Skills are very important for a successful career and relationship. An effective city planner needs decision-making skills to create well-crafted plans; a teacher needs to have effective communication skills to be understood by his or her students; a mediator has to have conflict resolution skills; a clergy man must have empathy and listening skills; a television show host ought to have interview skills and a genuine interest in people; and the president should have skills in managing diversity and the people in his or her country.
Skills are central even in creating and enriching a successful marriage (Silliman, 2002). People get married for a number of reasons, but not mindful of the marital relationship or intimacy skills required for the success of their marriage. Reasons for marriage include friendship, regular sex partner...
, security, and love, among others. Certainly, when couples marry, most of them have no prior experience on marital intimacy skills when they conceded on marrying each other. They will only have a chance to discover their marital intimacy skills when needed in their relationship.
Any couple will experience trouble and collide when they get hurt, get angry, and disappoint their partners. The primary cause of couple’s conflict and distress is the absence of important marital intimacy skills. One good example of a couple in distress is when a wife becomes unreasonable and insults her partner and the husband thinks that he made a big mistake in marrying her wife. They may discover other problems with their partner, but many of them do no realize that the root of the issue is deficient marital intimacy skills.
The analysis an
exploration of marital intimacy skills will be of great help to every individual and couple to avoid destructive and antagonistic labeling and blaming each other when confronted by situation that challenges their relationship (McLanahan, 2003). Learning to listen to the personal meaning of marital intimacy can build a platform of trust for couples and help them cope with conflicts and offer forgiveness in conflicting circumstances (McLanahan, 2003).
Learning the vital marital intimacy skills is important for desirable and lasting relationship in terms of physical, emotional, financial and sexual factors (McLanahan, 2003). Defining Intimacy and Marital Intimacy Intimacy is derived from a Latin root word “intimare” which means “to make familiar with” (McCabe, 2001). When used in terms of marital intimacy, intimacy pertains to the blending of the couples’ emotional, spiritual, physical or sexual communion and logic to understand the challenges of living and sleeping with a stranger after their wedding (McCabe, 2001).
Couples can increase their relationship satisfaction by enhancing and learning the marital intimacy skills. Marital intimacy is a dynamic process for each partner that involves the risk of an honest disclosure of who they really are, who they mate, and how satisfied they are with their marital relationship (Silliman, 2002). The needs, fantasies, hopes, fears, limitations, and boundaries of each mate are entrusted to one another. Understanding the marital intimacy skills for couples as one flesh entails sharing their most private and personal belongings with each other (Stanley, 2002).
A real intimate relationship would only happen if the couple would not hide things from each other, but instead share both the good and the bad with their partner. In fact,
the worst of arguments take place between married people because there are stored information at the back of their minds about their frailties and weaknesses (McLanahan, 2003). By learning the marital intimacy skills, both of them will be able to love more each other and will be content that they have a loved one that truly loves them for being their real selves (McLanahan, 2003). Style of Intimacy Skills on the Different Stages of Marriage
The style of intimacy skills changes with the ups and downs of the relationship. Each stage of marital cycle is unique and never makes the marriage life dull (McLanahan, 2003). Each period in the transition of marriage life is an opportunity to discover ways of interacting with each other to the height of their intimacy (Stanley, 2002). A marital journey will not always be like a bed of roses, but some periods of desperation may happen. The early stages of marriage life for couples will open the road to discover that there is no perfect relationship.
Thus, they must enjoy what they have and be sensitive with their partner’s feelings. Marital intimacy will provide encouragement and support to one another especially during the different stages of family crisis such as illness, pregnancy, in-laws, children, job, and retirement (McLanahan, 2003). Through the support rendered by couples to each other, their bonding will have an intense encouragement to let them unite for ten, twenty, thirty, and more years. When couples are unable to back each other up during the trials of their marriage, intimacy and their relationship will be pulled apart by every crisis in their relationship.
that are influential in the stability of marital relationship are their positive behavior, social support, conflict management, communication, and intimacy. An overview of marital cycle can be of great help for couples that are working their best to deepen the meaning of their marital intimacy. This cycle includes the courtship and engagement period, the wedding to pregnancy, parents for preschool children, parents for school children, parents for adolescents, children that are ready to leave the home, empty nest and retirement, and retirement to death of a spouse (McLanahan, 2003).
Intimacy in Courtship and Engagement Courtship and engagement is the first cycle of marital relationship. Dating is a guiding consideration on what to expect from a partner when they get married, although the individual will not consciously ask his or her intent. There are situations when one of the partners will only put his or her best foot forward during dating and will not conceal his or her real feelings about many aspects of their lives. Dating can help to develop their acquired skills when relating with the opposite sex.
What takes place during dating, courtship, and engagement is an immensely important preparation to learn marital intimacy skills. Spending time for dating can help each partner discover and enjoy sizing up their potential partner in life. This is also the time when each partner will have a reason to feel that their emotional, social, and physical needs can provide mutual satisfaction. Courtship and engagement is like a smoke screen for passionate love and intense feeling to satisfy their need for companion (McLanahan, 2003).
There are pressures involved when in love and it may
sometimes push them apart and result in unfulfilling relationship. The mate-selection period fear is more prominent in women because of family and peer pressures who feel that there are basic inadequacies with their would-be partner in marriage. Pre-marital sex is one possible aspect during dating and when pre-marital pregnancies happened. As a result, making wise decision during this crucial stage becomes more difficult. The emotional maturity of each partner on building a sound marriage may not be consistent for the welfare of unborn child and the couple.
Serious consideration for everyone concerned and what will be the best course of action during decision-making that will produce a guilt feeling that can plague their marriage. The engagement in pre-marital sex even with premarital pregnancies or none may need to seek counseling from responsible adults and professionals to resolve a feeling that may cause distancing in marriage. Engagement period is also the “getting to know you” period and the better time to be acquainted with each partner (McCabe, 2001). During this aspect of the marital cycle, the emotional blind spots of their partner will matter after marriage takes place.
This period is also one great opportunity to learn and understand how to relate to one’s partner; explore the male-female likeness and differences; understand and evaluate each parent and relatives and their relationship to future family, determine the desired kind of marriage and family life, individual growth and acceptance of responsibility; push for sexuality; work out their respective attitudes and plans about commitment and family finances; explore their attitudes about children in terms of social and spiritual reality; plan the details of their wedding and the
long range family goals, purposes and values.
Intimacy after Wedding and First Pregnancy The second stage for marital intimacy is the couple’s wedding and first pregnancy with a new effort of forming the new family that is distinct and more improved than their respective family backgrounds. The early years of marriage is the period for major personal reorientation with an essential stranger towards intimacy, honesty, and openness, which is greater than courtship and engagement. Accepting each role as husband and wife while, at the same time, maintaining their individual identity is one of the difficult tasks for both partners.
Appropriate spouse roles must be learned as crucial part of their marital intimacy skills especially on the first years of marriage. Spouse’s roles make it more demanding when the first pregnancy occurs because of the new acquired role as parents. Despite the adequate engagement experiences of the couples, some feelings of inadequacy take place while living together (Silliman, 2002). The transition from honeymoon stage to early months of marriage is the existence of compromise agreement but there are shocks of discovering the faults and deficiencies of their partners.
Each of them must understand, tolerate, and accept their imperfections by sound communication. The significant amount of freedom has been loss after the romantic aura of their marriage, and they may experience disenchantment with their illusory expectations for a perfect marriage (McCabe, 2001). The crisis is more difficult for young couples who were not able to free themselves from their parents’ dependency and wider peer group. The result is an acute problem with the in-laws which hurt their marriage in the process.
example of situation that hurts the marriage is when a wife wants to work outside the home but her husband feels that her real place must be at home to take care of him and rear their children. This is a common problem after the wedding and the opening years of marriage. However, if they can develop some marital intimacy skills, these will serve as an opportunity for growth and make their eyes open that the inevitable stress brought by their marriage is a wonderful intimacy stage of their world as couple (McCabe, 2001).
The romanticized love during the courtship and engagement period will have a more meaningful love when each partner is able to recognize and discuss that the first years of their married life is stressful for both of them. They have to accept that a portion of their personal freedom before they got married has been sacrificed to cope with the demands of their new status. They have to nurture the different facets of their marital intimacy, reach and emotionally support each other when there is lack of competence in their newly acquired role as husband and wife.
They also have to separate the ghost feeling and anxiety from their respective past relationships. They need to stay and resort to a compromise or agreement during marital adjustment. They have to work together in shaping the marriage identity. It is also necessary for them to resist efforts to change each other according to what they want their partner to be and practice the virtue of patience while living together. Each partner must learn new patterns of intimacy and unlearn the old
patterns that may result in intimacy crisis (McCabe,2001). Marital Intimacy Skills for couples who has pre-school children
At the course of learning the marital intimacy skills, the period of being parents for pre-school children is the same stage wherein most of the couples are still working to integrate their roles as parents. There are demands for intimate relationship during this phase when their child is growing that will create strains on marital intimacy (McLanahan, 2003). With the birth of a first child, conflicted feelings arise. A wife may have a fear that her new status as mother will reduce her emotional energy as wife and diminish time with her husband.
The ambivalent feeling of a wife may create negative attitudes brought by new responsibility as a mother, and there are situations that one of the partners may compete for the love and affection with the baby (Stanley, 2002). The couple can develop a new depth in their marital relation with the existence of pre-school child if they can acquire marital intimacy skills such as the capacity to participate with their partner in child-rearing activities, arrange their sexual relations, division of labor inside their home, and share the responsibilities and satisfactions of being parents.
A father involvement in childcare would prevent the trapped-mother-of-a-young-child syndrome that is emotionally devastating for a woman, especially when she needs to sacrifice her job (McCabe, 2001). The couple must continue to enhance their patterns for husband-wife relationship to avoid over-investment for their children and under-investment for their marriage (McLanahan, 2003). There are situations that over-investment in children may affect the welfare of marital intimac. Thus, creating planned intimacy
activities that involve only the couple is significant to keep their relationship healthy.
By keeping an open line of communication, the hidden feelings of guilt, resentment and hostility can be opened up to and discussed with their partner. A professional psychotherapist, counselor or a pastor can help to facilitate this kind of communication (McCabe, 2001). Parents must learn that it is normal for a child to have a strong sensual awareness for parents of opposite sex or parents that devote much of their time to a child. However, child-raising must not interfere with marital intimacy of couples.
Marital Intimacy Skills for Couples with adolescent children When the couples’ children reach the school age, usually from the age of six to thirteen, children gradually widen their world for other significant relationships, which makes them less dependent on their parents. Hence, this is the period wherein couples can enhance their marital intimacy skills and renew the fullness of their marriage (Dimer, 2002). There are circumstances where marriage partners become engrossed with the demands of their multiple responsibilities as spouse and parent.
However, they can still add richness to their marital intimacy by providing each partner a chance to join their children’s school activities like field trips, holiday celebrations, family projects, and community and church activities which enables their family to reach its strongest form. Family cohesiveness is a kind of marital intimacy skill that can satisfy the couples and their children. The marital intimacy skills during the period when the couples’ children are in their school age will be enhanced by planning some outdoor activities like out-of-town vacations and picnics.
It would also
help to let the son participate in male activities with his father, while the daughter joins her mother in female activities, and vice-versa. Through this, the couple can gradually release their children from the orbit of too much intimacy with one parent and have a greater time to spend as husband and wife in the process. Marital intimacy skills are also crucial for parents with adolescent children because this is the period when their pre-teens clamor for more attention from parents, while they are busy and with their hectic schedules with peers and school activities.
It is also the phase when they demand for more freedom and ask for less discipline and appropriate responsibilities. Thus, the couple can have more time for each other at times when their adolescent children are not around. The couples encounter disagreements between their child and themselves in terms of their own opinion and favorable responses about their adolescents’ stands in different aspects of life. Teenagers may resort to rebelling to fight for what they stand, such as dating activities and sexual maturity.
This is a kind of challenge and threat for couples who want to gain control over the activities of their adolescent children. This also affects the cycle that couples go through as a result of psychological impact of aging or middle-age crisis. The couples attempt to compare their adolescents’ development to their past experiences with some guilt feelings that can stimulate conflicts in their marriage as well. When couples neglect their marriage in favor of their children, feelings of jealousy may take place.
Because of this, they may find this stage rough for their
marital intimacy. The partners may take each other for granted and might no longer think of continuing their marital intimacy. They may also become careless of their own personal grooming. Their self-worth may deplete as they lose control of their teenagers. This may result in boredom and may seek emotional support from outside, leading to infidelity. The struggle for love and trust for each partner will create chaos in their marital relationships.
Marital Intimacy Skills, Strategies and Techniques There are numbers of marital intimacy skills that can help to strengthen their marriage and prevent hazards. These include supporting each partner’s self-esteem by respect, courtesy, and concerns. Giving important gifts that are necessary expensive but has strong emotional value and appreciation of one’s effort to recognize the marital relationship. Awareness that a partner is also under a particular pressures at home or at work with mutual understanding to overcome their fears.
By keeping the communication lines open for some serious talk in a park or leisurely meal together, they can get reconnected with each other (Stanley, 2002). They should also plan a strategy to let the adolescents infected with the couple’s marital intimacy through some satisfying activities with them. Being married for many years is not an excuse for not giving attention to each other’s personal appearance and sexual capacity that can be rewarding not only for the partner but for oneself. As they age, the couple can develop new skills, interests, and hobbies that will keep them growing and deepen marital relationships.
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