We all have heard the word “intimacy”. It usually refers to mutual sharing, openness, closeness and vulnerability. It is present in close relationships mostly, like friendships and marriages. Sometimes the term is also used in the meaning of sexual interaction, but it is not limited to that. Here is what actual intimacy is:
“Real intimacy is a sacred experience. It never exposes its secret trust and belonging to the voyeuristic eye of a neon culture. Real intimacy is of the soul, and the soul is reserved.”― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.
Intimacy plays a significant role in a healthy social life. A person may find himself isolated if he avoids intimacy with others. Humans are social creatures; we depend on close personal relationships to thrive, so it is pointless to avoid intimate connections. Intimacy is a broad concept, so if you want to learn about different aspects of Intimacy, you are in the right place. Here I am going to discuss types and examples of intimacy, how you can build it in relationships and what some intimacy issues are. So let’s get started:
Types of intimacy
Forming deep, meaningful connections with others is important. The first thing we are taught is intimacy; when parents hold a baby with affection. That’s where we start to form intimate relationships, allowing us to be vulnerable, for building trust. Those who are in intimate relationships have lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and reduced stress level. There are about five different types of Intimacy; let’s have a look at these:
This is the kind of intimacy most people refer to when they hear the word. It involves, cuddling, touching, holding hands, kissing and of course sex. For a healthy and long-lasting loving relationship, physical intimacy plays a crucial role. There must be a comfort level developed between two romantic partners so that they can touch each other and enjoy physical intimacy. If there is no physical intimacy between two partners, they will not be able to cuddle or enjoy the foreplay. So one must know how to make the other partner comfortable and must know how the other partner prefers to be touched.
For some people, physical intimacy is not an issue as they think there are no emotions involved. But in a committed romantic relationship, physical intimacy must be meaningful only then can it make a bond stronger.
Partners in romantic relationships usually do not give this type of intimacy much importance. This is a kind of intimacy that occurs when we try to share our ideas, to know each other’s views and thoughts. Respectful discussions off and on, about different topics lead to healthy intellectual intimacy. In some cases of couples therapies, both partners are asked to read the same article and share their thoughts about it with each other.
We all are different, so have a different point of views and opinions on different topics, but that does not mean we can’t be in a relationship with a person of different views. There should be a sense of respect towards each other’s opinion. Every person in a relationship has the freedom to think for themselves. They should not be pressured to agree when they do not want to. We care for people who respect our views and care for our independent right of differences. The best way to create intellectual intimacy is by promoting healthy discussions, especially where both partners have different perspectives. There is no need to get angry or defensive. All you need is to accept what your partner thinks and respect his/her opinion.
Physical intimacy involves real physical touch; emotional intimacy takes this connection to another level. It is demonstrated through communication. Two partners are connected to each other at an emotional level. Well, it is rather difficult as one has to be vulnerable to make such a connection. It involves closeness between two individuals that allows them to share their emotions and thoughts. It involves sharing, dreams, fears, complicated feelings and disappointments. There is an expectation of support and understanding. Sometimes two people are totally different, having different thoughts on certain matters that might cause problems in emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy means there should be a safe space between two partners where they can express themselves without fear of being judged. There must be a significant amount of trust. We share our emotions with people who care about us just because we feel at ease to do so, but, there is a trust that they won’t hurt us and that we can express ourselves freely. We share everything in confidence and vent out everything as we feel comfortable with them and feel we can express our authentic truth. We expect that they won’t make us feel embarrassed. There should be a more introspective conversation between two partners so that they can foster emotional intimacy.
This type of intimacy occurs when two partners try new experiences together. Sharing these experiences brings two people closer not only in romantic relationships but friendships also. These experiences lead to some interesting private memories and inside jokes and intensify the connection even more. The concept of teamwork and working together in achieving a mutual goal can also establish closeness.
According to relationship coach Kingsley Moyo, “Our memories are closely linked to our senses”. He references how we are able to recall an odour even if we have never smelled it yet. He connects social media actions with experiential intimacy as “we tag people and events with an associated sense.”
So there is a need to try new adventures with your partner for increasing experiential intimacy. Plan activities that you can do together and have not done before. But keep in mind that there is no need to collaborate with every single thing; you two have your own lives too. Just try to have some shared experiences on and off so that you can make sweet memories together. Positive memories are very powerful.
Although it may seem like it refers to religion, it is not just that. This idea refers to sharing thoughts and ideas of a higher level, for instance, values and beliefs. Well, this could be via religion, but it can also look like sharing personal growth, mindfulness or meditation. It fulfils our needs to find the meaning of existence in this world. Religious practice can also be a part of this intimacy and can serve as a purpose. This and other kinds of spiritual intimacy can only establish when partners share poignant moments with each other. Worshipping and praying can also be included in this category.
Other types of Intimacy
Here are some other types of intimacy that are not only necessary in a romantic relationship but other important relationships in life like with siblings, parents, friends and colleagues:
Closeness: It allows you to understand the emotions of your loved ones. Closeness also helps in building a stronger connection with the people around you.
Togetherness: It is a pleasant feeling to be with someone. Togetherness is a feeling of happiness and closeness with family and friends.
Affinity: Affinity is a natural sense of liking and understanding towards another person. It works best in friendships and romantic relationships.
Rapport: It is a close and harmonious relationship where people try to understand each other’s ideas and emotions with respect. This kind of relationship also works well in the workplace.
Attachment: A sense of attachment with a person makes everything easy. It creates a comfortable environment where two people can share their fears and emotions without worrying about judgments.
Familiarity: It means you are familiar with the person, how he behaves, what he likes and what he doesn’t. A sense of familiarity is very important in friendships and romantic relationships.
Confidentiality: You can only be intimate with a person if there is a sense of confidentiality. If your secrets are not secure with a person, you can’t trust him.
Examples of intimacy
It is not like you will wake one day and feel like, we are intimate now, no. It is like a quality that you cultivate over time gradually. The more you spend time with your partner in sharing experience and emotions;the more you will be able to build intimacy with your partner. It is not easy at all. You have to be vulnerable and trust a person, and there is a possibility that he/she may let you down. I have shared types of intimacy that have cleared the whole concept and also clarified some misunderstandings associated with it. Let me share some examples of intimacy that will help you in further understanding intimacy and what it consists of:
- A woman comes home after a long day and shares a stressful event that happened at the workplace that she did not feel comfortable sharing with coworkers at that time. Her partner tries to provide emotional support to validate her emotions. It is an example of emotional intimacy.
- A couple is discussing the importance of college education or any such topic that is most probably not related to the relationship. But they just wanted to know what their partner has to say or thinks about it. They are just enjoying the conversation without feeling the need to be right. It is an example of intellectual intimacy.
- A couple decides to visit the nearest restaurant they have never been to or planned to visit a city they have never visited before so that they can discover it for the first time together. It is an example of experiential intimacy.
- A couple prefers reading some passages from their religious book before going to bed every night and praying together. Doing this helps them in getting relaxed. It is an example of spiritual intimacy.
- A Couple engaging in foreplay is an example of physical intimacy.
Intimacy, as I have mentioned above, is really important to thrive in this world. But for those having intimacy issues this can make things difficult for them. A very common term used for intimacy issues is “fear of intimacy”. If you have it, you may consciously avoid intimacy or may not realize that you are doing it. Having a fear of intimacy does not mean you do not want an intimate relationship, you may really want one, but you feel like you cannot allow yourself to be vulnerable you are afraid.
Symptoms of Intimacy fear
Intimacy issues may seem obvious, but sometimes these can be misinterpreted as indifference, coldness, and even anger. Someone who has intimacy issues may show the following symptoms:
- having trust issues
- having low self-esteem
- episodes of anger
- avoiding physical contact
- having trouble in forming close relationships
- unstable relationships in past
- unable to express feelings
- self-imposed social isolation
What causes intimacy issues?
There are plenty of things that can cause intimacy issues. It may be linked with past experiences, especially those related to childhood. It is more like a defence mechanism that you do not allow yourself to trust someone or be vulnerable around them because you do not want to get hurt again.
Intimacy issues may have their roots in fear of rejection. So you might not want to take the first step in building a relationship. You may have a fear of rejection because you have been through this before or you have seen others hurting from this, and you really don’t want this to happen with you.
You might have a fear of abandonment, for instance, you think once you lower your guard, the other person will leave. It can be because of something that happened in your childhood. It can be because of separation among parents or death.
Intimacy anxiety disorder
Intimacy anxiety disorder, also known as avoidant personality disorder affects about 2.5% of the population. It equally affects men and women, and most probably starts in childhood. If you have this disorder, you will show the following symptoms:
- Awkwardness, shyness, low self-esteem
- Fear of humiliation or judgment
- Avoiding social situations
- Oversensitive towards criticism
- An exaggerated sense of possible problems
The exact cause of this disorder is not known, but it is suggested that it runs in families. According to a theory, genetic and sometimes environmental factors are responsible for causing this disorder. Abandonment or rejection at any age can trigger it.
Childhood sexual abuse
Sexual abuse during childhood can also cause intimacy issues. A person will feel difficulty in forming intimate sexual or emotional relationships. Childhood sexual abuse makes it difficult to trust another person to be intimate. Intimacy linked with childhood sexual abuse may include the following symptoms:
- Difficulty becoming aroused
- Thinking of sex as an obligation
- Feelings of disgust or anger
- Feeling guilt when touched.
- Emotionally distant during sex
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Physical issues like erectile dysfunction, pain or having difficulty with orgasm
Some other causes may include parental neglect, physical or verbal abuse, overdependence on the family on parents, fear of losing oneself or being controlled in a relationship.
How to diagnose fear of intimacy?
Diagnosing intimacy issues or fear of intimacy is a task for a professional, but first, there is a need to rule out any physical problems. So you need to start with a physical checkup, especially if you haven’t had a checkup for a long while. Once this option is ruled out, your doctor will be more likely to refer you to a qualified mental health specialist.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are experts in conducting evaluations and diagnosing anxiety disorders, for instance, avoidant personality disorder or fear of intimacy.
How to deal with intimacy issues?
If you want to overcome your intimacy issues first, you need to find out the root cause. Why do you have them? And how severe these issues are? If the situation is not severe, you may deal with it on your own or a therapist assisting you with the help of behavioural therapy. But if it is because of trauma, or depression, extensive coaching and therapy:
In some cases, you may know that you have intimacy issues, but sometimes you do not even realize it. You may try to avoid social situations or relationships for unclear reasons. You will notice certain symptoms mentioned above if you have intimacy issues. All you need is to identify the pattern. Once you do , you will have a list of things that you need to work on. It would be helpful if you consider working it out with a mental health professional who will assist you with introspective assessment.
Figure out your boundaries
There is no need to feel embarrassed of having your guard up, especially when you actually know why you did this. For instance, fear of intimacy is an understandable response to any kind of trauma, like childhood neglect or sexual assault. After abuse, it is normal to try to protect yourself from judgment and any further harm by isolating from the remaining world intimacy issues are common.
Try to identify what triggers your fear and what helps you to feel safe. Once you have identified these two things set boundaries consciously, you want to keep and shift away from the ones you don’t feel are useful and beneficial in your life.
It is really hard to build trust with someone who does not know that you have intimacy issues. In case you have a romantic partner, you need to tell him/her that it is not easy for you to make intimate relationships and that you are working on it. If you are comfortable with them also try to share why it is so difficult for you. Sharing your reasons will help them in understanding your situation, and they will also help you in coping up with these issues. It is completely fine to share with people in your life about what you want from them to feel secure in the relationship. Let people know your needs give them insight into what makes you feel safe and secure.
Seek professional help
Dealing with intimacy issues is not easy, whether they are severe or not. There is nothing wrong in reaching out for help. So if you are facing issues in intimacy, I would suggest you seek professional help. Only a professional can assess the whole situation and come up with the best solution.
Intimacy in relationship
Intimacy in a relationship is of great importance. Relationships are complicated to handle. If a person has intimacy issues, it will automatically affect his/her relationship. In some cases, it happens that long term relationships lost intimacy which is also terrible. To enjoy a healthy, happy and romantic relationship intimacy is a must. Here are some suggestions for you to reignite or sparking intimacy in a relationship:
Show your appreciation
You love your partner; you feel gratitude towards them for what they do for you, so why not show this gratitude to them. There is a quote that goes like this:
“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”― John Joseph Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love.
Take some time to appreciate the efforts of your partner. It will make them feel good. Sharing favours, little gifts and even a simple thank you can go a long way.
Try to learn about each other.
I know what you are thinking; you think that I know this person that’s why I am in a relationship with him/her. But the point is we all grow with time; we always have more to learn about each other. Share stories, ask each other questions and play some fun games to know each other. The most important thing here is listening. If you listen to each other, you will be able to understand why your partner cares about certain things.
Spend quality time together
Giving each other time is the best thing you can do for your partner. Quality time is the most precious thing you can give to someone for establishing an intimate relationship. You need to connect with your partner on a regular basis. If you two have really busy schedules spare at least 10-15 minutes before bedtime to check in with each other. Don’t have time? No need to arrange a romantic date just go out have a nice cup of coffee or a walk discuss life, and you are good. But do not let romance fade away in your relationship.
In a romantic relationship, sex plays an important role, so it should be exciting, but with time things may feel dull. But you can make it exciting by mixing things up with fantasies and new outfits. Keep in mind that physical intimacy is not all about sex; you can show physical affection without sex, with the help of warm gestures like cuddles, caressing, kissing etc.
Intimacy can make your relationships more exciting and more loving. It adds meaning to your relationship. So if you have intimacy issues, you need to deal with them; otherwise, you cannot enjoy a healthy relationship.
No doubt building intimacy is one of the most rewarding things to enrich one’s life. So allow yourself to seek out insightful and meaningful relationships you deserve in life. Do not reserve yourself because of your past. I have tried my best to share some useful information about intimacy, hope you will find it helpful. Call 03333443853 and have a free consultation today. BOOK FREE CONSULTATION HERE.