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Do Levels of Intimacy Go Down Over Time in Close Relationships?

Mary and Daniel have been together for 3 years.  Their relationship has been strong from the start.  But recently Mary has come to realize that she misses the deep and searching conversations she used to have with Daniel early in their relationship.  Whereas once they talked about their goals in life, their values and why they were important, and their beliefs about human nature, lately their conversations have seemed, to Mary, to be entirely superficial.  They spend their time talking about home repairs, annoyances with their car, in-laws, family friends, and the less than ideal state of their finances.  Mary has tried bringing up more serious topics, but whenever she does, the conversations either wither away or somehow drift off into mundane matters that, ultimately, she does not care so much about.  She is wondering whether something has gone wrong with her relationship with Daniel.


What has happened to Mary and Daniel happens to many couples, really, almost all of them.  When people first meet, they are getting to know each other and to see whether they have matching views on the world, on the values the underlie their lives, and on their goals for the future.  If they decide that there is a good match, they continue their relationship and may even end up together over the long term.  But once the period of exploration and testing the relationship ends, many of the issues that were discussed at those early stages of the relationship may come to seem irrelevant or simply already discussed.  Mundane matters such as budgets, children, parents, friends, and immediate needs start to predominate in conversations. And as a result, conversations may come to seem more mundane and superficial.  For many people, this is not a problem; but for others, it may seem that, as time goes on, intimacy or at least communication in the relationship is going downhill.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It is typical and normal for conversations increasingly to focus on mundane topics as time passes in a relationship.  This in itself is not a cause for concern.
  • If one or both participants in a relationship want to continue conversations regarding deeper issues, they may have to make a special effort to make these conversations happen.
  • As time goes on, the deep level of intimacy underlying a relationship may stay intact or even increase at the same time that the surface or superficial level seems to decrease.  The relationship may seem, well, more superficial.  Sometimes, what it takes for one to figure out whether deep levels of intimacy are still there is some kind of interruption—a serious issue in life, such as a partner going on a long trip, or a partner’s becoming ill, or a child’s being born, or a financial crisis.  Such events challenge relationships in a way that everyday life often does not and can reveal to the partners whether they still have the kind of intimacy and ability to work together they once had—or at least, thought they had!
  • Intimacy does not “take care of itself.”  If you want to increase your intimacy—your communication, your trust in each other, your ability to rely on each other, your caring for what happens to each other—you have to take charge and make the changes you want to see happen.

If, indeed, you find that your intimacy has waned, you should not put off “working on it.” It’s easy for you to put it off until it’s too late.  If you realize things are not where they need to be, work on it now. Your relationship is more important than those other things that provide excuses to keep you from working on the relationship.


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