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By Eri Anton


Intimacy is the closeness between two people in personal relationships. It is what we build over time as we connect and grow how we care about someone. There are a few types of intimacy with the most commonly misunderstood being sex. We normally hear of intimacy in the context of sex and romance, but intimacy isn’t another word for sex. Sex with a partner can build intimacy, but it’s far from the only indicator of intimacy. It’s possible to have sex without intimacy as well as intimacy without sex.

Intimacy means different things to different people.   You may feel close to a person while you watch a movie together, while they don’t feel the same intimacy watching a movie and can’t wait to take a walk after the movie to feel closer to you.   Each person feels a connection or closeness through different activities.  That’s because intimacy means different things to different people.   Your specific idea of intimacy may be influenced by your interests, communication style, or the ways you like to get to know someone.

To figure out what intimacy means to you, consider the different types of intimacy.   Intimacy falls into several different categories, including: 

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is what allows you to tell someone the most personal things that you might not necessarily share with anyone. You let your guard down and become vulnerable, because you feel safe and you can trust this person. Over time of safe sharing and the building of trust a person can become fully transparent about their thoughts, their dreams, their issues and anything else that makes them who they are. In a romantic relationship this deep level of emotional intimacy will develop a very strong bond.

Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy involves getting to know how another person’s mind works and sharing how your mind thinks as well. The relationship builds as you exchange ideas and have meaningful conversations. Understanding how someone thinks and valuing their thoughts process can be a very attractive trait. It creates a bond around the ability to think through things together and that can be powerful.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy is about touch and closeness between bodies. In a romantic relationship, it might include holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and sex. Physical closeness can occur in an intimate or not intimate setting. When people have deep emotional intimacy and physical intimacy together both are enhanced. The best physical intimacy will come from a deep emotional connection. I am not saying you can’t have great sex with a stranger, but physical intimacy at its best is rooted in a deep emotional connection with your partner. Many people in society today can find many great sex partners, but it is just sex. It is just sex because they never took the time to develop a deep emotional connection first. That’s why people can have great sex and wonder why they don’t have a deeper connection. Sex is not and will never be a substitute for the hard work needed in a relationship to develop emotional intimacy. Having sex too soon can be to the detriment of the relationship never taking the time to do the hard work of developing a great emotional connection first.

Experiential Intimacy

You can also build experiential intimacy by spending quality time with someone and growing closer over common interests and activities.  There’s nothing quite like doing something crazy for the first time with someone else and developing a close bond by the experience.   When you do new things together and experience things together you develop a bond or connection through the events.   These events becomes pillars of sharing and experiencing that create strong connections. There are many other forms of intimacy as well, but I will not attempt to cover them all.   

There are 7 key factors within any intimate relationship

  1. Trust - In order to share personal parts of yourself, like your most embarrassing secrets or your deepest fears.  You have to be able to trust the person.   Showing another person that you’re trustworthy can help them feel closer to you as well.    But with this trust you make yourself very vulnerable and once you get burned by someone it is hard to open up again.   Trust is when your words and actions match each other and is the foundation of a good relationship.  Trust is developed over time and both parties should be guarded when opening up and trusting.  once the relationship is more mature you have an earned trust that has been created
  2. Acceptance - You know you’ve established some intimacy when you feel like a person accepts you for who you truly are.  When you first meet someone, you might worry that they may not like you, but as intimacy grows, you can trust that no matter how weird you get,  you’ll still be accepted and cared for.  We all want to be accepted for who we are and we seek acceptance at a very young age.  Being accepted gives us a strong sense of being and helps us not to feel insecure. or inadequate.
  3. Honesty - Honesty and intimacy feed one other. You often can’t have one without the other.   You can feel comfortable telling your partner exactly how you feel in part because you’ve become so close to each other.  But every time you open up, you can and will grow a little bit closer.  You’ll know your partner is willing to listen the next time you want to share something personal.  Being honest can sometime be misunderstood because we use honesty as the blanket to bring bad news saying im just being honest.  True honesty is always spoken in love.
  4. Safety - Sharing your deepest, truest self with another person can put you in a pretty vulnerable position.   That’s why you tend to have your guard up when you meet someone new. You don’t yet know if they’ll support you as you are.  So, intimacy means feeling safe enough to take the risk of putting yourself out there, knowing the other person cares enough not to let you down.  Knowing you are safe with what you say without fear of judgement can be very freeing and rewarding
  5. Compassion - Feeling cared about is a great feeling, isn’t it?  You know your partner will always be there for you and care about how you are doing.  Having compassion is critical to growing and establishing closeness and intimacy with someone.    Forgiveness and understanding can only exist with compassion between people.  Compassion is a natural component of really truly caring about one another’s well-being.
  6. Affection – Being affectionate can be physical,  like a kiss or a hug between two people but it can also happen in other ways where you do things to show you care.   Such as supporting or helping someone out or doing good gestures and making efforts simply because they care.   When we are shown efforts from another because they care it makes us feel good with many neuro-transmitters being released in the body to give us a good feeling or emotional high.
  7. Communication - There’s a reason why good communication is so often named as the key to a healthy relationship. When you make an effort to listen to someone and tell them how you really feel, you can build a deep understanding for each other.  And the more you understand each other, the closer you become.

Intimacy usually doesn’t happen fast it must be built over time. The more time you spend sharing experiences and feelings, the more you have to work with to build intimacy. Intimacy doesn't always come easy and you can lose what you have built over time. It takes hard work and consistency over time to maintain a level of intimacy, if not it will fade away. If you do not place a high value on intimacy and make the time to invest in it you will never have deep meaningful relationships. In that case get use to Netflix and chill and superficial relationships because they are easier to manage.