A truly healthy relationship is built on a lot of things, including intimacy. When you think of intimacy, you think of sex, but it’s so much more than that.
In Latin, “intimacy” means “deepest.” In its simplest form, intimacy is the degree of closeness between two people. It’s not just a physical thing that makes a relationship “intimate.” In fact, there are five kinds of intimacy: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social. Intimacy is the glue of a relationship. Lack of intimacy can cause a bit of disruption in a relationship, making things feel less secure, less loving, or not healthy enough.
With all that being said, these are the five different kinds of intimacy and why they’re important:
Physical intimacy can be sexual and having ways around the bedroom, but it can also be simple touching: hand-holding, hugging, kissing, cuddling, and giving massages. We all have different needs when it comes to physical intimacy. For example, you might enjoy cuddling and need it to fall asleep. Or maybe you don’t like the way they kiss. Whatever you are feeling, you have to communicate it with your partner so that you can be on the same page. The two of you should know what each other likes and doesn’t like.
Not only is it important to talk to each other about your needs, but it’s also important to put in that effort to make sure both of you are getting your needs met. Physical intimacy needs to be safe. It needs to feel good. It’s important to set boundaries, communicate your needs, and make an effort to understand what each other likes and dislikes.
Not many people are able to open up and talk about their feelings. And that’s okay! While emotional intimacy is about connecting on a deeper level and talking about your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires, it’s also about feeling safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable.
Emotional intimacy is about being comfortable enough to talk about your emotions and who you are at your core. You should be able to, without crossing any boundaries, talk about your childhood. You should be able to talk about bad days at work, how your therapy session went, or if you’re feeling anxious about something.
Every healthy relationship has established trust, communication, and a no-judgment awareness of one another. Being able to put down your walls and let someone in is important if you want to really connect and really be intimate with your partner.
Intellectual intimacy is all about being curious and willing to learn from one another. It’s about being open and comfortable enough to talk about things without fear or judgment.
For example, you should be able to talk about politics or current events, sharing views and opinions, without getting angry or impatient or disrespecting one another. Or maybe you are super intrigued by aliens and UFOs and all the evidence of their existence. If your partner doesn’t fully believe in them the way you do, that’s fine, but they should still listen, respect your ideas, and not judge.
We all have different views and opinions on things, and not every relationship is going to have partners who are on the same page about all of it. Intellectual intimacy is about having those discussions, learning from one another, and trying to connect on a different level.
Spirituality can be a deeply personal thing. We all have different beliefs on religion, the paranormal, life after death, astrology, and everything in between. You and your partner don’t have to agree on everything — and you most likely won’t — but you do have to be willing and comfortable enough to have discussions about things. It’s okay if you believe in astrology but your partner doesn’t, as long as they’re willing to listen to you talk about it.
Spiritual intimacy is about feeling comfortable enough to have those uncomfortable conversations. You don’t have to agree on everything or anything, it’s just about being safe enough to talk about the deep things in life.
Also considered “experiential intimacy,” this is about quality time. Spending time and doing things together is crucial in a relationship because without it, I mean… what are you even doing?
If you want to build this up, try taking up a cooking class or working at a coffee shop together one day a week. Or make a point to go on date night every once in a while. Social intimacy is all about spending time together. You should enjoy your partner’s company and vice versa.
Intimacy doesn’t happen overnight. It is something you have to work on every day. But eventually, when you start to explore these parts of one another, you’ll be glad you tried.