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One couple said after the ordeal of his near-fatal auto accident and six-month hospitalization: "It was sheer hell while it was happening but it has given us a new love for life and each other. Being captured by a common cause that turns on enthusiasm and conviction provides a powerful bond in a marriage. Spiritual intimacy is the nearness that develops through sharing in the area of ultimate concerns, the meanings of life to both partners , their relationship to the universe and to God.

For many it is the sense of a transcendent relatedness which provides a firm foundation or supportive ground for transient human relatedness. Participation in the life of a church or synagogue, and in the century-spanning heritage of a couple's religious tradition, often stimulates and nurtures the development of spiritual intimacy.

The common characteristic of these various expressions of intimacy is that each has the potentiality for drawing the marital partners together. Collectively, they allow opportunities for the lives of two human beings to touch significantly in an increasing number of areas. Many couples have achieved satisfying intimacy in at least a few areas.

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The opportunity which is before all couples is to increase the number of areas in which depth sharing occurs. This can happen as a result of planned and persistent effort, choosing the goals that attract both and planning strategy for moving toward them, remembering that there needs to be a balance among the various dimensions of intimacy in order to enrich the relationship and prevent any one facet of the relationship from being overloaded. Of course, joint participation in any of these areas is no guarantee of intimacy.

Some couples participate in one or more of these areas -- sexual, aesthetic, recreational, work, for example -- without the growth of any sense of organic one-ness. They are something like nursery children at certain stages who play along-side others but not really "with" them. In such parallel marriages, the pall of loneliness is not really dispelled. The latter is the undergirding "we-ness" of a good marriage. Increasing moments and periods of intense closeness help to establish the abiding sense of dependable oneness. It is important to understand how the quality of intimacy develops.

Complementary interaction produces a gradual narrowing of the emotional distance until there is, in Eric Berne's terms, "a genuine interlocking of personalities," 15 or intimacy. What develops is a kind of psychological union. In both Hebrew and Greek, the verb "to know" is the same word as to have sexual intercourse. Clearly, to really know one's marital partner requires a kind of union. Such a union is the heart of intimacy. In it, the aloneness of a man and a woman's existential condition are transcended and, to some degree, overcome. Erikson describes the union of personalities which is intimacy when he defines love as "The mutuality of mates and partners in a shared identity, for the mutual verification through an experience of finding oneself, as one loses oneself in another.

The idea of shared identity opens the door to an understanding of the essence of the experience of marital intimacy. As two people continue to relate in the ways we have been describing, the breadth and depth of their relationship increase. Thus develops a new and unique psychological entity -- the marital relationship. Psychiatrist Nathan Ackerman calls this entity the "marital pair identity. Eliot points to this reality of shared identity when he makes one of his characters exclaim to his partner, "The new person -- us!

Anne Philipe writes with sensitivity to this: "There was this you and this I and this we, which was not exactly you plus me, and which was coming to birth and would surpass us and contain us. It is the sum of these, plus what they become together in their interaction. In the language of Gestalt psychology, the marital identity develops when there is an overlapping and a partial merging of psychological fields or worlds of meanings, of the two partners.

In some marriages the "we" feeling never develops. These are the still-born relationships in which the participants continue to live alone together, as though they were still single psychologically. In those marriages in which the "we" feeling does emerge, it does so slowly, with struggle and with frequent retreats into psychological singleness. Anne Philipe recalls:. In the beginning we had only the tiniest part of a life together. We each still kept to our reserves, watching each other. And then one day the "we" appeared, said as though by accident and then thrown away; no doubt we were still unready.

Later the "one" became the exception. We had started to construct our life, and the day this was admitted and recognized, we understood that we had been keeping back this desire for a long time. Then all of a sudden we were rich with a hundred moments and happenings we had lived through together, kept in our memories because they had united us. Sometimes the presence of a stranger made us bolder.

I would talk about a walk in the rain, or you would say that a cloudy sky can be marvelous. We were laying in our stores. It was a long job of work and it engaged our lives so completely that sometimes it frightened us.

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At those times we would suddenly turn away without uttering a word and stop seeing each other. The development of some degree of shared identity occurs in any close relationship. Emerson's familiar statement, "I am a part of every man whose path has crossed mine," states a basic psychological truth -- viz.

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  8. The unique opportunity in a good marriage is that of developing a degree of shared identity through a continuity and fidelity of relating seldom available in any other context. Two people who have lived together for forty years, having experienced the sun- light and shadow of married life and rearing a family, have shared many dimensions of their lives. If there has been what Ross Snyder calls "creative fidelity" -- "long term commitment to the growth of the other and to the 'both'" 21 -- such a marital pair.

    The pity is that so many couples are unable to use their years of being together to deepen their relationship. In their study of sexual and marital behavior among affluent couples married for ten years or more, Cuber and Harroff discovered five recurring configurations of male-female relationships in marriages. These were couples for whom fighting seemed almost a way of life. Their dominant mode of relating was through the exchange of hostility. A kind of intimacy can develop in such a relationship.

    It may be, as some psychiatrists have suggested, that the need to do battle with one another is the cohesion that holds these couples together. The second pattern consisted of the devitalized. Often these couples reported being deeply in love in the early years of marriage -- including spending a great deal of time together and enjoying sex.

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    Now these relationships have become voids. The zest is gone. Sex is much less satisfying qualitatively and quantitatively. Little time is spent together and there are few shared interests.

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    Some seemed resigned to their apathetic, "habit-cage" existence. Others were less accepting; both assumed that "marriage is like this. One man said, "Tomorrow we are celebrating the anniversary of our anniversary. They illustrate an important truth — that intimacy can never be taken for granted. It can be lost. The third pattern, the passive-congenial, is much like the devitalized, except that the passivity has been there from the beginning.

    There is little conflict. Things are polite, convenient, and conventional. There is some sharing of common interests. Sex is often regarded, by both partners, as of little importance. Unlike the devitalized, there is no sense of "barren gullies in their lives left by the erosion of earlier satisfactions. The fourth mode of marriage, the vital, stands in sharp contrast to the previous three types, although these couples say and do many of the same things.

    The difference is the presence in the vital marriages of a high degree of intimacy: But when the close, intimate, confidential, empathic look is taken, the essence of the vital relationship becomes clear: the mates are intensely bound together psychologically in important life matters. Their sharing and their togetherness is genuine. It provides the life essence for both man and woman.

    One of the husbands of such a couple reported: "The things we do together aren't fun intrinsically -- the ecstasy comes from being together in the doing. Take her out of the picture and I wouldn't give a damn for the boat, the lake, or any of the fun that goes on there. One such couple declared, "The big part of our lives is completely mutual. The total relationship, the fifth pattern, is like the vital, but there are many more points of vital meshing.

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    In some cases there is vital sharing in all the important areas. One husband described his wife of thirty years as his "friend, mistress and partner. And that means being truthful and honest with your body and knowing what feels right and what feels wrong. As women we are connected to our bodies in ways that only we can truly understand; there something very powerful about knowing your body, loving it and feeling comfortable in your sexuality.

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    These are the elements that pique our pleasure in so many different aspects of our relationships — from hugging and kissing to sexually connecting and even just sitting across from your lover. This can only be done with someone who wants to meet you there! The truth is, you rarely can. Both people need to really want the same thing. Climaxing is more than a technical skill for women but rather a combination of surrender, emotional safety and the touch of a partner. Sure, you can experience pleasure without these things, but it may not be the same. This all starts with self care, which includes everything from thinking about your sexual organs and masturbating to nurturing your body and supporting your body through food, supplementation and proper exercise.

    When you do this, you will begin to feel sexy, which unleashes a whole new person; you will walk with confidence, power and the freedom to be unapologetically who you, are, no matter what anyone says. When we do this, we begin to see our libido increase , our orgasms become longer and stronger and we become more connected to our bodies!

    One thing you can do to create the connection you want with a person? What are the feelings you want to feel, the pleasure you wish to seek? Practice a little bit at a time and watch how your entire body begins to change. TCM Classic — Pair this pretty plant-based dip with a plate of ultra-modern crudite.