You’ve probably heard from your more curious friends and girlfriends questions like “How often are you intimate?”, “How intimate are you?” and even “Are you intimate during pregnancy?” – what exactly would you think they’re asking you? We’re ready to bet – you’ll decide they’re asking you about sex.
And, actually, intimacy does NOT mean sex. And not at all. Even if you just look up in the dictionary, you will find that the word “intimate” is explained there as “deeply personal”, “private” and only finally – as “amorous”. Even “amorous” does not carry the meaning of just “sex”. However, the widespread use of “intimacy” in everyday life is in quite a narrow and incomplete sense.
So – if intimacy does not exclude, but is NOT equivalent to sexual activity, what else does it include?
A phrase that would be literally interpreted as Look inside me.
And if you look for more meaning in it – and like Get to know who I really am.
Your essence and the essence of your partner create the DNA of intimacy. Intimacy happens when the other is on his/her way to you, when you are able to give them guidance. When you allow him/her into your inner world, but also manage to get to know their own world as well. Connecting, sharing, and return of affection are the skills needed to achieve full intimacy.
There are generally 4 types of intimacy:
- Emotional Intimacy
It is lived through openness in communication and sharing of emotions. By accepting one’s partner as they are; by letting them into the other’s world.
The words that are particularly important are “openness” and “as is”. In emotional intimacy, it’s common to progress in small steps, so don’t worry about going at your own pace. Talking about how your day went at the office is a good start if you are someone who finds it difficult to talk about yourself. But sharing the emotions you experienced when something unpleasant happened at work – if you were ignored, insulted, unappreciated – that’s getting into the deep waters that build strong emotional bonding. And talking about the relationship with your partner and using phrases like “I missed you”, “Your words/actions hurt me”, “I feel safe when I’m with you” can strengthen and develop your relationship. Allowing yourself to show vulnerability is important to achieving emotional intimacy. So – trust your heart to guide you!
- Mental Intimacy
A good description of this kind of intimacy is: flirting between the minds of partners. However, until mankind has mastered telepathy, the minds of partners can only flirt by talking. The topics to discuss are endless: from movies and books that have moved you, through politics and society, to the meaning of life and human existence. Talk about it all with your partner and you’ll also develop mental intimacy between you. Discussions on any topic important to (either of) both of you are the eternal wellspring of this type of intimacy.
- Spiritual Intimacy
This type of closeness and mutuality can deepen your relationship with your partner like no other type of intimacy. And its description, of course, is by no means limited to the practice of a common religion. Spirituality includes worldview, values, morals, ethics, personal beliefs.
This intimacy is expressed in the sharing of common values and beliefs. But it is also found in experiencing precious moments together, such as welcoming the sunrise on the beach, experiencing the joy of the birth of a new day, or climbing a mountain peak, enjoying the view from the top. These are spiritual experiences whose sharing brings you deeply and personally closer together.
- Physical Intimacy
Just because it is last in the description of types of intimacy it does not mean that it is unimportant. On the contrary! The enjoyment of touch, shared pleasure, receiving and giving caresses, physical expression of closeness with your loved one, sex – all of these are quite important parts of the establishment of an intimate relationship.
And to be clear – these 4 types of intimacy are not categorically differentiated. And even sometimes, for better experiences of one type, it helps to deepen and reciprocate in another. Here’s an example. More fulfilling physical intimacy can be achieved through conversations (mental intimacy). Even in the simplest terms – talking about sex with your partner (though not so easy for some at first) has the power to heat up passions between you later. After all, everyone would like to know what pleases their partner, and especially those more specific features that are typical and right for them. And even a simple phrase at the right moment like “Do you like it like that?” does a wonderful job. It’s worth exploring this way with your partner, because the essence of physical intimacy is to relax and dive into it without worries.
As a bonus – youe are welcome to check out these helpful tricks for higher sexual confidence: https://surecheck.info/5-tips-for-improving-sexual-self-esteem/
Which type of intimacy prevails in your relationship?
Of course, ideally it’s good that all 4 types of intimacy are reasonably familiar territories. But don’t rush to place a value on your partnership guided by that statement. Because there are also different phases to go through in a relationship. Perhaps at this point you are in a phase where you experience intimacy with each other more through emotional sharing or through physical intimacy. If you, as partners, are moving together and at the same pace, then all is well. As relationships evolve and things aren’t always perfect like a cute little fluffy duckling, we have the support by the experts, too. For example, Amy Color – a well-established therapist in the field – and this is her popular talk in which she shares her experiences of intimacy issues between partners:
Color reveals a little trick that can not only light a fire in a relationship, but even add a little Bengal fire, and even fireworks into them.
According to Amy Color, even simple and accessible gestures like a softly spoken “Mm-hmm!”, a cuddle before sleep, or serving of a cup of hot chocolate can help boost intimacy.
“A good lover has the ability to read his partner’s desires. And a good partner knows how to express his pleasure! Intimacy is what makes you feel understood and gives you the confidence to express yourself.”
This quote by Color says most of the essentials on the subject. And it sounds very convincing and understandable. But it’s not so easy in practice, is it? That’s why the following 3 almost magical exercises can easily and pleasantly enhance the closeness in your relationship:
It’s no coincidence that “the eyes are the window to the soul” is such a common phrase. Sit comfortably across from each other and purely and simply look into each other’s eyes. No playing “stop winking” or “who will laugh first”. Just stand and silently look each other in the eye for a few minutes. And you will experience the unexplainable emotion that the shared look evokes.
See also this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0Tg0IjCp4
It is from Marina Abramović’s performance “The artist is present” at the MoMa Museum of Modern Art, New York – a silent gazing into the eyes of the other that some critics say has captured one of the most intensely emotional moments in the contemporary art.
Hug is a wonderful thing. It sounds the same as cuddling, but it’s not. Cuddling is more tender and more intimate than hugging, longer and more affectionate. Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle! Don’t spare a single cuddle – it’s free, and so precious. Take enough time to cuddle every day! With and without an occasion. In the morning and in the evening. Before bedtime, at bedtime, at waking up. On the sofa, during the movie, after the movie. In or out, spontaneous or planned. Always, wherever, whenever you feel like it. (Okay, maybe while driving isn’t quite appropriate). Cuddle, feel each other, get used to the closeness, synchronize and pair your breathing and your pulse. And not only will it feel wonderful and pleasurable, but over time you’ll notice how the sexual intimacy between you has increased, how your emotional attachment has intensified.
As a famous Bulgarian football player would say – “Active listening is the same as listening, but active”. So – listen, but actively. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak, but listen. And try to understand, to feel your partner, don’t interrupt, except at appropriate moments, when you need to ask clarifying questions. You don’t even have to agree. And it is enough to understand the other and his/her (even if it is totally different from yours) experience of the same reality.
The exercise may be a bit easier if you specify a specific time for active listening. Your partner can choose the topic or you can decide together what it is. Listen carefully. And only after the time is up – if your partner explicitly asks for it – you can give your opinion on the topic.
Don’t forget to switch roles afterwards.
And now what?
True intimacy is not like fried eggs. It can’t be “cooked” right from the word go. It is not achieved through one conversation, one cuddle, or one night together. It takes time. True intimacy is built over time, and the desire and effort to get to know the other, to discover their essence, to share emotions, to touch the body, and to look into the heart are important. It is a process and a two-way process.
A process of interconnecting, discovering and listening. Even if it makes you vulnerable and sometimes brings feelings of weakness and insecurity – the enjoyment of intimacy – emotional, mental, spiritual, physical – is stronger than anything else that lacks it.
And a smile to finish: remember how Sting boasted a while ago that he could have sex for 8 hours? He later clarified that those 8 hours included a nice dinner, a good movie, and a mutual massage. Probably, if he had said he could be intimate with his wife for 8 hours, he would have been much more accurate and wouldn’t have had to justify it later, would he?
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Read more: 6 irrefutable benefits of sex education