-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Intimacy isn't bliss if
it's too close for comfort.
Or not close enough to make you feel special.
That's the Valentine's Day message from researchers at Columbia
University, who found that your significant other can be
emotionally distant and still offer you a fulfilling relationship.
The key, according to their research, is that you should be as
close as you want to be.
"Our study found that people who yearn for a more intimate partnership and people who crave more distance are equally at risk for having a problematic relationship," study lead author David Frost, a psychologist and professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a news release. "If you want to experience your relationship as healthy and rewarding, it's important that you find a way to attain your idealized level of closeness with your partner."
The study involved more than 700 men and women in the United
States and Canada. The participants completed online questionnaires
about their relationships. Specifically, they were asked about
closeness, or the degree to which they identified with their
partner and shared their significant other's values, views and
personality traits. They were also asked about their relationship
satisfaction, commitment, break-up thoughts, and symptoms of
Too much distance in the relationship was reported by 57 percent
of the men and women surveyed. The researchers also found 37
percent of the participants were content with the level of intimacy
in their relationship and 5 percent felt too close to their
Frost's team found that a gap between the amount of closeness in
a relationship and the desired level of intimacy was associated
with lower relationship quality and an rise in symptoms of
depression. It didn't matter if the participants felt too close or
not close enough. The negative effects occurred only when the
participants didn't achieve the level of closeness they wanted in
Over the course of the study, relationship quality improved for
participants whose level of relationship intimacy changed to more
closely match their expectations. In these cases, the participants'
mental health also improved, the study found. Meanwhile, when the
desired level of closeness was not achieved, couples were more
likely to be unhappy and break up.
The study's authors believe differences in the amount of
closeness desired in a relationship should play a role in
psychotherapy for both individuals and couples.
"It's best not to make too many assumptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship," noted Frost. "Rather, we need to hear from people about how close they are in their relationships and how that compares to how close they'd ideally like to be."
The study was published online Feb. 13 and in the April issue of
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
The American Psychological Association has more insight on
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