Stages of Intimacy
There are no typical couples, so before I launch into the typical stages of intimacy I want to preface it with the fact that though no two couples are alike, there tend to be stages within processes. For example, within the grief process, according to the Kubler-Ross model, we have denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages do not always happen in this particular order. We may have anger, then denial, then acceptance, then bargaining and then depression and then circle back around to acceptance. Voila! Death and Intimacy seem to be made of the same fabric, the intensity, the dullness, the gains, the loss all mirror one another.
“I met the love of my life.” “He is perfect. I want to marry him.” “I can’t believe we have so much in common.” “He is great in bed.” “I can not wait to see him again.” “Oh I should eat something.” “I am going to vomit.”
Oh the sweet syrupy stage of infatuation. It is so wonderful and so difficult to resist. Hormones and logic rarely coincide, so we find ourselves doing things like checking email 12-24 times an hour, not eating, going to get our nails done at midnight, buying pajamas that match our bed sheets.
Infatuation apparently mimics the same part of the brain that charges up when someone is high on heroine. Your brain can not, biologically, maintain the high of infatuation. You will fry. The infatuation will ebb and flow at different points. The sex will not always be that good…it may get better or may become worse. But all that lovely other-ness of that first initial swim in the cool
crisp pond of falling in love… how many movies could we watch about that? Billions. It is poetry, love magnified, a revisit to the warm womb of security. Then the negotiation between security and autonomy creeps in and we begin to land.
Oh, the landing from that fantastic flight can be the scariest part. We see things more clearly. There is a great article in Psychology Today that writes something along the lines of, “The day you wake up and say you have married the wrong person is the day that your marriage truly begins.” Meaning, this is the day where the veil of infatuation has lifted and the 20/20 vision of everyday living comes in. “Wow, she is nuerotic.” “Mygawd, he tells the worst jokes.” Or maybe it is something like, “Hmmm, the sex is not as good as it used to be.” The landing can be light and sweet, or rocky and discombobulating. But eventually every bird must land. Eventually every fish must jump back in the sea. The clock does strike midnight and Cinderella must run home before the stage coach becomes a pumpkin and her dress returns to rags. Landing! Oh, so bittersweet.
This stage happens when all the to-do lists of life come toppling into the relationship and before you know it conversations are wrapped around things like who is doing the laundry or your boss or the crazy mother-in-law. Buried implies that other things, oh life, is encroaching on that beauitful oasis of a relationship. Buried is not always bad, it is a sign that the relationship is real, weaving into your every day existence. The important piece here with being buried is to unbury yourselves. Take Tango lessons, go relive your first date, buy some sex toys, grab the whips! Something where real life can take a break to allow the gentle and sweet to resurface, bringing us to the next stage.
Resurface is the stage where you turn to your partner, and say to yourself, ‘Wow. I forgot how hot he is.’ or ‘She is stunning.’ or ‘I love him so much.’ Resurface is the resolution. She is a mixed bag, but so am I. He sits on the toilet for an hour reading comics, but I pluck chin hairs. I can’t wait for our next date. I can’t believe I have such a sweet person in my life, who always has my back. It can be triggered by a massive problem resolved, a great date, an especially good night of sex, almost losing the other person, good couples therapy, anything can jolt us awake, a death in the family or even a birth. And then we hit the last stage.
This is what it is really all about right? The part where we look across the dinner table, fight over the remote, or go on a great trip into Chinatown and think…Oh I have it really good.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
― Leo Tolstoy,