The A-Z of love: I is for intimacy

The A-Z of love: I is for intimacy



21:06 GMT, 8 April 2012

James Kerr and Matthew Johnstone celebrate the A-Z of love. This week, I is for intimacy.

The ‘love lab’ experiments of talented relationship psychologist John Gottman have had a profound effect on the way we understand relationships.

Within minutes of interviewing a couple, Gottman is able to predict with 93  per cent accuracy whether the relationship will last.

Intimacy: the lifeblood of love

Intimacy: the lifeblood of love

He is on the lookout for what he calls the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’ — criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Every relationship displays these traits at some point, but when they are habitual, they become sure signs it is in trouble.

Each, in their own way, destroy intimacy. Intimacy is the lifeblood of love; it is the way we share confidences, vulnerabilities, secrets, fears and ultimately our lives.

If we criticise our partner and, worse, show them the teeth of contempt, or if defensiveness and stonewalling closes communication, we cauterise the veins through which our lifeblood runs.

Love is made up of dialogue and transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity. It’s more fragile than it sometimes seems. Either shutting down — or the opposite, completely opening up — will eat away at the very thing that nourishes us.

DON'T LET THE HORSEMEN RUN WILD: Be separate, together. Be close, but not too close. Walk together, but apart.

MAKE IT UP: Arguments are inevitable, resentment isn’t. Ensure you make up clearly and sincerely. Anything swept under the carpet will trip you up later.

FIVE THINGS: It takes five positive comments to atone for one piece of criticism. Make your apologies count.