Coding intimacy in couples' interactions

Document Type

Book Chapter


Studying intimacy in marriage is both practically and theoretically important. Lack of intimacy is one of the most frequent complaints of couples seeking therapy and is central to the personal goals of most people. At the heart of intimacy are the ways in which partners manage the emotionally challenging vulnerability inherent in close relationships. However, marital interaction research has focused almost exclusively on the behaviors that spouses exchange when attempting to resolve conflict (see Weiss & Heyman, 1997). Studying problem solving has proven to be remarkably productive. Research has consistently found that partners’ problem-solving behaviors differentiate distressed from nondistressed couples (Gottman, 1994; Weiss & Heyman, 1997). Although problem solving appears essential to healthy marriages, recent research indicates an only modest association between such behaviors and changes in marital satisfaction, implying that other interpersonal domains may contribute substantially to marital health (Karney & Bradbury, 1995). The field, however, has limited knowledge of other domains of marital interaction (see, however, Pasch & Bradbury, 1998). Theoretically, intimacy processes should contribute substantially to marital health (Cordova & Scott, 2001). However, few efforts have been made to observe intimacy processes in marriage, and little is known about how these processes may differ between distressed and nondistressed couples.

Publication Title

Couple Observational Coding Systems

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