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Section 12
Self-Regulation in Intimacy (Part 1)

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples
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In the last section, we discussed preserving and protecting friendship within marriage. We also discussed five roadblocks to friendship in marriage. These five roadblocks are, there’s no time, "we’re not friends, we’re married", "we don’t talk like friends anymore", the ravages of conflict, and reckless words.

In the next two sections, we will discuss techniques of intimacy discipline.  There are 2 diverse techniques of intimacy discipline that I have found highly effective in creating the kind of healthy climate in which broken relationships can heal and sound relationships can grow and flourish. 

In this section, we will discuss how discipline is control and describe the first of the 2 techniques of intimacy discipline.  The technique described in this section is a technique for reserving the sanctity of the marriage bed.  As you listen to the next two sections, please consider whether any of these areas cause problems for your client.  Perhaps the techniques described will be productive in your therapy.

Greg, age 53, stated, "I love her…, and she loves me.  We thought we had something, but now we’re falling apart."  I find that discipline is what makes commitments and priorities work.  Without discipline, intimacy is set adrift, as Greg was discovering.  He and his wife, Sheri, had accomplished the first difficult steps toward discipline.  The couple had made sincere commitments to each other and their intimate relationship.  Also, Greg and Sheri had devised honest sets of priorities that each had agreed upon.  Would you agree that by understanding discipline, Greg and Sheri could effectively save their marriage? 

♦ Discipline is Control
To introduce them to some techniques of intimacy discipline, I discussed the fundamental idea that discipline is control.  I asked Greg, "Do you take responsibility for yourself and your marriage, or do you individually and cooperatively with Sheri lose control?"  Greg responded that he thought that he and Sheri lost control together. 

I stated, "If you decline responsibility, you will lack discipline.  If you lack discipline, you may lose control.  A lack of discipline is the discipline of aggression or withdrawal.  Aggression happens when someone seeks to occupy by emotional or physical force somebody else’s life space.  Withdrawal happens when a partner simply bows out, becomes less than an observer, or blind to the relationship."  As you know, there are varying degrees of participation between aggression and withdrawal.

 I continued discussing how discipline is control with Greg.  I stated, "On the other hand, if you take responsibility and act on it, you gain discipline.  By gaining discipline, you can gain increasing control. 

Four Benefits of Discipline for Marriage

  • 1. Sufficient discipline helps you make commitments even though you have no guarantee of the relationship’s success.
  • 2. Discipline will allow you to reorganize your time so its use appropriately reflects your priorities.
  • 3. Sufficient discipline can help you reserve an appropriate amount of energy to nurture and enjoy your marriage with Sheri.
  • 4. And discipline can help you rearrange the ways in which you make, spend, and save your money."

Two Techniques of Intimacy Discipline

♦ Technique # 1: The Sanctity of the Marriage Bed
The first technique I discussed with Greg in order to foster intimacy discipline regarded the sanctity of the marriage bed.  Clearly, if your client is not married, the word relationship can be substituted.  If he does not share a bed with his partner, then feel free to substitute couch for bed.  But whatever words are chosen, I find it productive that a couple designate a place as a sanctuary for the intimate relationship. 

I stated to Greg, "No matter what happens in the world outside, no matter what happens in the other rooms of the house, you can choose to allow nothing negative to violate your haven.  If you do this, only positive experiences, at the worst neutral experiences, will happen there."  Greg spent time thinking on the sanctity of the marriage bed with Sheri.  Greg wrote the following description of how he planned to implement this technique with his wife:

"We will not fight in our bedroom.  That doesn’t mean we won’t fight, just that we won’t fight there.  Instead, we will sleep, which is refreshing.  We will dream, inviting our unconscious to come alive.  We will make love, joining in the wonderful sacrament that God gave us.  We will be close, communicating in love.  Our bedroom is a place for our refreshment, integration, and closeness.  It is our sanctuary." 

♦ Technique # 2:  Poem of the Marriage Bed
Perhaps your client, like Greg can also benefit from the poem of the marriage bed technique.  This is a simple technique, in which Greg and Sheri simply held each other before sleep every night.  Then they thought of what each other had done or said to show love throughout the course of that day. 

Four Positive Changes Resulting from the "Poem of the Marriage Bed" Technique: 
1. First, Greg began to look for ways in which Sheri was saying ‘I love you,’ nonverbally. 
2. Second, Greg began to look for ways to show his love for Sheri. 
3. Also, Greg’s feelings of being loved began to grow. 
4. Finally, Greg’s desire to love in return began to grow. 

Think of your Greg.  Could your male intimacy client benefit from the poem of the marriage bed technique?  Could playing this section in an upcoming session help your Greg in understanding how discipline is control?

In this section, we discussed techniques of intimacy discipline.  We examined how discipline is control and we described the first of the 2 techniques of intimacy discipline.  The technique described in this section is a technique for reserving the sanctity of the marriage bed. 

In the next section, we will continue our discussion on techniques of intimacy discipline.  We will explore one additional technique.  This technique of intimacy discipline is conflict resolution.  There are two major areas of conflict resolution.  The two major areas of conflict resolution are factual conflict resolution and opinion-based conflict resolution.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Busch, H., & Hofer, J. (2012). Self-regulation and milestones of adult development: Intimacy and generativity. Developmental Psychology, 48(1), 282–293. 

Hawrilenko, M., Gray, T. D., & Córdova, J. V. (2016). The heart of change: Acceptance and intimacy mediate treatment response in a brief couples intervention. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(1), 93–103.

Quinn-Nilas, C., Goncalves, M. K., Kennett, D. J., & Grant, A. (2018). A thematic analysis of men’s sexual compliance with unwanted, non-coercive sex. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(2), 203–211.

Richter, M., & Schoebi, D. (2021). Rejection sensitivity in intimate relationships: Implications for perceived partner responsiveness. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 229(3), 165–170.

Trinh, S. L., & Choukas-Bradley, S. (2018). “No messages needed—Just pats on the back”: Exploring young men’s reports of male and female friends’ sexual communications. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(3), 430–438. 

Wadlington, W. (2017). Review of Pragmatic existential counseling and psychotherapy: Intimacy, intuition, and the search for meaning [Review of the book Pragmatic existential counseling and psychotherapy: Intimacy, intuition, and the search for meaning, by J. L. Shapiro]. The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(2), 183–185.

What is the first technique for the sanctity of the marriage bed? To select and enter your answer go to Test.
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