Intimacy is the closeness between people in personal relationships.
It’s what builds over time as you connect with someone, grow to care about each other, and feel more and more comfortable during your time together.
It can include physical or emotional closeness or even a mix of the two.
You’ve probably heard of intimacy in the context of sex and romance.
For example, people sometimes use the term “being intimate” to mean sexual activity.
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 and that’s because 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 your partner while you watch a movie together, while your partner can’t wait to take a walk after the movie to feel closer to you.
That’s because intimacy means different things to different people.
Your specific idea of intimacy may be influenced by your interests, communication style, or preferred ways to get to know someone.
To figure out what intimacy means to you, consider the types of intimacy.
Intimacy falls into several different categories.
5 Types of Intimacy in a Relationship
Emotional intimacy is what allows you to tell your partner personal things that you might not necessarily share with strangers.
Think of it as letting your guard down.
As you learn that you can trust someone, you feel safe enough to let your walls down.
Do you look forward to coming home from work so you can relax and be yourself with your partner? If yes..
This is what it means to have emotional intimacy.
Intellectual intimacy involves getting to know how another person’s mind works and sharing the map to your mind too.
It builds as you exchange ideas and have meaningful conversations.
You know that deep philosophical discussion that helped you realize your classmate wasn’t just a classmate, but also a friend?
Or the first time you stayed up all night talking to your partner and felt that “spark” of connection?
These moments brought you closer because you shared intellectual intimacy.
Physical intimacy is about touch and closeness between bodies.
In a romantic relationship, it might include holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and having sex.
Your relationship doesn’t have to be sexual or romantic to have physical intimacy.
A warm, tight hug is an example of physical intimacy with a friend.
You build experiential intimacy by spending quality time with someone and growing closer over common interests and activities.
There’s nothing quite like the way you bond with someone over your mutual love for the same interests.
Spirituality means different things to different people, so spiritual intimacy can vary too.
Generally speaking, spirituality is about belief in something beyond the physical realm of existence.
That belief can be in a higher power, in human souls, or in a greater purpose, for example.
Spiritual intimacy can look like sharing a common value like kindness, being on the same wavelength about organized religion, or feeling like you were meant to be in each other’s lives.
These are the most common types of intimacy but in each intimacy realm, there are key factors that make it all come together, especially in a relationship where partners are each other’s complete opposite.
7 Key Factors
In order to share personal parts of yourself — like your most embarrassing secrets or your deepest fears — you have to be able to trust your partner.
Showing another person that you’re trustworthy can help them feel closer to you too.
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’ll hear your “guilty pleasure” music playlist and think you’re weird.
But as intimacy grows, you can rock out to your favorite music and trust that no matter how weird you get, you’ll still be accepted and cared for.
Honesty and intimacy feed one other. You often can’t have one without the other.
You feel comfortable telling your partner exactly how you feel because you’ve become so close to each other.
And in the same vein, every time you open up, you can grow a little bit closer.
You’ll know your partner is willing to listen the next time you want to share something personal.
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.
Feeling cared about is a lovely feeling, isn’t it?
Forgiveness and understanding can only exist with compassion between people.
Compassion is a natural component of caring about one another’s well-being.
Caring about each other is one thing, but you also build intimacy by showing that you care.
Affection can be physical, like a kiss between partners or a hug between a parent and child, but it doesn’t have to be.
Sometimes affection is in the unspoken ways you show up for each other.
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 of each other.
And the more you understand each other, the closer you become.
Intimacy usually, doesn’t happen in a flash, it must be built.
You won’t wake up one morning and say, “We’re intimate now. Mission accomplished!”
Intimacy is more like a quality that you continue to cultivate over time.
The more time you spend sharing experiences and feelings, the more elements you have to work with to build intimacy.
Plus it also doesn’t come easy.
You might feel some apprehension, or even fear, about building intimacy.
That’s understandable, considering that intimacy requires you to be vulnerable and put faith in other people when there’s a chance they’ll let you down.
If anyone has ever violated your trust, it can take a while to want to take a chance with them or anyone else again.
Building intimacy is one of the most rewarding ways to enrich your life.
Give yourself permission to seek out the meaningful connections you deserve.