The outermost region represents acquaintance, such as the clerk in the coffee shop. You are friendly with him or her but share little about your internal emotional world: "How is it going? Can you believe this weather? How about that game last night?" This emotional level allows for an amiable hello or passing exchange of niceties. the level of emotional risk is low, the exchange pleasant.
The next circle represents a first-level friendship.
This may be a new relationship you are building and perhaps assessing to determine if appropriate to be a long-term relationship based on shared interests, hobbies or beliefs. You enjoy the relationship but realize your emotional connection is limited.
The second-level friendship is developed and nurtured through deep trust and emotional connection. These are the confidants who have established mutual respect and are committed to the continual growth of the relationship. These friendships are very similar to an intimate relationship minus the sexual connection.
An intimate relationship reflects the emotional connection of a second level-friendship but includes the physical component. These are committed relationships between potential or lifetime partners. these relationships are nurtured at the deepest levels.
The circle and its levels can be adjusted for individual needs. For example, your levels of friendship my be more defined; an added level or levels may feel more appropriate within your internal construct. The levels are also fluid; a person who is an acquaintance may progress into second-level friend, or someone with whom you have a more intimate relationship may shift to an outer level. Life circumstances -- such as a move, a shift in job responsibilities, an illness, or the birth of a child -- may dictate a change in connection to another person.
I invite the sex addict to access each relationship and where it falls within this continuum. You may realize that one level is deprived, whereas other levels are overflowing. As in all aspects of recovery, the goal is balance. Hopefully, this exercise will assist the conscious assessment of your connections to others and in the enrichment of their development.
Relational closeness may feel overwhelming to the recovering addict because the threat of emotional exposure is no longer masked by sex. Learning to be present, authentic, and honest is part of the learning curve in developing healthy relationships.