One of my favorite books is The Art of Intimacy by Malone and Malone. It’s a hugely helpful book, chocked full of valuable insights. They make a distinction between closeness and intimacy that makes a lot of sense to me. Closeness is all about getting along and being comfortable. Intimacy, on the other hand, is all about growth. Growth and comfort are often at odds. As they say, “No pain, no gain.” What follows is a quote from the book.
We may pair with someone different from ourselves, but we almost always immediately feel close to those who are like us. We may even seek out alikes for relief from the arduous and often painful task of completing ourselves. With alikes we can be quiet and satisfied. Here we see two of the other occasional pairings: a feeler pairs with a feeler or a behaver pairs with a behaver. They chose quiet over growth. They have made a life decision, though unconsciously, that is the major determinant of how they will then exist. These couples are often seen by outsiders as being like brother and sister, a business partnership, or two old friends.
Like-to-like couples are a small minority; most primary pairings are between a feeler and a behaver, who are searching for in each other what they do not find in themselves. Not that it is not there–they just cannot find it; it is lost to them. They “marry” their shadow and immediately start to complain about the very differences that made them choose them. In therapy we see many such couples, who have made conflict about their differences the essence of the relationship itself.
The key to making differences a relationship strength is the inclination and ability to move toward our partner with an open heart and an abiding awareness of his/her essential goodness.