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Medicine LibreTexts

4.1: Intro to Relationships and Communication

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  • Love and intimacy go hand in hand. Love is the physical, emotional, sexual, intellectual, or social affection one person holds for another. Concepts related to love include: adoration, desire, prefer, possess, care for, serve, and even worship. Intimacy, on the other hand, is a close relationship where mutual acceptance, nurturance, and trust are shared at some level. In order to understand love in human relationships, you must first understand how the socialized self either enhances or inhibits your capacity to love.

    Your socialized self develops under the supervision of your caregiver or parent(s). When you were a newborn, you were totally dependent upon the adults in your life to take care of your needs and raise you in a safe environment. You had to be fed and clothed, bathed and held, and loved and appreciated. Your caregivers provided these basic needs in your early development, and during this time, attachments were formed. An attachment is an emotional and social bond that forms between one person and another. Humans are considered highly motivated to form attachments throughout their lives.

    Attachments are crucial to human existence and are essentially the emotional context of those relationships we form in life. As an infant you learned to trust those who cared for you; you learned that they returned once they were out of view and were dependable. Eventually, as your cognitive development matures, your brain allows you to love the person you are attached to and to care for them—whether or not they are caring for you. You learn then that your attachments begin to facilitate your needs and wants being met. How you attached as an infant and young child shape (at least in theory) how you will likely attach as an adult. For example, if you had strong attachments in childhood, then forming adult relationships should be easier for you; if you had weak or interrupted attachments in childhood, then forming adult relationships would be more difficult.

    As adults, one of the very first symptoms that you are falling in love is that you begin to feel better about yourself when you are with the other person. It can be argued that you can only be in love as much as your self will allow you to be. Why? Because intimacy develops along with love, and intimacy requires that you have the ability to be your true self with the other person.