Wednesday, October 21, 2015

EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL INTIMACY: THE CORNERSTONES OF SECURE ATTACHMENT BONDS AND GOOD MENTAL HEALTH

Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych. & Dr. Lila Hakim, C.Psych.


Emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy can be considered essential components of adult attachment bonds. Our capacity to engage in an intimate manner contributes to our ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying, long-term relationships. Emotional intimacy allows partners to feel seen, heard, and understood. Emotional closeness is core to developing satisfying couple physical and sexual intimacy.

When partners feel emotionally close, physical touch and sexual contact seem less threatening and more rewarding. A solid emotional connection allows individuals to be present and engage moment-by-moment in encounters involving intimate physical and sexual contact. Within this context, more intimate, arousing, pleasurable, and erotic encounters are then possible. On the other hand, when partners lack emotional closeness, they feel distanced or engage in circular, escalating conflicts as they strive to be understood and have their needs met by the other. Negative feelings and emotions begin to accumulate when partners are unable to intimately engage.

In some cases, a partner may fear intimacy, or lack the skills to engage in an intimate manner about their feelings, needs or desires, or lack knowledge about how to respond to the other’s feelings. When communication breaks down, unprocessed negative emotions accumulate. Unable to process their feelings and needs, partners engage in rigid, negative patterns with one another. They begin to distance from each other, experience separation fears, and engage in high-conflict exchanges in their effort to protect themselves from the growing sense of disconnection in the relationship.


CFIR psychologists and clinicians help individuals and couple partners learn how to identify, express, and assert their selves in their relationships to others. We also support individuals and partners on how to exit from difficult relationship patterns and become more accessible and responsive to one another.  Healthy relationship and sexual functioning are important in maintaining a good sense of ourselves. Both our physical and mental well-being is improved when we have the ability to create and sustain intimate relationships with others both outside and inside the bedroom. In fact, research affirms that many individuals struggle in their efforts to maintain relationship and sexual satisfaction throughout their lives, and that dissatisfaction in these arenas of life can have an impact on our mental and physical health.