However, Stahman (2004) has determined through his research that spiritual unity is important as an element in intimacy between a couple. Marriage also brings together two, or more, families that may have completely different ideas and customs (a frequent theme for television situational comedies) which have the ability to impair a couple's intimacy with one another. A couple also should feel affection for one another that is separate from their sexual feelings (Stahman, 2004). This is the dimension in which they care for one another on an emotional and physical plane that does not need to include sexual intimacy. But, there is that dimension also. Sexual intimacy is one of the primary building blocks of intimacy in marriage (Stahman, 2004).
When the word intimacy is used, many people in today's society automatically think of sexual intimacy (Coontz, 2007; Polinska, 2011; Stahman, 2004)., but that is only one dimension of intimacy as has been shown by the above list. "An intimate sexual relationship is one of the most important aspects of marriage. It keeps marriage vital. It is the glue that holds couples together. Without it, small problems become large ones, and large problems can result in destroying the marriage" (Stahman, 2004). Stahman is relating sexual intimacy to the problems that couples can experience because it is sometimes a sign that one partner or the other is not feeling intimacy toward the other. No pair of people is probably going to want to experience this level of intimacy every night, but it is a prominent part of the marital relationship, and it forges a greater feeling of immediate intimacy than almost anything else. "The sexual side of marriage is closely linked with the emotional and personal elements in the relationship…What the married couple have to achieve, therefore, is a sexual relationship that expresses, sustains, and renews their deepest and most tender feelings for one another" (Stahman, 2004). This is also spoken of in the Bible in I Corinthians 7. Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians who have been perverting the faith in many ways. It is not that they are sinning willfully in most cases, but that they have not been instructed properly. Paul seeks to correct this oversight. In chapter seven he lays out how a man should treat his wife and how a wife should treat he husband. In verse four he says that "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." Paul was conscious of the fact that many perversions happened in this culture (the Greeks of his time), and he wanted to tell the new Christians what God's view of marital intimacy was. The Bible often presents an argument that is counterintuitive because, as He tells Isaiah "For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Is. 55:9). God realizes the failings of all of His people and so He sends people to instruct them. Paul tells the Corinthians that they cannot engage in perversions within the bounds of marriage because they are not their own person. When they were married, the two became one (as it says in Genesis 2:24), and the ownership rights to the body reverts to the other partner. This seems to be the ultimate in intimacy.
Unmet Intimacy Needs
It is a sad fact that sometimes couples cannot meet the need for intimacy that the other partner feels. Researchers express why intimacy needs are unmet in different ways, but many believe that the disconnect comes because of misunderstanding of the other person's needs (Coontz, 2007; Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005; Polinska, 2011). Polinska (2011) says that "the invention of the historically unprecedented idea that marriage should be based on love and mutual affection is responsible for greater fragility, but also for creating good, satisfying marriages that bring much happiness to people's lives." He believes that love as a requirement for marriage is a recent invention that has not always been necessary, and he sees to outcomes from the love relationship. In relation to unmet needs, he believes that the insistence that love be a part of marriage weakens the contract. He suggests that fragility is the cause of so many needs being unmet (Polinska, 2011). Kirby, Baucom and Peterman (2005) said that "fulfillment of communal needs (e.g., intimacy) was highly correlated with relationship satisfaction" and that "intimacy is of particular importance because a sense of closeness has been given high priority in intimate relationships in our society." Again, this notion of love feelings being a requirement of marriage is a product of "our society." This would seem to indicate that he believes that it is not necessary for the contract to be valid. The researchers further say that "
Not having one's partner respond appropriately to a request for intimacy can be viewed as a negative event or response from the partner. According to the CBT model, individuals will have internal reactions (i.e., thoughts and emotions) to this negative event, which may lead to external responses (i.e., behaviors)" (Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005).
He does not say that this a request for sexual intimacy, it could be that one spouse seems preoccupied when the other is displaying that they need intimacy. However, these unmet needs are seen as the precursor to possible behaviors which can be anything from withholding sexual relations to showing the other party that the wounded individual was not wounded by the unintended callousness (Kirby, Baucom & Peterman, 2005).
When needs are unmet, it may not lead to a couple getting a divorce, but it may definitely lead to a period where the marriage is not as fulfilling as it could be (Stahman, 2004). The problem is that the spouse who feel spurned will go through a cycle of blame that leads to lessening feelings of intimacy. According to Kirby, Baucom and Peterman (2005),
"there are three important attributional dimensions that will influence how an event is experienced: (a) Locus-who is viewed as the cause of the event; (b) stability-whether the cause is likely to change over time; and (c) globality-whether the cause will likely influence many aspects of the relationship."
The first step is that there was a cause that was directly related to the other person. This begins the disconnection between the two because there is now something that is diffusing the intimacy that they had previously felt. As Stahman (2004) points out "An intimate relationship is one of caring, mutual trust and acceptance." In this first dimension, one spouse does may not feel the trust or acceptance that they need to have. The time dimension, whether this is a long-term problem, is one that can have serious consequences if it is deemed to be so. Finally, the wounded spouse may see that his or her partner is just as uncaring and unsympathetic in other areas of the marriage and this can add to the problem.
Unmet intimacy needs can also be a function of something that has happened to one partner or another that has caused a physical or emotional impairment. A study was conducted with soldiers who had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of combat and it was found that "One of the most common manifestations of PTSD is impaired marital adjustment and chronic marital distress" (Ahmady, Karami, Noohi, Mokhtari, Gholampour, & Rahimi, 2009). Because of the physical or emotional would, the soldier is unable to show the intimacy that was once a feature of the marriage. This can happen, for other reasons, in other marriages also. Disease, distress and incapacitation are all reasons for a depression of marital intimacy feelings (Ahmady, et al., 2009).
The basic question that needs to be answered with this research paper is "Can marital intimacy be taught?" The concern is that a person who either cannot experience intimate feelings for a spouse of has lost those feelings cannot regain or find the intimacy that the previously recorded research and the Bible says that they need. The research does show that teaching or coaching marital intimacy has been tried using many different methods, but the results vary.
In a study in which marital intimacy was seen as hindered by a returning soldier's PTSD, Ahmady, et al., (2009) found "that abut out 43% of PTSD veterans are absolutely dissatisfied with their marital relationship and 55% have borderline satisfaction." In the study, this finding was from a group of soldiers on active duty and those who had experienced PTSD and were, at the time, not in the service. There were 100 soldiers in the study, and the research group was trying to see if using Cognitive Behavioral Couple's Therapy (CBCT) would increase feelings of intimacy and the ability to be intimately engaged. The researchers found that the "study illustrates the efficacy of CBCT on different components…