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The meaning of intimacy for men who are gay Loran, David

Abstract

Intimacy has been cited as primary psychological need by many psychologists, including Rogers, Maslow, and Erikson. Others claim intimate relationships provide benefits for both the mind and body. Despite its importance, there continues to be disagreement as to how intimacy should be defined. Research suggests that the meaning of intimacy may vary according to the type of relationship involved or the gender, age, or cultural identity of the referent. Yet there exists almost no literature attempting to understand the meaning of intimacy for men who are gay. As gay relationships become more open and accepted, practitioners will find themselves dealing with questions of intimacy between men who are gay. In order to better serve the clients, it will be important to have a common reference point. This phenomenological study serves to advance the field by asking men who are gay to define intimacy using their own long-term relationship as a reference point. After interviewing men who are gay in Vancouver, Canada, the author conducted an analysis of the interviews and categories and themes were developed to help explain what intimacy means to men who are gay. These themes include the development of intimacy as a process, togetherness, openness, perceptions of commonalities between partners, the need for individuation and time spent apart, growth within oneself and growth within the relationship, effort required to develop and maintain intimacy, commitment, support, the role of emotions in intimacy, physical demonstrations of intimacy, sexuality, the varying levels and forms of intimacy, the influence of role models, and the need to overcome challenges in developing intimate relationships. Following a discussion of the themes, the essential structure of intimacy for men who are gay is presented. In addition, the relevance of these findings to previous research is discussed and recommendations to researchers and practitioners are offered.

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