'Intimacy Index' Grade For America: C

Just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a study out that measures intimacy in America.

The United States didn't measure up all that well, earning a "C," according to Laura Berman, Ph.D., a sex therapist expert who runs The Berman Center in Chicago and Naperville, Ill.

She designed the "intimacy index," saying, "We all want more intimacy and more connection in our lives. That's certainly something I see every day with the couples who come to see me."

Berman tellsThe Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler: "We designed a national study with a randomly selected sample of over 2,000 men and women and found not only the way people feel about the intimacy in their relationships, but what kinds of things affect the intimacy in their relationships."

Sex, says Berman, was "certainly" among the things the survey was designed to measure but, "When we were talking about intimacy, we were talking about the emotional connection, sharing similar social goals, the intellectual compatibility, all different elements (making up) how emotionally and physically close you feel to the person you are sharing your life with."

Still, Berman says, "Sexual satisfaction was the No. 1 predictor of how satisfied men and women were with the intimacy in their relationship."

And among the ways to improve your sex life would be to get all TVs, computers, video games, and other distractions out of the bedroom, which Berman says should be strictly for sleeping and sex.

Depression and stress "greatly impact on intimacy," Berman says, as do conflicts with your extended family, or ill and aging parents."

"Ironically," Berman adds, "we found that couples who have extended family members living with them, where there is no conflict and where they feel their partner is primarily devoted to them, have higher levels of intimacy."

Why?

"I think it has to do with having a built-in baby-sitter. … There's something nice about having those extended family members around to help you. It's guilt-free childcare, basically."

Another no-no in the intimacy department: doing two or more hours of work at home.

"We have to be able to turn those blackberries off, turn the e-mails off and spend that quality time with your partner and with your family," Berman says.

Other simple things that could improve the level of intimacy in your relationship include going on vacations without the kids, at least twice a year if possible.

Still more?

"Keep your sex life alive. Keep things interesting," she says. "Put effort in. Make a date night once a week. … And remind yourself why you fell in love with each other in the first place. Keep that relationship alive beyond the mortgage and the kids."
  • Brian Dakss

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