THE PARADOX OF INTIMACY

So what exactly is the Paradox of Intimacy? It’s the idea that being close to someone else always carries some risk. Falling in love creates a competing set of dynamics. While intimacy creates many positive outcomes, these rewards are not cost-free; intimacy also has a downside. When people become intimately involved with someone, they inevitably give up some of their personal freedoms. But before we get to that, let’s look at the benefits of the Paradox of Intimacy.

Being in love not only feels fantastic, it also fundamentally changes the way we experience life. Research consistently shows that people in loving relationships live longer, healthier, and happier lives than those who aren’t. Even mundane activities—such as walking the dog, listening to music, or simply eating dinner—are much more fun when shared with a romantic partner.

Being in a loving relationship also helps us cope with life’s ups and downs. Scientists have found that individuals who are part of a loving, healthy relationship weather stressful life events, such as a job loss or serious illness, better than those who aren’t. It’s difficult to overstate the benefits that love creates.

Of course, as anyone who has been in a relationship knows, getting close to a partner also presents certain challenges. As relationships become more intimate, we place an increasing amount of expectations on our partners. And the closer we get to someone, the more our choices and actions impact our partner’s choices and actions, and vice versa. When we fall in love, we go from being independent to becoming interdependent—no longer free to do what we want, when we want, and with whom we want—because any decisions we make not only affect ourselves but our partners as well.

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