Intimacy. The romantic overtures abound in Romance books and Lifetime Movies, but are we only seeing the final stages? Intimacy is one side of Robert Sternberg’s triangle theory of love. (Passion and Commitment being the other two.) While some stages seem to fit the other sides of the triangle, these are just the stepping stones of intimacy.
Intimacy is emotional. In its infancy, intimacy begins with our eyes taking stock of a form. A single glance is all it takes for our nether regions to take notice, but we want more than just a one night lay.
Do they return the same bashful glance? Can we call their eyes the window to the soul or does that single glance warn us to flee; run, run, run away and never return.
Is the physical chemistry all we have? We smile back, and now our tongues get thick and unruly. Our words trip over themselves as we try to communicate. Butterflies in our stomachs should be called Jaws with how unstable we feel.
If we weigh our attraction to them, we move on to the fourth step. We allow them to hold our hands. Sometimes our hands seem made for each other as they slide into place; other times, it’s a battle of fingers. It is a purposeful movement showing we are comfortable enough to try being something more.
Queue the arm drop on the shoulder routine. It’s famous in movies because it demonstrates the growing emotional connection. Done too soon, and the arm-to-shoulders becomes invasive. This stage is a flag showing we are something. We’ve come to a point that we are emotionally invested.
Ever watch a movie and the man guides his date to her chair with his hand at the small of her back? This one act alone shows how familiar and personable the couple are to each other. They are invested in each other.
Kissing is a recognizable intimacy, and in writing, can be a tension builder. Like a blimp, kissing is a visible sign of an emotional and physical bond. The couple needs fewer words to communicate. They understand the needs and desires of their partner. At this stage, we let someone into our personal space, and the attraction is hard to deny.
The ketchup stage, as I call it, begins an extraordinarily intimate state. We allow our partner to invade our personal space outside passion filled concessions. We stroke their scruff, and they brush our hair. We wipe the ketchup glob from the corner of their mouth. If we don’t trust them here, we can’t continue.
The final two stages are a delicate dance that overlaps in passion-addled minds. Foreplay and touching of hands to body, intimacy skyrocket the physical responses of passion and emotions; there are no clear lines between them and us.
Keep your shirt on. Without the clothes and the layer of soap bubbles we hide behind, we are barren to our lover’s touch. There is no closer intimacy besides intercourse.
While some of these steps of intimacy cross the realm of passion, these steps build a commitment for a steady relationship. These stages aren’t gauged by time but by internal weights of attraction and desires; some people speed through with no care for emotional exchange while others seem to stall. By understanding the different stages, your writing can flourish in ways that build the tension and the understanding of better, more stable relationships. Look at key points in your life and see how these stages correlate with you and your lover.