Growing Close Love“I feel so close to you.” “I feel we are growing apart.” “We used to be so close but now it seems we’re distant.” “How do we get close again?” In love relationships feeling close usually is very desirable and very important. Feeling distant usually is seen as hurtful and harmful in a love relationship. Growing a love relationship that is full of closeness helps the relationship grow stronger and last longer. But how is it that people actually get to feel close and what happens to make them feel distant from one another?
Understanding ClosenessIt is important to note closeness is a feeling or, more accurately, an emotional state. When we feel the emotion called ‘close’ we also tend to feel good, safe, satisfied, connected and quite likely we have a sense of wellness. When we feel distant we tend to feel the opposite of all that – more alone, isolated, unsatisfied, unsafe, apprehensive and if it goes on too long depressed. Feeling close to someone we love and who loves us is very healthy and generally quite good for us, as well as for whoever we are feeling close to. Closeness tends to relieve stress, improve a number of biological functions, and can result in a sense of love-filled serenity.
Emotional GuidanceOur emotions give us guidance. The guidance message we get from closeness tells us we are with someone who it is good for us to be with. Feeling close with a person we love guides us into feeling increasingly nurtured and safe. Sometimes that can be false or a mistake, but generally not. Feeling emotionally distant directs us into thinking something is not right and we would do well to strive for increased closeness one way or another.
Compatibility and ClosenessThe more people experience that they are compatible with each other, the more they are likely to grow a sense of closeness with each other. Agreeableness and having similar experiences, backgrounds, interests, tastes and preferences can facilitate the growth of closeness. Compatibility tends to grow when people are willing to experiment with each other’s ways and be open to each other’s ideas, wishes, views and ways of being. Being able to convey your own ways and be ok about someone else’s ways of being themselves is a tremendous help in compatibility and closeness-creation.
Since all humans and most mammals seem to experience emotions in very similar ways, there can be sufficient, natural compatibility for fostering at least some closeness with anyone and with many of our cousins in the animal world. Thus, it is that loving closeness often is felt by pet owners and apparently by the pets they relate to.
Closeness StartersLove-based, emotional closeness frequently starts and grows with the showing and sharing of one’s more personal self. This especially is true with the sharing of a person’s more private and intimate emotions. Sharing implies a two or more person process. In this process one person lets some of their feelings be seen. This is done by facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, posture changes and the spoken word. It can be done by the written word but that’s much trickier. Then the person hearing or seeing another person’s demonstrations of what they are feeling responds in a receptive and understanding manner. They may have a sympathetic look on their face, kind tones of voice, or say words that indicate emotional understanding. From that, emotional closeness often starts and/or grows.
Two or more people can demonstrate emotional understanding to each other and a sort of core appreciation. They can show respect and empathy for each other. And if they don’t let a number of other things get in the way like judgmentalism, or giving too much advice, or being diverted to other matters then closeness becomes much more likely.
Smiles, caring looks and other positive facial expressions, pleasant tones of voice, affectionate touch, demonstrating patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance, along with showing someone how they are highly valued and special to you are all very important in starting, maintaining and growing closeness-filled love.
Sharing experiences together in which feelings show and are freely expressed also is a big help in starting and keeping closeness growing. Any experience shared together which generates ‘different than usual’ or strong feelings may bring about a sense of closeness growing. Talking about previous, individual experiences and joint experiences also can be helpful if the emotions and sometimes the physical feelings involved are voiced with emotional expression.
Being earnest and honest in situations where others might be more closed or guarded is sometimes a huge help for people starting to feel real with and close to each other. Receiving sincere, honest expressions from another needs to be met with acceptance, respect, tolerance, and kindness for closeness to have a chance to grow. Judgmentalism, personal disapproval, demeaning, discounting and other negating communications are best to be absent.
Closeness and Two Kinds of LoveThe type of love behavior known as ‘Self-disclosure love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] and the type of love behavior known as ‘Affirmational love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] are very much involved in growing a close love. Disclosing one’s real self and going “psychologically naked” with a loved one often is felt as very risky but perhaps essential for growing great closeness. When a person does this with you, responding with affirmational love words and actions which show care, understanding and respect affirms their most intimate nature.
Generally affirming the person brave enough to reveal their real self to you, makes for powerful closeness. Of course, then you also best go psychologically naked in return for the cycle to be completed and for both of you to be close to each other.
Some people managed to do all this behaviorally and pretty much without words, but words that indicate self-disclosure love and affirmational love usually speed and greatly aid this two-part process.
Sexual ClosenessMany couples grow their sense of closeness with each other by way of their shared, intimate sexuality. Sharing their bodies, their sexual desires, their ways of pleasuring, their turn-ons, idiosyncrasies, erotic fantasies, intimate and unique preferences, thoughts, feelings and ways of sexually expressing themselves is involved here. The self-disclosure of letting themselves be known sexually and letting themselves sexually know another while responding with affirmation type love can make for incredible love-filled closeness. It takes people responding to each other in these ways to grow that special closeness and it takes not letting fears and anti-sexual programming get in the way.
Trouble, Communication and ClosenessLetting and helping a person tell you whatever is in them to tell you is a great way to enhance closeness. Lovingly hearing and expressing realness in the ways you and a loved one relate often is vital to the continuation of closeness. Whenever there is dissonance or disagreement, communicating in loving ways can help the closeness continue in spite of the difficulties being encountered. To be able to convey that you continue to value a person, though you may not like some of their behaviors, is important for the continuance of closeness when trouble is afflicting a love relationship. Learning to talk without blame, personal disapproval, putdowns, guilt trips and offense defensiveness (see entry Non-defensiveness – A Love Skill) is also very important to the continuation of closeness.
Other Closeness HelpersCloseness implies both emotional and physical proximity. Getting physically and intimately close to someone, when they are receptive, helps closeness grow. Being intimately close also allows for intimate loving touch which also is a great help to many people’s closeness feelings. Loving touch can begin with simple short tap-touching, then move to brief pause touches, followed by friendship hugs, and later cuddling and caressing. In this process it’s important to back off if any discomfort is indicated by the response. Laughing together, acting silly together and being helpful to one another also can enhance the start and growth of closeness feelings between people.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Who would you like to feel closer to, and what will you do about that?