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Closeness in relationships
Posted: February 12, 2009
Last Updated: February 12, 2009

Valentine’s Day is all about displaying your affection for the one you love most. Cards, candy, and gifts all help convey the affection we feel for another person, but psychologists have found the truest display of affection to an intimate partner is though physical closeness.

 

Instinctually, we all seek physical proximity to a partner, and rely on their continuing affections and availability. This fundamental display of affection is key to creating attachment and includes: Eye contact, touching, stroking, and holding a partner deliver the same security and comfort. When threatened, fearful, or experiencing loss, we turn to our partner for psychological comfort. Or we try to.

 

The core elements of love are the same for children and adults—the need to feel that somebody is emotionally there for you, that you can make contact with another person who will respond to you, particularly if you are in need. The essence of love is a partner responding to a need, not because it's a good deal—but even when it's not. That allows you to sense the world as a secure place rather than a dangerous place. In this sense, we never grow up and always need contact and connection in life to others to be psychologically happy and healthy.

 

It is clear that the dynamics of attachment are similar across the life span of our species. In the anger of a couple that is fighting over everything there is an aspect of a protesting child who is trying to restore the closeness and responsiveness of a parent.  Grief of adults who have lost a partner can be found in the same despair in a child who has lost a parent and experiences helplessness and withdrawal. Children need physical closeness for healthy development and adults need the same closeness maintain their health through their lifetime.  

 

Through the lens of attachment we also come to understand that the expression of emotion is the primary communication system in relationships; it's how we adjust mentally to closeness. 

 

When emotion attachment is threatened we feel alienated from a partner or worry about our partner's availability and commitment. Instead of responding negatively to perceived emotional distance in a relationship, try to reestablish closeness. Sometimes turning a relationship around is more complicated than giving a simple hug or kiss. It can take time to reestablish the communication and closeness in a relationship.

 

If your relationship could use counseling call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.