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The term long term relationship is commonly used to refer to intimate interaction between persons, which may last for a long period of time or even their lifetime. Such interaction may be or may not necessarily be based on marriage. In an intimate relationship, interaction between persons takes place at a level in which each gets to know the other very well and as a result each is able to adapt to the other’s behavioral patterns. A certain level of trust and opening up towards one another is also evident in this type of relationship. An intimate relationship is also characterized by close physical and emotional interaction (Newman D. M., O’Brien J. (2006).
Intimate relationships have highly been attributed to character formation in individuals. This is because the life of a human being is one continuous process though going through different stages of development. To be able to adapt to these different stages, a human being develops some level of intimacy that contributes greatly to character formation in the person. But although intimacy and character development in humans have been said to be inseparable, the kind of environment in which a human being is living also highly determines the course their development will take. This is through a human beings effort to adapt to their environment (Newman D. M., O’Brien J. (2006).
There are different types of intimate long-term relationships that are notable among humans but the main one remains the marriage relationship. It is upon this relationship that a family is founded and it is from the family set up that human beings learn to develop and adapt into other relationships that may occur in the course of their lives. We also have other relationships within the family that are long term such as father/mother relationship, brother/sister and also all those that one is genetically related to. Other types of relationships are such as romantic relationships, friendships, business as well as professional interactions, which are bound to happen in the course of an individual’s lifetime (Prager K. J.(1995).
Long-term intimate relationships are basically founded upon the kind of interactions that n individual is exposed to in the early stages of their life. In the course of these interactions character formation takes place. Intimacy can be noted in every stage of human development and also throughout an individual’s life. Beginning from birth, human beings develop different aspects that determine character formation and different levels of intimacy in different persons. These aspects are notably emotionality, sociability, impulsivity and activity. Emotionality refers to the human tendency to express negative feeling in an uncontrolled manner. Sociability is the ability to interact with others in a friendly and outgoing manner while activity refers to the level of movement in the course of these interactions. Impulsivity refers to unintentional actions in a person that may result from inability to exercise self-control (Aronson.E. (1999).
The ability in a human being to develop and maintain a long-term intimate relationship is formed in the early stages of life. These early stages are grouped into four different categories beginning with infancy, through childhood to adolescence and then into young adulthood. Each of these stages demands a different style of approach and living and as new needs arise with every new stage, every human being is bound to develop some form of intimate relationships. The first intimate relationship in a human being’s life is the mother–child relationship that develops during infancy. This takes place during the breastfeeding process and as a child sucks of the mother’s breast to get rid of hunger, the satisfaction leads to a long term relationships between the two. This relationship grows stronger in the course of the care giving that a mother gives to her child. The kind of interaction plays a very important role in the formation of other types of relationships that a human being will experience in the course of their life. From this mother/child attachment, young children have the tendency to develop a feeling of security and this brings about confidence and ease when the person gets into other relationships. At this stage, a child learns to love and to be attracted to another human being (Cardillo.M.(1998).
From infanthood, a child grows into the pre-school stage. This is a stage that demands some level of independence from the caregiver or mother, as the child is no longer under their constant care. At this stage a child will develop a need to be recognized as an individual and to exercise some type of freedom. Such kind of needs greatly influences the level of intimacy while relating to the peers. The urge to want to live peaceably with others and the affection the child received during infancy-combined help the child in developing intimate relationships at this stage. There is a tendency at this stage to have attraction to those of the opposite sex. Whatever character traits a child has acquired from the parent are strongly reflected at this stage. Research findings indicate that children who are strongly bonded with their parents during infancy are better fitted socially and tend to develop strong intimate relationships. The type of relationships developed at this stage is mostly based on strong feelings of liking towards another and they form a basis for the kind of relationships in the next stage of life (Cardillo.M.(1998).
The next development stage that provides a good field for the formation of long-term intimate relationships is the adolescence stage. This stage has been referred to as a transitional stage from childhood into adulthood. It is a very difficult stage for children as they try to leave the childish way of life, adapt to adult behavior and at the same time learn to accept themselves as persons. This is also referred to as the discovery stage and new emotional as well as sexual needs are realized at this stage. At this stage, adolescents begin to realize the limitations placed upon them by parents and the urge to take full responsibility of oneself develops. This urge for responsibility and independence requires that the adolescent now distances themselves from the parents and this has been an issue that brings a lot of conflict between parents and the young adults. The adolescent feels the urge to be left to sort out issues their own way and the parent at the same time wants to continue monitoring the child’s way of life. At this stage, the duration spent under the care of the parent decreases and the role of the parent in the adolescent s life changes from dotting mother or father to guardian. Also affected is the role-played by friends in the adolescent’s life. There is a tendency at this stage to relate to those going through the same stage in life. Because the adolescent is exposed to some emotional & physical changes, it is permissible that the type of relationships they are involved in also change so as to conform to new needs and pressures exerted upon their lives. Feelings for love, hate, like or dislike get very strong at this stage and relationships developed at this stage are likely to continue for a long period in the course of a persons life. There is a strong feeling to want to connect to another and this forms a basis for long-term intimate relationships (Cardillo.M.(1998).
At the adolescent stage, there is notable increase in the number of intimate relationships as adolescents form interactions through which they can explore the world and those through which they can identify themselves. Personality traits developed in the earlier stages of pre-school and infancy highly reflect in the type of intimate relationships that are developed at this stage. This is also a very sensitive stage because it is during late adolescence that a human being discovers the kind of changes that affect their personality. An adolescent will tend to look for sameness aid continuity in a relationship. It is at this stage that intimate relationships that occur in early adulthood begin to take shape. Different persons will form different forms of intimate relationships at this stage depending on the depth and level of commitment that they practiced in the earlier stages of life. At this stage, the young adult is highly influenced by curiosity in a bid to find out the meaningfulness and usefulness of things, relationships not excluded. The adolescent has mixed feelings and they are unable to make the difference between loving and liking. Strong liking towards another has often been confused for love at this stage (Mitchell J. J.(1998).
The formation of long-term intimate relationships does not however stop at early adulthood. This process continues on into adulthood, a stage that can be described as not totally secure in the area of intimate relationships. Adulthood is a stage that is characterized by many ups and downs and adaptive measures for coping with so many changes and challenges that affect relationships become very necessary. During adulthood, new people and new situations are an inevitably in one’s life and with the fact that old ones must not be lost altogether the challenges of coping up get even greater. Adulthood is therefore, a stage in which intimacy in long-term relationships is affected by very many factors; most of them external and a high level of maturity are therefore required at this stage. It is at this stage that most of the crucial long-term relationships develop and caution must be taken because it is a stage in which long lasting effects can be realized in an intimate relationship. A lot of care must be taken during interaction so as to balance the different kinds of interactions with different kinds of people. A person for example is not expected to relate to a fellow worker in their place of work in the same way that he/she relates to their wife or husband at home. This is irrespective of the fact that the fellow worker may be of the opposite sex. It is at the adult state that such other long-term relationships as business partnerships also take place. Such type of a relationship is very involving as it affects their economic life as well. High monetary risks are involved in such undertakings that may affect and determine how a person relates with those in the partnerships and also in their family. It is an adventure that requires very high level of trust between individuals. Successful business ventures have often led to long-term intimate relationships between those involved as well as their families. Religious interactions also contribute highly to the formation of long-term intimate relationships at this stage. Love is also very strong at this stage of life and the adult is able to differentiate between like and love. It is at this stage that life partnerships take shape for example the marriage union. Other emotional feelings such as dislike or hate that may have developed in the course of a person’s life are either established or done away with a this stage. This is facilitated by a human being’s ability and capacity to differentiate between good or bad and right or wrong and any relationship developed at this stage will be based on the strong fact of whether it is beneficial to the person or not. At this time of life, an adult has a clear guideline for the type of social groups that they can identify with (Cahn D. D. (1992).
A lot remains to be done in research involving long-term intimate relationships. This is because a lot of research already carried out mainly looks at intimacy in relation to human development. Other strong factors that play a very important role in determining the development long-term intimate relationships such as environmental surroundings have not been given much attention. In the formation of long-term intimate relationships the environment or surroundings that a human being is exposed to greatly determines the type of relationship and the level of intimacy. In the marriage union for example love tends to blossom between people in the same environmental surroundings, that is people who have come to know each other because they live in the same area or because certain situations in life have brought them together under the same environment. Social-cultural factors have also played a very great role in determining the type of long-term intimate relationships that take place in any society. Culture and differences in social interests for example still remain a great hindrance in the establishment of long-term intimate relationships and have also resulted in dissolving of such relationships. In the course of a marriage union for example, a couple may find themselves at loggerheads in the bid to have common friendships, to share what they own and the simple fact that they have to face the future together. The issue of priorities has also been another strong factor affecting the stability of long term intimate relationships. Because at the adult stage most people have already establishes what they value or give priority, it gets hard for many people to make adjustments that will help them cope up with the new situations brought about by a relationship. Where love abides though, there are no cultural, social, economic or racial boundaries. These are just boundaries that humans have tried to establish in the bid to conserve their own different values (Vaughan.D. (1986).
Intimate relationships have been on the decline and those already existing have been characterized by widespread separation and divorce. Although a lot of research has been carried out on separation and divorce, research findings on the factors that lead people to opt out of an intimate relationship are minimal. This is a field that needs extensive research because preserving intimate relationships is preserving society as well (Vaughan.D. (1986).
It is important to note that long-term intimate relationships come in different forms but the most important probably remains that one based on the marriage union. This is because it is the learning ground for every human being and also affects some form of economic security. The marriage union is however a long term intimate relationship that is most threatened by degradation that has mainly resulted from moral decay in society. Stability of the marriage union has been shaken by high rates of separation and divorce as well as the increase in same sex marriages that have been pressing for recognition as long-term intimate relationships. I intimacy is to remain a strong value in society today, a lot must be done to preserve the family as the basic unit through which society is assured of continuity.
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Cahn D. D. (1992). Conflict in Intimate Relationships.Published Guilford Press.
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