Kelly identifies the seven levels of intimacy as: clichés, facts, opinions, hopes, and dreams, feelings, faults, fears and failures, and legitimate needs.
Kelly says intimacy requires that we allow others to see us for who we really are. He believes that people need to show their true selves to other persons. They need to show their best and worst sides and to share every part of themselves with someone.
Kelly understands how frightening this prospect is. He knows that people cannot live happily without intimacy. Furthermore, he says that when you look at the happiest people in your life and you examine those lives, you will notice that they are in truly intimate relationships. They have a spouse or partner to share their lives. They have a genuine interest in the other people in their lives and have great relationships.
Kelly says that people who do not have intimate relationships have to overcome the fear of rejection. If a person cannot find intimacy, he/she begins to create pits in life that must be filled. Usually, this is when addictions begin. Whether it is alcohol, drugs, food, and non-intimate sexual relationships, people look for anything to fill them up.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part defines intimacy, the second part discusses the seven levels of intimacy, and the last part discusses the ten reasons why people do not have a great relationship and how to design a great relationship.
By achieving each of Kelly's seven levels, he says a person can understand and gain confidence in their partners and themselves until they are fully able to experience love, commitment, trust, and happiness.
One of the most important lessons that this book teaches is that being in any relationship is not a passive journey. Each relationship is built upon a pattern of interaction. In the beginning stages, people rely on casual interactions, gaining familiarity by focusing on superficialities and facts. Then they grow closer and begin to share opinions and learn to accept each other and embrace the growing relationship. At last, they are deeply intimate and both willing and able to reveal their deepest fears.
By moving through and building upon each level of intimacy, people find comfort and gain trust in partners and themselves. Kelly says that it is through mastering the seven levels of intimacy that people will break through to fully experiencing love, commitment, trust, and happiness.
The overall message of the book is that in order for people to experience the kind of intimacy that they desire, they have to understand the true purpose of relationships. They will be disappointed if they are just looking to "get something out of it," "to feel good," or "just be happy." This perspective is too self-centered. Instead, if someone aspires to truly love another, he/she will do everything in his/her capacity to help reach his/her fullest potential as a human being. The most successful and fulfilling relationships are those in which there is a reciprocal commitment to bring out the best in each other.
One of the lists that Kelly enumerates is the inverse of why most people do not have good relationships. The ten reasons for a good relationship include establishing a common purpose, defining what makes a relationship great, agreeing on a realistic plan, persevering and following through, and not giving up in the face of major challenges.
The only downside to this book is the repetition of the material. Kelly can and does reiterate the message, but that could come from his background as a speaker. He does give relatable examples of all of his tenets and is a good story-teller.