October 30, 2022
Understanding Intimacy and How to Build It In a Relationship

Intimacy can be created (or recreated) across 4 main continuums: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. Intimacy is about creating a close, familiar and usually loving relationship with another person. The willingness to share our Self requires safety and trust, trust that our partner will have our back and keep our confidences private. Intimacy forms around all the little things and interactions that we have and share on a daily basis: our routine.

Intimacy…a term we hear often. A term that we are told we should have in our romantic relationships. A term that is often confused with physical or sexual connection. But what is Intimacy? How do we truly create intimacy with our partners?

Like other psychological traits, intimacy can be created (or recreated) across 4 main continuums: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. Intimacy is about creating a close, familiar and usually loving relationship with another person. The willingness to share our Self requires safety and trust, trust that our partner will have our back and keep our confidences private. Intimacy forms around all the little things and interactions that we have and share on a daily basis: our routine. It is the laughter, the inside jokes, the story that is unique to us. It is the losses and wins. It is the turning towards each other when life’s challenges strike. It is about liking each other more often than not!

Yet life stressors interfere with creating and nurturing intimacy. Not just the “big” life stressors like illness, divorce, death, but also the regular ADL’s (activities of daily living) such as kids, work, finances and extended families. Recognizing that our biggest resource for intimacy, our routine, can also be its biggest killer is key to resetting the relationship.

Physical intimacy is more than sexual intercourse. It is about touch in all ways: holding hands, kissing, fingers through hair. Physical touch is a very primitive human need. In its safest and most loving form, it is about affection and comfort. It can soothe and protect.

Emotional intimacy is about connection. It is about feeling heard and seen. It requires honesty, vulnerability and consistency. Sharing our thoughts and ideas, and then actively listening to our partner, i.e. without interruptions, judgment or profanity.

Cognitive intimacy is about intellectual chemistry. It is a “meeting of the minds.” The desire to explore and understand each other’s ideas, philosophies, etc. even when there are differences of opinion. This type of intimacy comes from the willingness and safety that comes from sharing ideas and getting to know all sides of each other…even the dark sides.

Spiritual Intimacy is about meaning and purpose. This is the level of understanding between partners that includes gratitude, grief, compassion and forgiveness. It is the conversations that discuss values, dreams and life directions.

Building (or rebuilding) intimacy needs the time and space for conversations, quiet companionship, laughter and playfulness – conversations about our dreams, goals and values. It is about intentionally setting aside time to talk and listen. Listening for our feelings and intentions, not just the words. It is about having grace in the face of imperfection and forgiveness when one or the other gets hurt. Being in tune with our Self and our needs and being willing to share those needs can be the compass that provides redirection and resetting.

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