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  • Cited by 24
  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: October 2009

15 - The intimacy motive


The intimacy motive is a recurrent preference or readiness for experiences of warm, close, and communicative interaction with other persons. As one of a handful of basic human needs or general desires, the intimacy motive serves to energize, direct, and select behavior in certain situations. The motive is conceived as a relatively stable individual-difference variable in personality readily assessed via content analysis of imaginative narrative productions, such as stories told or written in response to the pictures of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).

At the center of intimate experience is the sharing of one's thoughts, feelings, and inner life with other human beings (McAdams, 1989). This quality of relating to others is described by Buber (1970) as the “I–Thou” experience, by Maslow (1968) in terms of “being-love,” by Bakan (1966) as the “communal” mode of human existence, and by Sullivan (1953) as the “need for interpersonal intimacy.” These authors emphasize that intimate experience involves joy and mutual delight in the presence of another, reciprocal and noninstrumental communication, openness and receptivity, perceived harmony or union, a concern for the well-being of the other, and a surrender of manipulative control and the desire to master in relating to the other. The person who is dispositionally “high” in intimacy motivation tends to be more sensitive and aware of opportunities for intimate sharing in everyday life than is the person relatively “low” in intimacy motivation.