Dear Neil: We have been married four years, and have noticed that a lot of things can water down our closeness and intimacy for us. Could you describe the traits or skills that are necessary for my wife and I to create the best relationship we possibly can?

Dwindling in Pensacola, Florida

Dear Dwindling: Here are some of the most important traits a good intimate relationship has:

  • Assumption of goodwill. Absence of malice and benefit of doubt. Absence of unwarranted hostility. Assumption of trust
  • Open, self-disclosing and skilled communication. Good listening skills. Sharing hopes, dreams, wishes, problems and personal intimacies.
  • Good conflict resolution skills. Good problem solving, negotiating and compromising skills. Careful and skilled with anger. Absence of threats, name calling and labeling. Making an effort to initiate reconciliation after a fight, and to be healing when the other person is hurt or angry. Absence of viciousness when angry.
  • Friendship and support. The feeling that your mate is on your side (Not that he/she always agrees with you, just that you feel your partner generally is your friend and ally and you can turn to him/her for emotional support.)
  • Nurturance/Giving. Being responsive to your mate. Making what’s important to him/her important to you.
  • Affection. Lots of touch. Sexual receptivity. Trying to please sexually. Wooing rather than demanding sex.
  • Fidelity. Doing whatever you can to help your mate feel secure about your loyalty.
  • Stability/Reliability. Keeping your relationship on solid footing. Not destabilizing, threatening or withdrawing from the relationship.
  • Honesty. This includes the absence of dishonesty. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Acting reliably trustworthy.
  • Willing to emotionally risk. Permitting yourself to be vulnerable and to emotionally surrender to your mate. To not be very emotionally guarded, armored, defensed or protected.
  • Romance. Wooing. Sweet gestures (massages, meals, help around the house, surprises, flowers, notes and cards, etc). Going out of your way to please, and doing so on an ongoing basis.
  • Respect. Believing in your mate and his/her capabilities, skills and efforts. Not trying to undermine her/his self-esteem.
  • Reciprocity. Overall in the relationship, what you give is roughly equivalent to what you receive.
  • Physically/Emotionally available. Present. Not distracted, preoccupied or thinking about other things. Able to relate in the here and now.
  • Both parties have positive self-esteem. Not overly jealous, possessive, controlling or paranoid. Able to acknowledge and admit wrongdoing. Cup half full. Positive outlook. Believing in yourself.
  • Tact/Diplomacy. Saying things carefully so you’re not unnecessarily hurtful or wounding.
  • Continuously looking at what’s fun for the two of you.
  • Receptivity. Willing to take input, feedback and suggestions. Willing to try things the other person’s way. Not too set in your ways.
  • Adventurous. Occasionally doing things out of the ordinary. Willing to try new things.

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