What Is Closeness in a Relationship? It Is Culturally Diverse.

Scholars and laypeople frequently refer to psychological closeness in interpersonal relationships as “intimacy.” It might be either physical or emotional proximity, or their combination. It can be bodily, sexual, physical, emotional, or intellectual. The understanding of intimacy is also culturally diverse.

Intimacy is not the same as sex or sexual intimacy. “Being intimate and close” does not necessarily mean being in a romantic relationship. To various people, intimacy and closeness can mean different things.

Experience of Interpersonal Closeness in Love

Interpersonal closeness is behaviorally evident in such indicators as partners’ sleeping privacy and proximity, the organization of their eating, spending leisure time together, the husband attending the birth of his child, and other qualities of their interactions (de Munck & Korotayev, 2007).

Partners experience closeness in subjective feelings such as openness to self-disclosure. They express closeness through the sharing of intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences, interdependence, and emotional warmth (see Karandashev, 2019 for a detailed review).

Romantic and marital interactions are not necessarily intimate or close. Intimacy as closeness is the feelings which develop through time when we connect with someone, grow to care for them, and become more and more comfortable being with them. Cultural values and norms for closeness between husband and wife are related to women’s status in a society. Intimate relations imply relative equality and a friendly disposition toward another with whom we are in a relationship.

Western European and European American Values of Interpersonal Closeness

The feeling of interpersonal closeness assumes that the other person is different and unique, that a person has a sense of self, and that he or she is autonomous from others. Western, individualistic societies that place a high value on interdependence also place a high value on interpersonal closeness.

The value of closeness varies across cultures (see, for example, Karandashev, 2019).

Intimate closeness in relationships is a highly valued experience in current Western societies. Many men and women in Western individualistic societies (such as countries in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) expect to establish emotional intimacy with their romantic partner and spouse. In their romantic and marital relationships, the higher degree of closeness is related to their higher physical, psychological, and relational well-being.

Western European and Euro-American research on romantic and marital relationships widely explores intimacy in the sense of a high degree of interpersonal closeness. C. Hendrick and S. Hendrick (1989), in their factor analysis of five love scales, identified closeness as one of the five major factors of love in their studies of American students.

The Value of Closeness in Eastern Cultures

On the other hand, traditional Eastern cultures may have different attitudes toward love and marital intimacy. Many collectivist and interdependent Eastern cultures place a lower normative value on romantic and marital intimacy.

In Eastern societies, the intimacy of heterosexual love has traditionally been less important. However, in those cultural contexts, conceptions of intimacy may be different (Karandashev, 2019).

Early cross-cultural studies revealed that American men and women have higher levels of intimacy in their love relationships than do Japanese people. East Asians have less intimacy in their marital relationships than Westerners (for a detailed review, see Karandashev, 2019). 

Interpersonal Closeness in Relationships Depends on Gender Equality

Gender roles and the status of women determine the norms of interpersonal intimacy in premarital and marital relationships. If a society values intimate relationships, then interpersonal relationships can develop beyond their “functional” requirements. For instance, the formation of intimate bonds between husband and wife is substantially less likely if the wife’s status is significantly lower than her husband’s (de Munck & Korotayev, 2007).

The extensive cross-cultural investigation conducted by de Munck and Korotayev (2007) has demonstrated several other interesting and important tendencies for public understanding.

  • Polygyny appears to stifle wife–husband intimacy in at least three ways: by increasing socialization for violence, lowering parental warmth levels, and lowering female kin power.
  • Large family sizes and dependence training may also restrain the development of wife–husband closeness.
  • When boys are socialized for aggressiveness, the development of close relations between wives and husbands within a given society is substantially less likely.

If, in a given culture, mothers expend a high level of maternal warmth toward their sons, then the development of intimate relations between wives and husbands is substantially more likely.