Goldilocks and Marriage

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All of us regulate our relationships, usually without even realizing it. Dr. Klayne I. Rasmussen, Marriage and Family Therapist, has developed a model of relationship regulation that explains how, like Goldilocks and the baby bear's porridge, our relationships are neither too hot (close), nor too cold (far apart) but are "just right."

Most of us go into marriage and experience the honeymoon phase when all is bliss. Inevitably, after a time we start to notice little quirks that drive us nuts. We look for reasons, subconsciously most of the time, to distance ourselves from the one we thought we wanted to be with every waking and sleeping moment. Things are not quite as perfect as they started out and we start to wonder what happened to the promise of happily ever after? The honeymoon is over.

Dr. Klayne I. Rasmussen, Marriage and Family Therapist and creator of IntraLife Systems Training and Coaching, (, offers a theory that explains why we start to distance ourselves, even from the one we love. He calls it Intimacy Regulation Theory. When the term "intimacy" is used many think of sexual relations, but intimacy in the context of Intimacy Regulation is inclusive of sex but goes beyond the physical act. In the theory, "intimacy" primarily refers to the emotional accessibility and vulnerability we experience with another person.

The Intimacy Regulation Theory explains that we were attracted to the one we married for a very good reason. There was a unspoken understanding that said, "You’re not going to make me be any closer nor any further apart in my intimacy than I’m going to be comfortable with. I'm also going to do the same for you." In other words, we're not going to be too hot nor too cold, but, like Goldilocks, we're going to be "just right." We feel connected. We feel we have known each other forever. We have 'chemistry.'

Understanding, at least on a subconscious level, that our level of intimacy is just right gives us permission to get close, close, close because, subconsciously, we know that there will be a time when once again we will distance and be in our "just right" zone.

Dr. Rasmussen has spent thousands of hours in the therapy room watching couples interact, listening to their stories, and developing the Intimacy Regulation Theory. When he explains to couples that what they are doing by distancing and getting closer is regulating their intimacy and it is a natural process that's keeping them at the "just right" emotional distance, in what he calls the "operational zone" – a sense of relief and feeling of "we’re not that bad off after all" is experienced. According to Rasmussen, "Couples need to maintain intimacy in their agreed upon intimacy operational zone. For most, this zone is established subconsciously, often on the first meeting or shortly thereafter. Couples will share intimate moments where they get very close, but will inevitably distance again. And when they do, they need not think their relationship is in jeopardy."

He states, "Troubled relationships are those where one or both partners, for various reasons, have moved out beyond their 'operational zone' into the 'no zone'. That's the cold, distant zone where there is little or no connection happening. They often spend too much time out there thinking it will bring emotional safety but then can't figure out how to be emotionally safe enough to move back into the operational zone. That's when couples get in trouble and often feel all is lost. Typically, couples don't seek counseling when they are in the operational zone only when they are stuck in the 'no zone.'"

The Intimacy Regulation Theory of relationship management is discussed in detail in the new Romantic Rendezvous Home Edition. The Home Edition is an entertaining and engaging couple's educational series of DVDs designed to help couples find true intimacy, make their marriage work for both of them, parent as a team, and create balance in their lives through hands-on stress relief techniques.

To learn more about Dr. Rasmussen or the Intimacy Regulation Theory visit IntraLife Systems website at, or contact IntraLife Systems at (801) 544-2470.


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Verena Rasmussen