Intimacy is often defined as arising from a close acquaintance, association, or familiarity. This definition would definitely describe the relationship I have with my sister, Catherine. We share just about everything that goes on in our lives and know each other like the back of our hands. We are so close, in fact, that rarely do we hear what another is feeling before we already know. We can tell each other's mood by the body language we are using. I plan to give a brief summary of this relationship and the intimacy involved in it.
There are many possible reasons why some people are attracted to each other and form relationships. Some of these reasons are personality, physical looks, intellectual stimulation, things in common, and differences. My sister and I developed our relationship differently than the way you would with someone who you just randomly meet on the street. We shared common parents, household, schedules, and heritage. Therefore, we were naturally inclined to develop some sort of relationship and intimacy. If we hadn't, our living conditions would have become understandably tenuous.
The development of relationships and intimacy has some very definitive steps. The first step is initiating which is making contact with the other person and showing that you are the kind of person worth talking to. Our relationship was initiated as soon as I was brought into this world and facilitated by the fact that we were brother and sister. The next step is experimenting which is deciding whether we want to pursue a relationship further by using small talk and the like. Since I was unable to talk at the time, my sister and I dismissed this step. Next comes the step of intensifying when the expression of feelings become more common. This came quite naturally to the two of us. People were always asking my sister to show how much she loved me which often led to hugs, kisses, hand holding, and other common expressions of love people often demonstrate in a sibling relationship. The next step is integrating which is when we give up characteristics of our old selves and become different people. This has not happened to me because this relationship has always been with me. My sister was not always a sister and definitely changed when I became her brother. Bonding is the next step which is when the parties make symbolic public gestures to show the world that a relationship exists. My sister and I have always been very public about our relationship. Next is the differentiating stage where the parties separate somewhat. We are always going through this at this point in our relationship. One day we can be the best of friends and the next day we can be mortal enemies. Circumscribing comes next and is when the level of communication decreases in quantity and quality. Again, this seems to come and go in our relationship. The stagnating stage is when the relationship becomes overly familiar and loses the feeling. We have not hit this. We can always find a new way to keep the relationship exciting. Avoiding is the stage in which the parties create distance between one another. We have not reached this stage either. We are still as close as we have ever been, if not closer. The final stage is terminating which is when the relationship is declared over. This has not been reached in my relationship. These stages do not have to be in this order necessarily and some can be skipped altogether. My sister and I developed our relationship out of necessity. Brothers and sisters often do this because they share so much in common. Our relationship is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but it is always solid. It could stand to be a little more positive on both sides at some points. We share an intellectual and emotional intimacy that most siblings do. The commonality between the two of us facilitates this.
Relational development and maintenance have some very distinct characteristics. First, not all relationships move through all ten steps. This has definitely been the case in my relationship. My sister and I did not have to go through the initiating stage that most people do, nor have we avoided each other. Intimacy is not the only goal of relationships. Even though my relationship involved some intimacy this is not always the reason we are there. Sometimes it is just to reach a common goal. Movement occurs within stages. Our relationship has definitely progressed through stages even though sometimes they become blurred. My sister and I experienced the integrating and intensifying stage at one point and I suspect they occurred around the same time although two definitive steps. Movement between steps is generally sequential. My relationship has definitely had a pattern of development to it. Relationships are constantly changing. Even though we have a solid relationship, my sister and I definitely have our ups and downs. Movement is always to a new place. We are always trying out new ways of behaving towards each other and this makes movement mandatory. Sometimes we even go back a step or two before we return to the point we were before.
The relationship my sister and I share involves a high level of self-disclosure. We are always intentionally revealing information to one another that is important and would not always be known. Our breadth is wide as we can discuss anything from sex to politics. The depth is great because we do not pull any punches. When we are discussing something we are as personal as you can get. Neither of us hides much and when one does it is easily caught by the other. Our conversations often include facts, opinions, and feelings. Lying does not come across good and it is rarely attempted by either of us. There are many reasons for this self-disclosure but it is mainly "just to get it off of our chest" or catharsis.
A brother-sister relationship is definitely a unique one as evidenced here. Although it can reach some of the later and nastier stages, I don't see this as being the case in our relationship.
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