When the word “intimacy” is introduced into a conversation, the most common meaning of that word is “sex.”
But intimacy is so much more than sex. Intimacy means deeply knowing another person and feeling deeply known. That doesn’t happen in a conversation in a bar or during a fun day at the beach or even at times during sex.
Deeply “knowing and being known” is not something that can happen fully in a short time. There are many types of intimacy upon which a strong marriage can be built. If sex is the only area of “intimacy” that a couple experiences, then there is very little left when sex is not possible because of illness, life circumstances or physical changes and challenges.
TYPES OF INTIMACY
Consider the different types of intimacy that are listed below and evaluate how your relationship rates in these different areas. You might use a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “we stink” and 10 being “we shine” on this one. (Really, we all know that there are no 10’s, so don’t exaggerate!)
- Emotional Intimacy. This is the closeness that develops as a couple shares their thoughts, feelings and desires. Each one becomes vulnerable and opens their heart to the other so that their mate knows what’s going on inside of them. Emotional intimacy is what makes a marriage last. You become each other’s best friend, confidant and encourager. Your partner is the first person that you go to in happy times or sad times. They’re the first person that you think of when you have good news. You know each other as well, or better, than you know yourself.
To enhance your emotional intimacy:
- Do your best to understand your mate… their hopes, fears, desires, joys, etc.
- Do a “highs and lows” conversation daily. Each of you express the high point and low point of your day and how it made you feel. Be empathetic and understanding.
- Be open and vulnerable to your mate. Trust them with the “not-so-good” parts of yourself. Emotional intimacy is to love and accept someone, “warts and all.”
- Spiritual Intimacy. Sharing spiritual beliefs and practices can prove to be the bond that holds a marriage together throughout all of their life together. Respect, understanding and appreciation for your partner’s beliefs is essential to spiritual intimacy. Have you shared your belief about the ultimate power, God or whatever you believe in, and how important your beliefs are to you? How do you believe that God or the ultimate power interacts with human beings – with you? What spiritual guidance or direction will/do you give your children? Spiritual intimacy not only strengthens the relationship between couples, but gives them the power to handle life’s crises far better than others who have not connected at this very deep and crucial level.
To enhance your spiritual intimacy:
- Have a conversation with your spouse about your worldview and spiritual beliefs
- Hold hands with your spouse and pray silent prayers. Squeeze their hand when you are done.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation with your mate. Read or listen to meditation from scripture.
- Attend religious services together and discuss what was taught and how it applies to your life.
- Go on a spiritual retreat together.
- Experiential and Recreational Intimacy. “Couples who play together, stay together.” While this might not be true in every case, participating in recreational activities draws a couple closer together and gives them many shared memories. Experiential intimacy is created when a couple shares new experiences together, whether it is dining at a restaurant that is new to you both or experiencing a new culture or learning a new game. It is experiencing activities or events together. It is about creating experiences and memories which you can discuss and share with each other.
To enhance your Experiential/Recreational Intimacy:
- Take a class together – cooking, painting, dancing, etc.
- Attend a concert or event together
- Plant a garden and cultivate it together
- Join an exercise group or gym together
- Intellectual Intimacy. This occurs when you develop a shared understanding about areas or issues in your relationship. It also is deepened as your share your thoughts, ideas and opinions with your mate without judgment or criticism.
To enhance your intellectual intimacy:
- Read a book together and/or study a new subject together
- Talk about your favorite music, songs and lyrics
- Watch highly related movies and discuss the plot, the philosophy behind it and why the protagonist behave the way he/she did
- Discuss morals and standards of behavior and why people do what they do
- Discuss world events and what effect they are having on your and our society
- Financial Intimacy. As you develop a plan for your finances and set financial goals together, your feelings of trust and confidence in each other is deepened. In this often-emotional area of marriage, it is important to understand the significance that money has for each of you – success, status, ability to accomplish dreams, security, etc.
To enhance your financial intimacy:
- Create a budget together
- Share your money style – spender or saver – and what drives that
- Share what significance money has to you – status, security, fulfillment of dreams, giving to worthy causes, etc.
- Share what your financial goals would be for 1, 5 and 20 years out.
- Sexual Intimacy. Sex can be a deeply satisfying experience when all of the other areas of intimacy are growing as well. Intimacy, knowing and being known, is as important as the act itself. For most couples, after a session of lovemaking, they feel most vulnerable and want to discuss their innermost thoughts, fears and dreams…well at least she does, he’s snoring! Seriously though, sexual intimacy can lead to emotional and even spiritual intimacy.
To enhance your sexual intimacy:
- Avoid any kind of distraction while having sex with your partner, to understand each other’s sexual needs.
- Take your mind off that office issue or whether the kids have gone off to sleep since it is a school night. Be in the moment.
- Know what your sexual desires are and what makes you happy. Only then can you think about letting your desires known to your loved one. Know their erogenous zones.
- Communication is the key to enhance sexual intimacy in the relationship. Share your likes and dislikes about sex, honestly with your partner
“Knowing and being known”, the definition of intimacy, and being accepted and loved in spite of our flaws is the fulfillment of our deepest desire. It has been said the intimacy is “into-me-see”. What a gift it is for your mate to see into you and still love and accept you! It takes courage and it means taking a risk to be loved like that.
Past emotional baggage and damage can hinder our ability to connect and prevent real intimacy in any or all of these areas. It is important to get help to heal from and let go of past hurts and experiences, and it is so worth it! You can have the love that you have always dreamed of.