The intimacy scale – part 3/3: To be stable or not to be stable – that’s the question

How the stable conditions work

If reaching a higher level is within interest of all individuals involved, time and energy must be invested, in order to transfer the desired level into a stable condition. A stable condition from 1 to 6 is determined by the observation that the suitable activities require an investment of a certain amount of personal energy while on average, more energy is generated rather than needed. For a stable Level 5 (friendship) meet-ups must be organized and carried out – that means, time and energy has to be invested. But several nice evenings with friends are relaxing and energy-giving on average (support due to life setbacks such as separations is an exception), so that the persons involved go home afterwards feeling “lifted up with energy”.

How the unstable intermediate levels (don’t) work

On the intimacy scale there are unstable intermediate levels beside the stable levels from 1 to 6. An unstable intermediate level is usually the case, if activities pertaining to a higher level are carried out, while the mutual wishes and expectations however correspond not to the respective level, but to a lower level. Stable intermediate levels, however, do NOT exist: If two people share an intermediate level with each other, this condition has an expiration date by definition. Depending upon the mutual activities, over time, it can ascend either to the next higher stable level or drop to one of the lower stable levels from 1 to 6. A dropdown to a lower level, if a higher level was desired originally, does usually occur along with emotional pain in different magnitudes.

Unstable intermediate levels are determined by the observation that they do not generate energy, but mostly suck energy. This increased energy consumption can be a necessary passage stage, for this example the relationship work in (ideally) the early stages of a romantic relationship. As soon as the situation starts to generate more energy than it consumes, a stable condition has been obtained. However, if energy consumption remains higher than energy generation constantly over some time, it is recommended to analyze whether the mutual intimacy level is actually suitable to the respective person. If especially important people such as romantic relationships or friendships are in question, reflecting the situation by means of coaching or other psychotherapeutic techniques can be helpful.

An example about romantic activities:

We have yet known each other for a short time and we share activities of Level 6 (kissing, smooching, cuddling). Sharing these activities causes or reinforces falling in love or a desire for a romantic relationship. Therefore, an incomplete Level 6, which is an unstable intermediate level, is the case. If the romantic activities don’t lead to a romantic relationship or the respective romantic relationship goes into separation after some time, the mutual desire to spend each other’s lives with one another is not successfully fulfilled. The result is emotional pain in varying magnitudes depending on the individual situation. As a consequence, our relationship status drops to the next suitable stable level. Naturally, this can be Level 5 (friendship) – which is only stable without activities pertaining to the romantic level – another level below, or however, in extreme cases Level 1 (enmity). However, establishing one of the levels above Level 2 (Smalltalk) is usually only possible after some low-contact time which is required to recover from the emotional putdown.

An example about friendship activities:

We have/seem to have a friendship, which corresponds to a stable Level 5: We meet up regularly and share our thoughts and feelings with each other. Suddenly, I suffer from a setback in life: A drastic change which happened too suddenly, separation from a romantic relationship or a serious illness. I would like to get support from this friend to deal with the new situation. This friend either listens to my issues or we pursue some other activities in order to cheer me up. However, now this so-called “friend” refuses to offer me support. But not because there are similar issues going on in his/her life (this would be understandable), but from a complete lack of interest for my situation. Instead, he/she would rather talk with me about the activities for a mutual hobby/project, have small talk or whine about small everyday issues.

This observation leads us to the fact, that a friendship, and thus, a stable Level 5 is not present (any more). This “friend” is obviously interested in sharing a smaller amount of intimacy, either carrying out a mutual hobby/project pertaining to Level 4 (acquaintance) or having casual sex pertaining to Level 3.

However, since the emotional interest necessary for a friendship has only been pretended, emotional pain is the result. Establishing one of the desired lower levels is therefore only possible after some low-contact time which is required to recover from the emotional putdown, or not at all. Therefore, the mutual intimacy drops down to Level 2 (smalltalk) most probably, or even to Level 1 (enmity).