Intimacy is the feeling of closeness and connection you develop with special people in your life. Each relationship may involve different types of intimacy.
Many relationships, such as friendships and parent/child relationships, may be intimate. And then, there are intimate romantic relationships that may require a few extra conditions.
There are different types of intimacy. Intimacy can be physical, intellectual, emotional, or even spiritual. It’s a feeling that many people develop with their closest loved ones. Some experts believe that, for romantic relationships to be successful, you may need to nourish all types of intimacy.
How can you tell if you and your partner have achieved a deep level of intimacy?
A few signs that may indicate a healthy bond include:
- mutual and persistent trust
- feeling safe being emotionally vulnerable with each other
- practicing and expressing acceptance of one another
- sharing inner thoughts and feelings without fear of being judged
- offering mutual emotional support and encouragement despite differences
- emotional availability
- emotional security
- sharing experiences
- persistently expressing emotions and care
Examples of intimacy in a relationship
- Emotional intimacy might look like offering emotional support, encouragement, and a space to vent during a time of stress or grief.
- Intellectually intimate partners might feel they can freely share new ideas without fear of being judged.
- Spiritual intimacy might lead two partners to talk about their deepest spiritual beliefs, even if not shared.
- Physical intimacy can include sexual relations but could also look like safe touch in the form of hugging, kissing, or cuddling.
There isn’t one “right” answer to this question. People with different personalities may prioritize specific types of intimacy.
Some partners may highly value intellectual intimacy and sharing of ideas, while others may feel that’s less important as long as their emotional needs are met.
Some couples may feel that frequent sexual intimacy is necessary for their relationship. Others may spend more time building an emotional and intellectual bond.
Researchers have found that different types of intimacy can influence each other. For example, a
Codependency involves neglecting your needs to constantly prioritize your partner’s needs.
You might do this because you’re afraid your partner will leave you if they don’t “need” you enough, for example. Or, you may have grown up with parents who made you responsible for their emotional states. Perhaps you’re unsure about your role in a relationship if it’s not caring for your partner. These are some of the possible reasons behind codependent traits.
Taking care of those you love isn’t a problem in itself. Kindness and attention are necessary for every connection.
There may be times you must temporarily put your own needs aside. For example, your partner might have health challenges and need someone to care for them. Or they might face a stressful situation at work and need plenty of emotional support.
But in healthy intimate relationships, it isn’t a good idea to put your own needs aside indefinitely. It’s important that your partner returns the favor by supporting you when you need it, too, and that you feel comfortable with that.
Intimate relationships allow both partners to care for each other.
If you want to nourish intimacy with your partner, here are some healthy relationship tips to consider.
1. Being vulnerable
Vulnerability means openly expressing your feelings, thoughts, fears, and past hurts with your partner. It’s about being your true self in front of them.
Encouraging your partner to be vulnerable with you and respecting that space may bring you together. In turn, you may feel comfortable and safe being vulnerable with them.
2. Expressing appreciation
For emotional and physical intimacy to flourish, both partners may need to openly express how much they care and value each other.
Words of affirmation might include compliments, congratulations for an accomplishment, or just telling them how much you love and appreciate them.
3. Noticing what’s important to the other person
You may not share all of your partner’s interests, but respecting and encouraging those can help you build a healthy intimate relationship.
Consider talking with your partner about their favorite hobby, TV show, book, or other areas of interest. You don’t have to be involved in everything they do, but providing a space where they can share their passions and goals can help strengthen intimacy.
4. Talking about your feelings
Letting your partner in on your good and bad emotions can help create a powerful bond. This is part of being vulnerable with one another.
Try to express your emotions and let your partner know how you feel regarding their behaviors, for example.
5. Making time to focus on each other
In a world full of distractions, it’s important to pause and turn your attention to your partner.
Consider setting aside time to spend together while actively listening to each other and leaving all distractions behind.
Some couples do regular “date nights,” for example. But making time to talk on the couch every night or having breakfast together can also be helpful.
6. Sharing fun experiences
Building positive memories together can be important in establishing a healthy intimate relationship. Learning new things or going on new adventures together can be a powerful bonding experience.
Sharing fun experiences doesn’t need to be something elaborate. It could involve going to a new coffee shop, reading the same book, or doing some gardening. The idea is to do things that you haven’t done together yet.
7. Keeping it fresh
When a relationship starts to feel predictable, routine may become a challenge for intimacy. Introducing change could help.
Besides doing something new together, you may benefit from developing skills and behaviors that strengthen the bond. For example, you may start writing romantic letters to each other or making a relationship bucket list.
The idea is to nourish the “new relationship” feeling while taking advantage of all the intimacy and trust you’ve already built.
If you want to assess if you have a healthy intimate relationship, consider how much you trust each other, if you accept each other for who you are, and whether you share your inner thoughts or keep them to yourself.
Not all intimate relationships are identical. Some people need one type of intimacy more than others, and that’s OK as long as both people’s needs are met.
Another measure of healthy intimacy is whether both partners can offer each other support in times of need. If one partner is always setting their needs aside and seldom or never receiving the same level of support from the other, this could be a sign of codependency.
Seeking help from a therapist or couple’s counselor might help.