Stages of Relationships- Emotional Safety and Intimacy

Gathering & Learning, Conflict, and Creating Norms, as the Imagine Hope therapists have discussed, are the first three important stages in relationships that help us move towards intimacy.  As Natalie shared in Wednesday's blog, Creating Norms is where you have gotten through the healthy conflict stage and know each others perspectives, expectations and where you "fit in" to the relationship. 

The fourth stage of relationships following this is Emotional Safety and Intimacy. This stage is where, because you have seen and heard your partner share deeply and from the heart (Conflict), you feel safe enough to let your walls down and continue to be vulnerable in the future. When healthy conflict and creating new norms are successful, it allows both people to continue to open up in the relationship and share deeply.  This is what creates such a "connected" feeling that couples who go through healthy conflict share with us in their counseling sessions. 

Often times, couples will skip the conflict stage of the relationship and "pretend" that everything is connected and good, while really keeping important feelings and thoughts inside.  Doing this results in a false sense of connection and doesn't truly allow the couple to be in the "Emotional Safety and Intimacy" stage of the relationship.  

Emotional Safety and Intimacy is simply continuing to be real with each other, because of the safety that the other stages of the relationship have provided.  This stage is where the best attributes of each person are highlighted, appreciated and embraced, because of the hard work from the other stages.

It's important to remember that couples are continuously going through the stages of a relationship from day to day and week to week.  Once you get to "Emotional Safety and Intimacy", it doesn't mean that you quit working!  It's common to go back and forth through these stages, and only deepens intimacy on down the road.

Do you recognize what stage of relationships you are in with your partner?  What are your roadblocks? 

As always, thank you for joining Imagine Hope this week! 

Joleen Watson, MS, LMFTA, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.