When clients come to me looking for a better sex life with their partner, one of the first questions I always ask is, “How is your intimacy together?” All too often we are quick to equate intimacy with sex, meaning penetrative sex itself. But, what is intimacy really? Intimacy, in and of itself, is simply closeness. And although an intimate relationship is commonly thought of as a romantic or sexual relationship, it may also be a non-sexual relationship that involves your family, friends, or even close acquaintances, and includes deep affection or love.
When a couple, especially a long-term partnership or marriage, feel otherwise close but are having difficulty maintaining — or even beginning — a strong and satisfying sexual relationship, a lack of intimacy outside of the bedroom may be an issue. Relationships that lack intimacy are destined to wither and even die.
So what types of intimacy can we experience with our partners and loved ones? Making a concerted effort to collectively foster the following four types of intimacy may greatly boost your fifth type of intimacy, and that is physical (sexual/romantic) intimacy.
Emotional Intimacy – Genuine conversation and open communication are key components of healthy emotional intimacy in any relationship you may experience, but especially romantic relationships. Being supportive of your partner, honoring your partner, listening to, and sharing love and understanding all build emotional intimacy.
Intellectual Intimacy – Loving partnerships typically involve a meeting of both minds as well as hearts. Certainly learning new skills and information together can count towards intellectual intimacy, but actually holding harmonious beliefs and ideals count greatly. Being intellectual equals is very important in solidifying and maintaining strong intimacy with your mate.
Experiential Intimacy – Shared experiences promote intimacy in partnerships. If your partner is an avid rock climber, you don’t have to start climbing with them, but finding common pursuits or activities that you both enjoy doing together will help foster your experiential intimacy. Date nights are an easy way to share intimate experiences.
Spiritual Intimacy – Having a shared belief system, or faith, is often noted as one of the most important [key] factors for maintaining a lasting relationships. It’s important to have a unified and commitment that is fairly equal if you want to keep your spiritual intimacy strong. If you and your partner do not consider yourselves as “religious” in nature, simply acknowledging that your [capital-R] Relationship is “bigger than the individuals involved,” can show you acknowledge it as an intangible and important reality worthy of honor and respect.
All four of these forms of intimacy create close connection and promote strong commitments between partners. While some forms of intimacy may be more crucial to one partner than the other, nurturing familiarity with one another can increase sexual attraction and foster closer physical intimacy.