Building A Healthy Emotional and physical closeness Relationship


There is a particular form of closeness, that should be part of any healthy relationship, which is physical without being sexual.

This is characterized by the way that couples who are quite intimate tend to groom each other, for instance by straightening each other’s clothing.

It is a pleasant form of closeness, and shows care for each other, although it can also have an implication of possessiveness, which may not be totally welcome to one of the two.

This kind of closeness often goes together with emotional closeness, but again some people may feel that the physical closeness is not enough and they need some extra sharing of feelings as well.

It is often the man who is less comfortable with emotional closeness, and the woman who wants to be closer.

As with the sexual-emotional problem, to maintain a healthy relationship, an agreement to be emotionally close at planned, but limited, times in the day may begin to help the problem.

Operational closeness

In general, each person has his/her preference as to how close or distant they should be in a healthy relationship.

This type of closeness, which we can call operational closeness, is mainly concerned with how much time the couple spend together, and whether they live together or apart.

It is also relevant to the question of how much they share plans and how much they know about each other’s daily activities.

Much of the implicit negotiation that goes on when a healthy relationship is forming is to do with the question of operational closeness.

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One partner may feel very strongly that they want to be part of a couple, while the other wants to have a bit more freedom of movement.

Time together or time apart

Within an established relationship the question may Centre around the time the couple spend together and the time they are apart.

If each has their own interests, this may be a good reason why they should spend time in separate activities, and this may be quite comfortable for both.

However, one partner may be keener than the other to be together, and here problems may arise which can only be solved by negotiation and compromise.

Does one of you do things that the other one hates? Timetables may help

There are many examples of this within a relationship. We are referring to those activities that one partner really needs to do and the other finds boring or off-putting. Here are some examples from my experience as a couple therapist:

  • Wanting to talk (even to argue) late into the night
  • Watching sports programs on television
  • Watching the news on television
  • Watching soap operas on television
  • Vacuum cleaning late at night (could interfere with sex!)
  • Wanting to interrogate the partner (jealousy)
  • Wanting more sex than the partner does
  • Wanting to go shopping together
  • Sitting at the computer
  • Visits to relatives
  • Attendance at sports clubs

The list could be extended, but I hope that you have understood that these disputes are very common and can often be troublesome. How could you resolve them?

Suppose that you have a dispute about what to watch together on TV (for example sports or soap operas).

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If Partner A wants to do a lot of this and Partner B wants to watch other things, or simply to talk more, you could work out a timetable in which the ‘activity’ is rationed to certain hours each day.

It would be best to set up a different activity when Partner A is not watching his/her programs, so as not to create unnecessary conflict: for example, sitting and talking about family matters, or listening to music of your choice.

Similarly, to continue to work on their healthy relationship, timetables could be set up for when one partner might be sitting at the computer (a common problem in these days of easy Internet access) or for doing housework such as vacuum cleaning at unpopular times (e.g. late at night).

In all cases it would be helpful for Partner B (who is bored or put off by the activity) to offer to do something instead which is attractive to Partner A, and which may be seen as a reward for giving up the activity.