The Art of Intimacy


We hear the term “intimacy” often, but perhaps we don’t try to understand or examine the meaning of the term. What exactly is intimacy? Robert Sternberg, a psychologist known for his Triangular Theory of Love, defines intimacy as “feelings of closeness, connectedness, and boundedness in a close relationship.” It may be found in any type of relationship, but the term generally denotes closeness between couples in romantic relationships

Beyond physical and emotional, there are also other ways to be intimate, such as intellectually, recreationally, financially, spiritually, creatively (such as building your home together) and during times of crisis (facing obstacles together as a team).

It takes time and patience to build up and nurture intimacy in a relationship. We feel like we have reached an intimate level when we feel mutual closeness with someone and feel assured that they love and accept us the way we are.

Types of Intimacy in Relationships

There are different types of intimacy in a relationship. Let’s take a closer look at the types.

Physical Intimacy

The term physical intimacy is generally used to refer to sex. But there is more to physical intimacy than just sex. Physical intimacy can mean kissing, holding hands, cuddling, and any other gentle exchange of touch. For some people, it can be their way of showing affection to their partner. 

Sexual Intimacy is not just physical in nature. A part of sexual intimacy is a feeling of safety so that you are comfortable opening up to your partner and sharing your thoughts and desires with them. 

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy, when achieved, can be an extremely satisfying and fulfilling aspect of a relationship. What exactly is emotional intimacy? When we can let ourselves be vulnerable, when we can open up to our partner about our thoughts and feelings, we feel closer to them and more supported by them. Being emotionally intimate makes us feel more secure and connected and helps us trust the foundation of our relationship. When that deep connection, sense of safety, and trust are missing, it is likely to indicate a long distance in a relationship

Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is connecting beyond just the physical and emotional levels. When a couple tries to stimulate and enrich each other’s minds by understanding each other’s values, sharing new experiences together, and reading and watching content that interests both of them together—such endeavours can help build up the intellectual intimacy in a relationship.

Experiential Intimacy

Spending time together, bonding over shared experiences and creating happy memories together to recall fondly helps to build experiential intimacy. Working side by side in pursuit of a common goal also intensifies the intimate love between partners. So plan that date, take a trip together, and indulge in the feeling of closeness with your partner.

Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy doesn’t necessarily refer to religious practices. It can also mean intimacy stemming from shared values and beliefs. Sharing a sense of purpose with each other and enjoying those facets of life that are meaningful for us together can help develop our spiritual intimacy. Marvelling at the beauty of nature, watching a beautiful sunset by each other’s side, and discussing what spirituality means to us—are some ways we can connect with our partner.

Ways to Build Intimate Love in Our Relationship

Here are some tips that may help you to gradually develop intimacy in your relationship with your partner:

  • Through both words and actions, convey your love and care towards your partner, and let them know what you admire about them and how they make you feel.
  • Open up to your partner about your desires and needs in the relationship.
  • Create opportunities. Make plans for a trip, or even just a day out or a weekend where you can enjoy each other’s company and spend time together.
  • Learn to enjoy even small chances to connect with your partner on a deeper level. 
  • Recognize and reciprocate your partner’s attempts to build an intimate level. Effort and communication from both partners can help to build and maintain an intimate level over time. 

Barriers to Intimacy

  • Difficulties in Communication: Some couples may find it difficult to communicate their desires and needs in a relationship. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication in a relationship and damage intimacy over time. 
  • Ongoing conflict can make it difficult to build intimacy. Anger, hurt, resentment, lack of trust, or a sense of being unappreciated can all affect it.
  • External stressors in one partner’s life, such as trouble at work, financial stress, etc., can lead to tension and frustration, which may cause the partner to be too busy or upset to find time to connect with their partner. This can also have an adverse impact on the intimate relationship. 
  • Abuse or violence in a relationship can significantly damage trust and intimacy and may indicate the need for couples counseling.

Seeking help for Relationship Concerns

If you and your partner relate to these barriers, it may be helpful to speak to a relationship counsellor to help you enhance your communication and trust and build up intimate love in your relationship. Corporate wellness programs can also help to overcome some of these barriers to intimacy and enhance your intimate relationship.

There may be ups and downs in all relationships, and it is normal to encounter some barriers every now and then. Gradually building and maintaining intimate love is part of having a fulfilling relationship.

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