- Every Relationship Needs These 4 Types Of Intimacy (Beyond The Physical)
- Examples of emotional intimacy:
- How to increase emotional intimacy:
- Examples of intellectual intimacy:
- How to increase intellectual intimacy:
- Examples of experiential intimacy:
- How to increase experiential intimacy:
- Examples of spiritual intimacy:
- How to increase spiritual intimacy:
- What to do about fear of intimacy.
- Resolving intimacy problems in a relationship
- Dealing with intimacy problems in a relationship
- Common reasons for intimacy problems in a relationship
- 1) Lack of communication
- 2) Depression, anxiety or other mental illness
- 3) Resentment, anger or mistrust
- 4) Having children
- 5) Job or other out-of-home commitment
- Restoring intimacy in a relationship
- 1) Work on your communication skills
- 2) Work on resolving conflict
- 3) Do activities together
- 4) Talk to a relationship counsellor
- 5) Talk to a MensLine counsellor
Every Relationship Needs These 4 Types Of Intimacy (Beyond The Physical)
When we think of intimacy, we often think of sex. The two are widely considered synonymous. Intercourse is about as close as possible to another human that we can physically get. However, there are at least four types of intimacy that don't involve sex or touch at all—but are just as impactful in a romantic partnership.
In fact, long-term commitments usually require sustainable rapport beyond just chemistry in the bedroom. Without types of intimacy besides physical, «the relationship can start to drift apart or remain at a very superficial level,» says marriage therapist Hilda De La Torre, M.A., MFT.
Below are the four types of intimacy that you should focus on fostering to create a more holistic connection and closeness with your partner:
Emotional intimacy involves candid, authentic sharing of thoughts and feelings. It involves being able to tell each other your deepest fears, dreams, disappointments, and most complicated emotions, as well as feeling seen and understood when you do.
Emotional intimacy means both you and your partner feel safe and comfortable with this type of uninhibited expression around each other. This «safe space» is cultivated by each person refraining from judgment or contempt when the other is sharing.
We confide in people whom we trust. That doesn't mean they always tell us what we want to hear, but we believe they won't repeat anything we share in confidence. We also don't expect them to embarrass or belittle us.
Examples of emotional intimacy:
- A couple has a long, tender conversation about what they want their relationship, as well as what's still scary to them right now. They emerge from the conversation feeling closer than ever and more understood by each other.
- A woman comes home and tells her partner all about a stressful incident she experienced at work, including feelings she didn't feel safe expressing to her co-workers at the time. Her partner asks questions to help her process the experience and validates her emotions.
- A man expresses that his partner maintaining relationships with exes makes him uncomfortable. His partner works to empathize with his concerns instead of making the case that he's paranoid.
- A woman confides in her spouse that she's unhappy with her body after having a baby. She trusts her partner to offer comfort and help her come up with solutions if desired rather than dismiss her feelings.
- A person shares with their partner that they were bullied as a child. Their partner is attentive, takes the situation seriously, and offers a ton of emotional support.
How to increase emotional intimacy:
You can foster emotional intimacy in your relationships by engaging in deeper, more introspective conversation together, talking about emotions and experiences you don't usually share with others.
wise, ask your partner thoughtful questions and be curious about the way they think and feel. Listen to understand rather than waiting to respond.
Always be careful not to invalidate their feelings, so that you can establish an environment conducive to open, honest dialogue.
Comfort with communicating beliefs and viewpoints without worrying about potential conflicts creates intellectual intimacy.
Each person in the relationship has the freedom to think for themselves and believes that their opinions are valued—instead of feeling pressured to agree. This atmosphere encourages stimulating conversation.
You feel closer to the person who cares for you independent of differences and respects your voice.
Examples of intellectual intimacy:
- Partners debate the importance of a college education. Neither feels the need to be «right.» They just enjoy hearing the other person's rationale.
- A couple disagrees about which actor played the best Joker. Each person understands that their theory is strictly opinion-based and enjoys the back-and-forth.
- Spouses discuss the purpose of existence. They don't believe there's a concrete answer to the question, «What's the meaning of life?» Each entertains ideas they may not have considered otherwise.
- A couple reads and discusses a book together. The two are eager to compare their takeaways instead of telling one another what the author meant.
The term sapiosexual refers to someone who finds intelligence sexually attractive or arousing. Allowing for thought-provoking conversation that challenges each person's ideas is another formidable method of bonding in a relationship—as long as no one feels personally attacked.
How to increase intellectual intimacy:
You can create more intellectual intimacy by sparking discussions where you and your partner have different perspectives. Make a conscious effort to have these talks without growing defensive or angry.
Disagreement isn't a requirement, however. You can also discuss ideas and abstract concepts that you're exploring together.
This type of intimacy is about connecting through logic and philosophical expression.
Shared experiences lead to inside jokes and private memories that can intensify a connection. The act of teamwork and moving in unison toward a common goal while creating an experience also establishes a feeling of closeness. This bond is the result of experiential intimacy.
«Our memories are closely linked to our senses,» relationship coach Kingsley Moyo tells mbg. Moyo references how we can recall the odor of burned rubber even if we haven't smelled it in a while.
He ns experiential intimacy to social media actions, stating that «we tag people and events with an associated sense.» Moyo goes on to explain that recalling moments triggers involuntary sensory reactions.
If the moment was pleasurable, it prompts that same energy when relived.
Examples of experiential intimacy:
- A couple trains for and runs a marathon together. This allows them to support and push each other toward a confidence-building achievement.
- Partners cook a joint meal. One prepares the entrée, and the other makes dessert or side dishes to help foster teamwork.
- A couple goes for an extended bike ride. Someone is responsible for planning the route while the other packs snacks and water.
- Two lovebirds visit a city neither person has been to before so that both will discover it for the first time, together.
How to increase experiential intimacy:
Embark on new adventures with your partner to increase experiential intimacy. Plan activities that you haven't yet done together. Or schedule a standing date to meet at the same restaurant so that it becomes your spot.
Each person in a couple can have separate lives. You don't have to collaborate on everything, but it's crucial to have shared experiences. This way, your intimacy is interwoven with memories and acquired knowledge. It exists in multiple spaces.
Religious practice isn't necessary for spiritual intimacy, though it can serve the purpose. This closeness forms when you share poignant moments with your partner. Though praying and worshipping as a couple could qualify as one such moment, there are many other examples of spiritual intimacy.
Examples of spiritual intimacy:
- Partners watch the sun rise (or set) together, jointly marveling at the phenomenon.
- A couple takes a walk through the park while holding hands—enjoying the beauty of nature, as well as each other.
- Spouses connect as they stand in quiet awe, overlooking the Grand Canyon.
- Partners discuss their ethics, sense of purpose, and personal definitions of spirituality. The discussion deepens their understanding of each other.
- A couple reads a few passages from their religious text before bed every night. Doing so helps them relax and feel mutually attuned with a power greater than themselves.
Spiritual intimacy allows for transcendent connection—beyond logic and conscious thought. It helps to be deliberate in improving this type of closeness. Although, sometimes, these instances may just happen since they can occur outside your realm of influence.
How to increase spiritual intimacy:
Talk about spirituality with your partner so that each of you can discover experiences that the other considers awe-inspiring. Then, regularly schedule time to engage in those and similar endeavors. The good thing about spiritual intimacy is that you don't have to exert much effort aside from creating opportunities. Let the moment do the work.
What to do about fear of intimacy.
If the vulnerability required to achieve intimacy feels scary or foreign, you're not alone. «Fear of intimacy holds a purpose, and most ly it's protection,» De La Torre says, but all that means is that you need alternative ways of feeling safe.
People who are afraid of being intimate often have the desire, she says, but the fear of being hurt and disappointed is stronger. The first thing she does with clients in this situation is to explore what's getting in the way.
Often, the client is holding on to a negative experience. De La Torre's advice for overcoming fear of intimacy is to «start with building an intimate relationship with yourself,» so that you can get comfortable with the feeling.
(Here's more on how to overcome being scared of love.)
The nonphysical types of intimacy listed here are four types of relationships that you can have with the same person. Healthy relationships involve relating on multiple levels, not just physical. Learning to engage in open, truthful communication, as well as working to understand your partner, will help establish the intangible feeling of closeness that will strengthen your love life.
Resolving intimacy problems in a relationship
Connectedness with other people is one of the basic needs of almost every person on the planet. This includes closeness with friends, family, a peer group, and of course closeness to another person in a relationship.
Intimacy in a relationship (an interpersonal relationship, to use a clinical term) is the breadth of things love, physical contact, trust and closeness that is shared with another person.
Intimacy is both emotional and physical, meaning it can be sexual and non-sexual. It is one of the most important aspects of a relationship because it is a fundamental ingredient of the ‘glue’ that binds people together.
Dealing with intimacy problems in a relationship
Intimacy is a lot more than just touching, kissing or holding hands. Intimacy is also the extent to which someone (hopefully) knows the other person ‘inside out’, as well the extent of such concepts as trust, commitment and understanding.
Intimacy is the ‘connectedness’ between two people. This means that when there is a problem with (or a lack of) intimacy), it may indicate a problem with the relationship.
Common reasons for intimacy problems in a relationship
A lack of intimacy in a relationship may occur for a whole range of reasons. Sometimes they may be interconnected. Here are some of the most common.
1) Lack of communication
As mentioned, intimacy covers so much more than just physical contact. In fact, much of the emotional closeness between two people depends on how comfortable they feel when communicating.
In order for two people to really know each other, communication needs to be open, transparent, honest and effective.
Good communication is as much about effective listening as it is about putting things into words.
For example, if one person is traditionally more ‘closed’ then they may need to work on strategies to be more open — while the other person may also need to be mindful and provide more space.
A breakdown in communication means there is a disconnect from which conflict can result (for example, one person saying “you never listen” or “I don’t feel you understand).
2) Depression, anxiety or other mental illness
A mental health condition depression or anxiety can affect a person’s outlook or perception of the world around them. It can even affect how someone feels about their partner or spouse (or rather, how they believe their partner sees them).
A mental illness can also inflate stressors in life which can cause minor issues to ‘blow up’ proportion.
For example, a person who is feeling highly anxious or depressed may ‘lash out’ at their partner when faced with stressful situations a difficult family gathering or a bad day at work.
A person with poor self-image or low self-esteem may also have difficulty with intimacy (for example, they may feel self-conscious or feel excessively vulnerable).
3) Resentment, anger or mistrust
Arguments and disagreements are a normal part of most relationships. However, those feelings generally pass and are resolved relatively quickly.
Consider whether persistent negative feelings anger or jealousy are interfering in intimacy or are becoming a feature of a relationship (rather than unexpected incidents).
If so, there will ly be a motive and underlying cause that needs to be identified and understood.
4) Having children
What could be more representative of intimacy than having children together?
Even so, being a parent is also one of the toughest jobs in the world.
Ask any new parent and they’ll probably tell you that feeding, cleaning up mess, getting kids to sleep and the countless other tasks involved in parenting don’t leave much time or energy for other things.
It’s also possible that, with so much time and energy focussed on children, the result could mean little time for doing the same for the other person.
Although kids are a natural consequence of the wonders of intimacy, they can, in some cases, inadvertently contribute to less intimacy in a relationship.
5) Job or other out-of-home commitment
A fulfilling job is an important part of remaining happy. When more than half your waking weekday hours are spent in a certain location or around particular people, it’s obviously beneficial if you can feel fulfilled.
Most people want to do well and desire to fulfil their ambition. Some people, however, are so heavily career-focussed that it can get in the way of closeness.
For example, talking to a partner excessively about work, being away from home, having little time or energy after working long hours, or work interfering in ‘personal time’ ( checking work emails in bed) can all contribute to a lack of intimacy in a relationship.
Restoring intimacy in a relationship
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Resolving intimacy issues very often requires both people to be open, honest, considerate and non-judgmental. It also may require one or both people to allow themselves to feel ‘vulnerable’. Here are some ways to get things started.
1) Work on your communication skills
Talking about problems is very often one of the best things you can do. By talking about concerns and worries, a couple may be able to ‘get things out in the open’. Be mindful that effective communication is a two-way street — it is as much about listening as it is about talking.
2) Work on resolving conflict
It’s much easier to feel close and connected to someone when you haven’t had an argument or heated disagreement. The capacity to calmly manage feelings of anger and frustration is a key to restoring intimacy.
3) Do activities together
To use another popular saying, the couple that plays together, stays together. Find interests that you both enjoy (it doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant or night out, as it could even be just walking the dog together) make plans and, most importantly, stick to them.
4) Talk to a relationship counsellor
Couples’ counsellors, also called relationship counsellors, work to help people overcome conflict. Unfortunately, they often see couples only after it’s too late. Seeing a relationship counsellor before problems become unmanageable is a proactive, effective step that can improve a relationship.
5) Talk to a MensLine counsellor
Did you know that MensLine Australia was originally founded as a relationship advice line? Although the service’s scope has expanded significantly over the years, a huge proportion of people who contact MensLine Australia still do so to talk about relationship issues. Counsellors are available 24 7 if you just want to talk or chat online.
MensLine Australia is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with professional counsellors providing information and support for all relationship issues.
Call us on 1300 78 99 78 or access online counselling.