Below are five characteristics that I believe define an intimate relationship.

1. Presence – (preferably face-to-face, this could also include online interactions) Just as we talked about presence (immediacy) being an important factor in classmate relations, this is necessary in intimate relationships.

2. Growth over time – Realizing that relationships are an ongoing process and continuing to learn about and grow closer to each other as time passes.

Just as we are always evolving, growing and learning as we continue through life, I think that our friendships grow. Even if we were able to say that we knew everything there was to know about a person (which I doubt is possible, even with a spouse), the next day there is more about that person to learn.

I think what I term growth includes many qualities. Self-disclosure is one of the big ones. Social penetration theory sounds interesting and very true. If I stopped sharing with my closest friend, she would quickly become unaware of what is going on in my life and then she can no longer relate to my life. I have had this happen recently. I did not talk to my closest friend, Becky for some time and now I feel distant and as if she doesn’t quite understand me like she used to.
3. Gracious perceiving of others – Strom (2009) writes about this as critical to covenantal relationships. This requires recognizing that we are all imperfect, which causes us to grant grace to others when relating to them.

4. Commitment – All relationships have ups and downs. Intimate relationships require commitment of both parties to rejoice in the ups and support through the downs of each other.

5. Forgiveness – Kelley & Waldron’s study “supports the idea that the communicative act of seeking forgiveness has at least partially restorative effects on romantic relationships…. In particular, explicit acknowledgment of the harm caused by one’s behavior and the use of appropriate nonverbal displays are starting points for the repair effort” (2005, p. 356).

Merolla’s study shows the need for direct or indirect, rather than conditional, forgiveness. “As predicted, ONA [ongoing negative affect] was linked to the manner in which forgiveness was communicated, such that conditional forgivers reported higher ONA than did direct or indirect forgivers (2008, p. 129).

What I find most interesting about this research is that indirect and direct forgiveness were used equally depending on the situation. They also both resulted in approximately an equal amount of ongoing negative affect. The study found that indirect forgiveness was used when the infraction was more severe and the person forgiving wanted to downplay the infraction’s effects. Direct forgiveness was used when the infraction was small and easier to face head on.

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Kelley, D. L., & Waldron, V. R. (2005). An investigation of forgiveness-seeking communication and  relational outcomes. Communication Quarterly, 53(3), 339-358. doi:10.1080/01463370500101097

Merolla, A. J. (2008). Communicating forgiveness in friendships and dating relationships. Communication Studies, 59(2), 114-131. doi:10.1080/10510970802062428

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