected as a couple. But sexual feelings wax and wane. It’s the deep attachment bond between us that keeps us going when lusty feelings aren’t showing up. It’s the same with “being in love”.  One of our favorite relationship experts, Pat Love, who wrote HOT MONOGAMY many years ago, said,

“ In love feelings are a short lived delightful phenomena”. After the “honeymoon” we have to be intentional about most of our romantic, sexual and intimate encounters.

So that’s that. Our experience has taught us that friendship, self-awareness/inner work, and the ability to make amends are really at the top of our list – for the moment. Oh, we’re also into loving kindness, deep listening, and respect for differences, even when they drive us crazy.

But that would be a list of 6 and no one can remember more than three things.

We’ll keep you posted!


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  • Intensives

    Our private 3-day retreats serve one couple at time. Some of the top priorities that we address are: breaking through unresolved issues, extra-marital affairs, deepening communication, increasing sex and intimacy.