How I See Couples
Intimacy - knowing and being known deeply requires practice for most of us as it brings us up against our fears. Fortunately, our long-term relationships are just the help that we need to connect us with the strength and ability already within us to support our relational goals.
Early intimacy- Two become one (Year 1)
You feel a strong desire to be with your beloved physically & emotionally. There is a wonderful sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. Each partner is naturally revealing the best and most gratifying aspects of themselves. However, as intimacy deepens the rest of each partner can't help but show up: Vulnerabilities in self-esteem, fears of engulfment or abandonment, old/automatic ways of coping such as emotional withdrawal or reactive (intense) expression of emotion, etc.
Emotional gridlock - Two become two again
Analogous to rush-hour traffic grinding to a halt, the relationship becomes a bit rigid such that one partner's attempt to move/change meets with resistance from the other. Often this shows-up in sex as this aspect of the relationship can become a bit, well predictable (i.e. boring). Crucially, there is nothing going wrong with the relationship! It's giving you hints as to your individual growth edges. To see this more clearly consider sex. Novelty in sex keeps things exciting. However, you've already had all the sex with each other that you feel comfortable with. To introduce novelty you need to expand your sexual repertoire beyond your zone of comfort. This can mean trying a new sex act, new roles and/or deepening emotional connection during sex (e.g. holding eye contact). Nervous/excited yet?
Deeper Intimacy - two know and are known
Partners feel very much in-contact with themselves and each other. Sex is deeply erotic and spiritual connection through sex is possible. Growth cycles such as that described above continue to recur throughout your relationship but are much easier to engage. Each time you're faced with a choice to either refuse the call or say "yes" and increase tolerance for intimacy (knowing and being known) by yourself and your partner. Fortunately, each "yes" when worked through to mastery produces lasting benefits. You feel more solid / flexible in your sense of self in a way you can really feel and admire. Also, your partner's feelings of fondness and admiration toward you for having witnessed this personal growth work tends to increase significantly.