Intimacy is typically associated with mutual vulnerability, openness, and sharing. It’s common in close, loving relationships like marriages and friendships. Intimacy is sometimes used to refer to sexual interactions, but it does not have to be sexual. In this article, we will learn about different types of intimacy, as well as different types of intimacy in relationships and marriage.
Intimacy can be vital to maintaining a healthy social life. If you avoid intimacy, you may find yourself isolated or in constant conflict with others. Couples counseling or individual therapy may be beneficial when fear of intimacy disrupts a relationship.
What is Intimacy?
Intimacy is important because humans are social creatures who thrive on close personal relationships with others. While romantic relationships are often associated with intimacy, they can also occur in close friendships, parent-child relationships, and siblinghood.
Types of Intimacy
We frequently associate intimacy with sex. The two are frequently used interchangeably. Intercourse brings us as close to another human as we can physically get. However, there are at least four types of intimacy that do not involve sex or touch but are just as powerful in a romantic relationship.
In fact, long-term commitments usually necessitate more than just chemistry in the bedroom. “The relationship can start to drift apart or remain at a very superficial level if there are no other types of intimacy besides physical,” says marriage therapist Hilda De La Torre, M.A., MFT.
The following types of intimacy that you should cultivate in order to create a more holistic connection and closeness with your partner are as follows:
1. Experiential intimacy
Shared experiences generate inside jokes and private memories, which can strengthen a bond. The act of working together and moving in unison toward a common goal while creating an experience creates a sense of closeness. This bond is the result of an intimate experience.
Our senses are inextricably linked to our memories. How can we remember the smell of burned rubber even if we haven’t smelled it in a long time? He compares experiential intimacy to social media activities, claiming that “we tag people and events with an associated sense.” If the experience was pleasurable, it elicits the same amount of energy when relived.
Examples of experiential intimacy:
- A couple trains for and participates in a marathon together. This enables them to encourage and push each other toward a self-esteem-boosting accomplishment.
- Partners prepare a meal together. To foster teamwork, one prepares the entrée while the other prepares dessert or side dishes.
- A couple goes on a long bike ride. Someone is in charge of planning the route, while the other is in charge of packing snacks and water.
- Two lovers travel to a city that neither has visited before, so that they can discover it for the first time together.
How to increase experiential intimacy:
To increase experiential intimacy, go on new adventures with your partner. Plan activities that you haven’t done together before. Alternatively, make a regular date to meet at the same restaurant so that it becomes your go-to.
Each member of a couple can have her own life. It is not necessary to collaborate on everything, but it is critical to have shared experiences. Your intimacy is thus intertwined with memories and acquired knowledge. It can be found in several places.
2. Spiritual intimacy
Religious practice isn’t required for spiritual intimacy, but it can help. When you share poignant moments with your partner, you develop this closeness. Though praying and worshiping together as a couple could be considered one such instance, there are numerous other instances of spiritual intimacy.
Examples of spiritual intimacy:
- Partners marvel at the phenomenon of the sun rising (or setting) together.
- A couple walks through the park holding hands, appreciating the beauty of nature as well as each other.
- A couple connects while standing in silent awe of the Grand Canyon.
- Discuss your ethics, sense of purpose, and personal definitions of spirituality with your partner. The conversation broadens their understanding of one another.
- Every night before bed, a couple reads a few passages from their religious text. This allows them to unwind and feel connected to a power greater than themselves.
Beyond logic and conscious thought, spiritual intimacy allows for transcendent connection. It is beneficial to be deliberate when attempting to improve this type of closeness. However, because these occurrences can occur outside of your realm of influence, they may just happen from time to time.
How to increase spiritual intimacy:
Discuss spirituality with your partner so that each of you can learn about experiences that the other finds inspiring. Then, make time on a regular basis to engage in those and similar activities. Aside from creating opportunities, the good thing about spiritual intimacy is that you don’t have to put in much effort. Allow the moment to do the work.
3. Emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy entails the open, honest exchange of thoughts and feelings. It entails being able to share your deepest fears, dreams, disappointments, and most complicated emotions with one another, as well as feeling seen and understood when you do. Emotional intimacy implies that both you and your partner feel safe and comfortable expressing yourself freely around each other.
This safe space is created by each person refraining from passing judgment or showing contempt when the other person is sharing. We confide in those in whom we have faith. That is not to say they always tell us what we want to hear, but we believe they will not repeat anything we share in confidence. We also don’t expect them to belittle or embarrass us.
Examples of emotional intimacy:
- A couple has a long, tender conversation about what they want out of their relationship and what they are still afraid of right now. They leave the conversation feeling closer than ever before and more understood by one another.
- A woman returns home and tells her partner about a stressful incident at work, including feelings she did not feel comfortable expressing to her coworkers at the time. Her partner asks her questions to assist her in processing the experience and validates her emotions.
- A man expresses his dissatisfaction with his partner’s ongoing relationships with ex-wives. Instead of arguing that he’s paranoid, his partner tries to empathize with his concerns.
- A woman confides in her husband that she is dissatisfied with her body after having a baby. Instead of dismissing her feelings, she trusts her partner to offer comfort and assist her in finding solutions.
- Someone tells their partner that they were bullied as a child. Their partner is alert, takes the situation seriously, and provides a great deal of emotional support.
You can increase emotional intimacy in your relationships by having deeper, more introspective conversations with your partner, discussing emotions and experiences that you don’t usually share with others.
4. Intellectual intimacy
Intellectual intimacy is created when people feel at ease communicating their beliefs and points of view without fear of conflict. Instead of feeling pressured to agree, each person in the relationship has the freedom to think for themselves and believes that their opinions are valued. This setting promotes stimulating conversation. You feel more connected to the person who cares for you regardless of differences and values your opinion.
Examples of intellectual intimacy:
- Partners discuss the value of a college education. Neither of them feels the need to be “correct.” They simply enjoy hearing the other person’s reasoning.
- A couple disagrees over who played the best Joker. Everyone understands that their theory is purely subjective and enjoys the back-and-forth.
- Spouses talk about the meaning of life. They don’t think there’s a definitive answer to the question. “What is the purpose of life?” Each considers ideas that they might not have considered otherwise.
- A couple reads and converses about a book together. Instead of explaining what the author meant, the two are eager to compare their takeaways.
Sapiosexuals are people who find intelligence sexually appealing or arousing. Allowing for thought-provoking conversation that challenges each other’s ideas is another powerful way to bond in a relationship – as long as no one feels personally attacked.
How to increase intellectual intimacy:
You can increase intellectual intimacy by initiating discussions in which you and your partner have opposing viewpoints. Make a concerted effort to avoid becoming defensive or angry during these discussions. Disagreement isn’t a requirement, however. You can also discuss ideas and abstract concepts that you’re exploring together. Connecting through logic and philosophical expression is the goal of this type of intimacy.
5. Physical Intimacy
Physical intimacy is not the same as sexual intimacy. It revolves around expressing affection for one another through physical touch and contact. Holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and hugging are all examples of physical intimacy that demonstrate your desire to be close to your partner. These actions will go a long way toward making your loved one feel cherished and nurtured.
These physical touches are usually devoid of any sexual connotations. A kiss on the cheek before you leave for work, a hug when you see each other at the end of the day, a gentle shoulder rub when your partner is tired, and cuddling before you go to bed. A thousand words can be said with a single touch. Physical intimacy is essential for a healthy relationship, and you should make it a priority.
Tips for Increasing Physical Intimacy
- Non-sexual physical intimacy is, first and foremost, gentle. The goal is to express how much you love and appreciate your partner, not to claim their body.
- To cultivate this type of intimacy in your relationship, both you and your partner must be giving. Instead of focusing on where your partner falls short in terms of physical intimacy, consider how you can express – your feelings and emotions through a simple touch.
- Investigate the reasons for a lack of physical intimacy. For this, you have to observe your reactions to your loved one’s touch and understand why you are reacting in a particular way. If you can’t figure out why either of you is unable to reciprocate intimate touch, consider seeking help. You can reach out to a panel of experts online, and it is completely confidential.
- If your partner is physically separated from you, have an open and honest conversation with them about it. For example, if your wife avoids intimacy, inform her that it causes you to feel distant from her. Do your best to figure out what kinds of touch she enjoys and work on using those to express your love and affection.
6. Creative intimacy
Looking for creative ways to remind each other of your love, affection, and bond is what creative intimacy entails. This adorable aspect of making each other feel loved and appreciated is often overlooked as a relationship develops. That is why so many couples lament the loss of romance in their lives.
Among the various types of intimacy, the creative aspect can have a significant impact and quickly add flavor to your relationship. Find ways to romantically flirt with your spouse no matter how long you’ve been together. Shower them with attention and rejoice when they return it.
Tips to improve creative intimacy
- Handwritten notes about the qualities you admire in your significant other are a timeless gift that never fails to impress. Hide these in strategic locations, such as their office bag or closet, so they will be surprised if they come across them.
- Send each other letters.
- Send flowers just because you can.
- Pamper them with appropriate gifts on occasion.
- Plan romantic date nights on a regular basis.
7. Sexual Intimacy
Sexual intimacy is perhaps the most widely discussed type of intimacy. In a romantic relationship, so much emphasis is placed on this connection that when the sex drive – drops, couples freak out about distance creeping in. The key to keeping this spark alive is to not succumb to pressure.
So concentrate on ensuring that both you and your partner enjoy the act. Remember that the sensation of intimacy is just as important as the act itself. When it comes down to it, let your bodies express and experience the love and passion you have for each other rather than approaching it as a “chore” to be completed.
Tips to improve sexual intimacy
- While having sex with your partner, keep all distractions to a minimum. Take your mind off that office problem or whether your child has gone to sleep because it is a school night. Be in the moment.
- Recognize each other’s sexual needs.
- Understand your sexual desires and what gives you pleasure. Don’t be afraid to direct your partner’s attention to your erogenous zones.
- Communication is essential for increasing sexual intimacy in a relationship. Share your sex preferences and dislikes with your partner in an open and honest manner.
- You can experiment with tantric sex to spice things up if you want to.
To make sense of your existence, find happiness, and ensure that your relationship survives the test of time, you must pay attention to these various types of intimacy and work on effectively nourishing them.
FEAR OF INTIMACY
Intimacy can make you feel less alone and more loved. However, intimacy necessitates a high level of trust and vulnerability, which you may find frightening. Intimacy is a problem for many people, and fear of intimacy is a common concern in therapy. People may be afraid of intimacy for a variety of reasons. The following are some of the most common causes:
- Abandonment Issues: You may be concerned that if you become attached to someone, that person will abandon you.
- Fear of Rejection: You may be concerned that if you reveal any flaws or imperfections, the other person will reject you.
- Control Issues: As you become emotionally connected to others, you may fear losing your independence.
- Past Abuse: If you have a history of childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse, you may find it difficult to trust others.
You might be asked to complete the Fear of Intimacy Scale if you seek professional help for intimacy issues (FIS). This scale assesses your level of fear of emotional intimacy in a romantic setting. It asks you to agree or disagree with statements like, “I would probably feel nervous expressing strong feelings of affection to my partner.” A high FIS score has been linking to feelings of loneliness, according to research.
Building Intimacy in a Relationship
It is possible to overcome fears of intimacy. A compassionate counselor can assist you in understanding the underlying emotions that are causing your fear. Apart from isolating yourself, they can help you address these feelings and find healthier ways to cope with them.
Intimacy problems can be exacerbated by mental health issues such as avoidant personality disorder. Treating these diagnoses can also provide significant advantages. Even if neither partner is afraid of intimacy, a couple may have difficulty opening up to each other. The following ideas may help you and your partner become closer.
- Take your time. Getting to know someone takes a significant amount of time. The process of establishing trust is frequently slow. Intimacy is not a race.
- Begin with the simple stuff. Start by sharing your dreams and goals if you find it easier to talk about the future than the past. As your trust grows, you may find it less frightening to discuss more difficult topics.
- Discuss your requirements openly. Do you require a lot of alone time to recharge? How frequently do you want to have sex? You can avoid a lot of misunderstandings by telling your partner exactly what you want rather than assuming your desires are obvious.
- Be respectful of one another’s differences. Even the most intimate partners have separate identities. It is not necessary for you and your partner to agree on everything in order to love each other.
If you and your partner are having difficulty getting closer to each other, there is still hope! Couples counseling can assist you in improving your communication and resolving misunderstandings. It can also help each party overcome any fears of intimacy that may be holding them back. There is no shame in seeking assistance.
Building Intimacy in a Marriage
Due to the excitement of falling in love, many couples barely come up for air during the early stages of marriage. Regrettably, this blissful state does not last indefinitely. Researchers discovered that oxytocin (a bonding hormone) released during the early stages of infatuation causes couples to feel euphoric and turned on by physical touch. It actually works like a drug, providing us with immediate gratification that binds us to our lover.
Holding hands, hugs, and tender touch are all wonderful ways to express your feelings for your partner. Physical affection prepares the ground for sexual touch that is centered on pleasure. If you want to improve your marriage, Dr. Micheal Stysma, a sex therapist and educator, suggests setting a goal of doubling the amount of time you kiss, hug and use sensual touch.
The sexual attraction is difficult to sustain over time. Kendra and Jason, for example, lack passion because they are unwilling to relinquish control and show vulnerability. As a result, they avoid sex and rarely touch each other. According to sex therapist Laurie Watson, “most sexual concerns stem from an interpersonal conflict in the marriage.”
Here are 10 tips to bring back the passion in your marriage:
1. Alter your initiation sex pattern.
Perhaps you’re rejecting your partner or coming on too strong. Avoid criticizing one another and put an end to the “blame game.” Change things up to put an end to the power struggle. Distancers, for example, may want to practice initiating sex more frequently, while pursuers try to find subtle ways to tell their partner, “you’re sexy,” while avoiding critique and demands for closeness.
2. Hold hands more frequently
Holding hands, hugging, and touching, according to author Dr. Kory Floyd, can cause oxytocin to release, resulting in a calming sensation. According to research, it is also released during sexual orgasm. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones, lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
3. Permit tension to build
When we anticipate a reward for a period of time before receiving it, our brains experience more pleasure. So slow down during foreplay, share fantasies, switch locations, and make sex more romantic.
4. Distancing sexual intimacy from routine
Plan intimacy time and avoid discussing relationship issues or household chores in the bedroom. When we are distracted or stressed our sexual arousal decreases.
5. Carve out time to spend with your partner
Experiment with a variety of activities that will give you both pleasure. Have fun courting and flirting in order to arouse sexual desire and intimacy. According to Dr. Gottman, “everything positive you do in your relationship is foreplay.”
6. Emphasize affectionate touch
Offer to massage your partner’s back or shoulders. People associate foreplay with sexual intercourse, but affectionate touch can demonstrate and rekindle passion even if you aren’t a touchy-feely person.
7. Experiment with becoming more emotionally vulnerable during sex.
Share your deepest desires, fantasies, and fantasies with your partner. Consider individual or couple therapy if you are afraid of emotional intimacy.
8. Keep an open mind when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Experiment with new ways to make each other happy. Consider sex as a chance to get to know your partner better over time.
9. Experiment with different types of sex.
Have sex that is gentle, loving-tender, intimate, and highly erotic. As your sexual needs change, shake up your routine and try something new.
10. Make sex a priority.
Set the tone for intimacy before watching TV or going to work. A light meal, along with your favorite music and wine, can set the tone for a night of great sex.
The good news is that letting your partner influence you can rekindle the spark you once had. Indeed, Dr. Gottman reminds us that friendship can be the glue that holds a marriage together. Even if you are not a touchy-feely person, increasing physical affection and emotional sensitivity can assist you in maintaining a deep, meaningful bond.
The Importance of Intimacy
If you want to be in a long-term relationship, intimacy is the most important thing you and your partner can have. Intimacy can mean anything to either of you as long as it brings you closer than anyone else you know. It’s as if you’re living with a stranger if you don’t have any intimacy.
Intimate relationships necessitate a significant amount of effort, time, and dedication. You are more than capable of making an intimate relationship work if you are comfortable communicating with each other on life’s deeper topics and making each other very happy.
The nonphysical types of intimacy listed here are different kinds of relationships you can have with the same person. Relationships that are healthy involve relating on multiple levels, not just the physical. Learning to communicate openly and honestly with your partner, as well as working to understand them, will help you establish the intangible feeling of closeness that will strengthen your love life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is intimacy to a man?
Intimacy is frequently confused with sex. In general, intimacy entails deeply knowing someone while also feeling deeply known yourself. It’s something humans crave, and while men may find it more difficult to express it at times, that doesn’t mean they don’t need or want it.
What is the most intimate act?
Sex is the most intimate act in a relationship, but it can also be an act without consent, an act that is paid for, or a simple physical exchange.
Does kissing build intimacy?
Kissing creates and maintains a sense of connectedness, which is important both early in a relationship and later on. Arousal and sex can be induced by good kissing. “Passionate make-outs are frequently necessary (and effective) precursors to further intimacy,” Nicholson explains.