Definition of intimacy in a relationship

Relationships - creating intimacy - Better Health Channel


Read the full fact sheet
  • Sharing your deepest thoughts and emotions with someone you love can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship.
  • Be aware of the need to explore ways to share intimacy without sex.
  • Intimacy in a relationship doesn’t just happen. It is built up over time.
  • Abuse or violence in a relationship destroys trust and intimacy and signals that the relationship is in trouble. 

Intimacy in relationships

Intimacy in a relationship is a feeling of being close, and emotionally connected and supported. It means being able to share a whole range of thoughts, feelings and experiences that we have as human beings. It involves being open and talking through your thoughts and emotions, letting your guard down (being vulnerable), and showing someone else how you feel and what your hopes and dreams are.

Intimacy is built up over time, and it requires patience and effort from both partners to create and maintain. Discovering intimacy with someone you love can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship.

Apart from emotional and sexual intimacy, you can also be intimate intellectually, recreationally, financially, spiritually, creatively (for example, renovating your home) and at times of crisis (working as a team during tough times).

Intimacy is achieved when we become close to someone else and are reassured that we are loved and accepted for who we are. Children usually develop intimacy with parents and peers. As adults, we seek intimacy in close relationships with other adults, friends, family and with a partner.

Intimacy and sex

It is important to share a whole range of emotions with a partner, otherwise some people begin to feel lonely and isolated regardless of how good their sexual experiences may be.

For many couples, ‘making love’ involves a sense of intimacy and emotional closeness. An intimate sexual relationship involves trust and being vulnerable with each other. Closeness during sex is also linked to other forms of intimacy including emotional and spiritual intimacy. Intercourse is only part of sexual intimacy which involves foreplay and other forms of physical intimacy.

Explore ways to share love and affection without sex and remember that sex includes many forms of physical contact. Often, the more a couple is intimate with each other in ways other than sex, the more fulfilling their sex life becomes.

Difficulties in creating intimacy

Some couples find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationship. Others can find that after achieving intimacy it seems to slip away. There are many reasons why some people find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationship. This is commonly the result of problems such as:

  • communication issues – if you and your partner are not communicating to each other what your feelings and needs are, then they are not likely to be met. If you do not feel understood by your partner then intimacy is hard to create or maintain. It’s important to talk to your partner about what you need and to check in with them about how they are feeling. This act alone can create a feeling of being connected and intimate
  • conflict– if there is ongoing conflict in your relationship, it can be difficult to develop intimacy. It is not easy to feel close to someone you are arguing with. Anger, hurt, resentment, lack of trust, or a sense of being unappreciated can all affect intimacy. If conflict is affecting your relationship, seek help:
    • Relationships Australia (Tel. 1300 364 277) offers counselling, mediation, dispute resolution, relationship and parenting skills education
    • Family Relationship Advice Line (Tel. 1800 050 321) provides advice for families experiencing relationship issues
  • practical issues – practical issues and life stressors such as financial worries, pressures at work, concerns about children, or just being too busy to really connect with each other can affect intimacy. There are times in a couple’s relationship when the needs of the couple have to be put aside while more pressing issues are dealt with, but it is important to try and carve out time together as a couple, even if it is a 5 minute check in or having a cup of tea together. Small moments of feeling close to each other all add up to a greater feeling of intimacy
  • abuse or violence – intimacy is damaged when one partner uses power inappropriately over the other. Abuse or violence in a relationship destroys trust and signals that the relationship is in trouble. It’s important that you seek help. For safety and support, call 1800 RESPECT on Tel. 1800 737 732
  • negative childhood experiences
  • past and current traumas
  • financial pressure
  • health issues.

We all have some barriers to intimacy. It is normal for couples to work together to overcome these barriers.

Intimacy is built up over time

Building and maintaining intimacy in a relationship takes time, and it takes some people longer than others. Often, the harder you work at developing intimacy in your relationship, the more rewarding it is.

Some suggestions for developing intimacy in your relationship include the following.

  • Celebrate the good things in your relationship. Tell your partner, in words and actions, how much you love and appreciate them. Let your partner know what you value about them and about the relationship. Put it into words and don't assume they already know. Everybody likes to be told that they are appreciated and loved.
  • Talk openly about your feelings and what you need from the relationship.
  • Create opportunities for intimacy. Take time out to be together as a couple when you can focus on each other and on your relationship. The harder it is to do this because of children, work or other commitments, the more important it is that you do it. Try to plan a regular evening, day or weekend for the 2 of you to be alone.
  • Accept that your relationship will have highs and lows. Continue to explore new ways of finding a deeper level of intimacy. These moments don’t need to be grand gestures of love. Taking time, even small moments, together is just as important as going on a date together.
  • Be positive and grateful about what you have in your relationship.
  • Be aware that both parties in a relationship need to initiate opportunities for creating intimacy.

Seeking help for relationship problems

Sometimes you may need help or guidance to sort through some of the problems, feelings and thoughts you have about your relationship. You could talk to a relationship counsellor, or go to a course or workshop that will help you and your partner overcome some of your relationship problems.

Remember, it is normal to have ups and downs in your relationship, and building and maintaining intimacy is part of having a fulfilling relationship.

Where to get help

  • A counsellor
  • Relationships Australia Tel. 1300 364 277
  • Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) Tel. (03) 9486 3077
  • 1800 RESPECT Tel. 1800 737 732
  • Beyond Blue Tel. 1300 224 636
  • Family Relationship Advice Line Tel. 1800 050 321
  • Gambling Help Online Tel. 1800 858 858
  • MensLine Australia Tel. 1300 789 978
  • QLife Tel. 1800 184 527

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4 Main Definitions of Intimacy and What they Mean For You

The dictionary defines “intimacy” as closeness or sexual intimacy, but did you know that there are more ways to define what types of intimacy are? 

An interesting way to define intimacy would be the blending of hearts. Intimacy with our partner allows us to “see into” who our partners are and makes our companion “see into” us as well.

The thing you need to ask yourself is this: what does intimacy mean to me? This can be a definition of intimacy in relation to marriage or any relationship. To define intimacy is really to determine how both of you relate to each other.

The meaning of intimacy

What is the meaning of intimacy? What is true intimacy? What are the different types of intimacy? And is intimacy without sex even possible?

Some in psychology today see relationship intimacy as more than just being close or being sexually intimate. The true definition of intimacy is not only about two bodies merging for physical intimacy or sex. It is deeper than that. 

‘What is intimacy meaning in a relationship’ or ‘What is intimacy in marriage’ could have a different meaning for different people. 

The concept of intimacy involves a mutually consensual relationship where two individuals reciprocate intimate moments and feelings of trust, emotional and physical closeness towards each other. 

Being intimate with your partner is more than just about the physical interaction between the two of you. Here are some types of intimacy that exist between two people.

Related Reading: How Important Is Intimacy in a Relationship

12 types of intimacy

Intimacy can mean different things to different people. Here are 12 types of intimacy you may experience with a loved one.

1. Intellectual intimacy

Are you both on the same wavelength? Do you “get” each other? Can you talk ‘til all hours of the night about anything and everything—even stuff like kids and finances? That is what is meant by the definition of intellectual intimacy.

It’s not that one person is smarter than the other; more so that you have a similar approach to life and enjoy conversing with each other. You may have different ideas, but you work to come together.

Apart from physical and emotional intimacy, a relationship needs a certain degree of intellectual homogeneity between the partners for a relationship to thrive. Ways to be intimate without being physical include intimacy of many other types. It is a type of intimacy that is very crucial.

An intellectually intimate relationship is where couples can indulge and contribute to each other’s lives through their intellectual prowess.

The laws of intellectual intimacy rely on the fact that people with similar intellectual capabilities are more compatible.

So here are a few things to keep in mind to harness intellectual intimacy:

  • Find and engage with people with the same attitude and desires as yours.
  • Look for people with similar interests and goals.
  • Bond with people with a similar set of loyalties and values.
Related Reading: Intimacy Refined: Growing Your Intellectual Intimacy

2. Emotional closeness

What’s the meaning of intimate relationships in terms of emotions? Or what is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy in marriage is when a couple’s intimacy develops as a strong sense of closeness and love with each other.

Such a relationship is defined by the extent to which the couple can feel secure, have trust, and communicate with one another.

When you are emotionally close, it means you are vulnerable. You let your guard down and feel safe doing so.

When you feel this kind of closeness, you can tell each other anything and feel accepted. You both can “feel” what the other person is feeling.

Many couples may have been together for a long time and still lack emotional intimacy. That’s because this one is probably the scariest. Often, they do not even recognize a lack of emotional intimacy in their lives until it is too late.

Here are a few things you can do to grow emotional intimacy in your marriage:

  • Spend quality time with your partner without distractions.
  • Be kind, respectful, loving, and compassionate towards your partner.
  • Explore new things and activities that you can do with your partner.
Related Reading: Significance of Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship

3. Spiritual bond

Probably the last thing you think about when you hear “intimacy” is spirituality. But if you believe that God or some higher power wants us to love each other, then it makes sense.

We aren’t here by accident, and somehow we find each other. We form strong connections. When you develop a spiritual bond, you both understand each other’s spiritual quest and beliefs.

You allow the relationship to have spiritual competence.

Why do we not harm others just because it’s the law? No, because we believe life is precious. That is a spiritual bond. When you achieve that in your intimate relationship, you are connected to your partner spiritually.

A spiritual intimate relationship meaning is when a couple mutually commits to respect, preserve, and enhance God’s purpose in their lives.

Spiritual intimacy is profound and intense, and it enables you and your partner to become the best versions of yourselves.

It teaches you to value the presence and will of God in your marriage and lives. It enriches your belief in something greater than yourself and demands a sacrifice in terms of shedding your natural sense of selfishness.

Here are a few things you must do to enrich your lives spiritually:

  • Believe in something higher than you and support each other to evolve into your beliefs.
  • Practice meditation
  • Address your psychological issues and how to overcome them.

Healthy intimate relationships have a spiritual intimacy, more often than not. 

4. Sexual expression

Being “intimate” is at the root of the word “intimacy,” but what does that mean? Is it just sex, or is it more than that? Is there a difference between sex and intimacy?

The definition of intimacy in a relationship is different from couple to couple.

But the ideal has to do with sexual expression. If you are both free to express yourself sexually and feel comfortable with each other, you have reached a good level of intimacy.

It is more than just sex—you are sharing that most unique part of yourself, and vice versa.

5. Understanding self and partner

Understanding is also a form of intimacy. Understanding self and partner, one must be honest with self and open to learning of one’s partner.   Intimacy is not selfish, but it is an action of love towards your mate. 

When one understands self – they know who they are and what they desire. This allows them to get to know their companion and be fully engaged. When this occurs, building intimacy creates space for emotional connection.

6. Mutual respect

Respect for each other shows intimacy in a very mature form. Mutual respect simply allows for each person to create space for difference and exemplifies your love in action.  

You have a shared responsibility when it comes to creating intimacy within the marriage. Moreover, each partner is accountable to the other to value, demonstrate appreciation, regard, and admiration.

Related Reading: 10 Reasons Why Respect Is Important in a Relationship

7. Communication

We can only really communicate with someone we are close with, and communication shows a different level of intimacy. Communication generates vulnerability, trust, and openness.   

Therefore, allowing each person to be fully present and engaged in the other’s needs, wants, and desires.  Thereby eliminating the focus of self but the focus of the other. This causes a vulnerability in each spouse and allows for freedom and recognition of the needs of the other.  

Related Reading: The Importance Of Communication In Marriage

8. Vulnerability

We only allow someone to see how vulnerable we can get when we are close with them. The vulnerability allows for sincerity and honesty between one another.  

Additionally, vulnerability recognizes that there is a need to be approachable and establish trust.  When partners are vulnerable, they dis-armor and re-engage on a level that acknowledges the desire for oneness.   

9. Trust

Trust is an important aspect of fostering intimacy.  It allows couples to have confidence that their partner is loyal, honest, and committed to the marital relationship.   

Each aspect outlined portrays intimacy as more than a sexual act, but rather an emotional connection that invites and produces an emotive merging of two, becoming one that supports mutual respect, communication, vulnerability, and trust.  In conclusion, couples must unmask and make space for the other to participate in the act of intimacy. 

Here are some other definitions of intimacy as described in the Bible or other religious scriptures.

Related Reading: Building Communication, Respect, and Trust in Your Relationship

10. Intimacy between spouses

Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.  

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (Barker 2008)

The scripture describes the need for mutuality of love, affection, compassion, security, and protection.  

It articulates the need for a connection between a husband and wife. Each is responsible and accountable to one another to ensure intimacy.  Not just sexual, but emotional and physical. Lastly, it illustrates the equality between spouses. (Catherine Clark Kroeger 2002).

11. Passion with vulnerability

Song of Solomon 1-5 is a book of poetry in the Bible, which describes a love song sung by King Solomon and his bride to be the Shulamite maiden.  

It provides validation of intimacy within marriage and the beauty of love, intimacy, and sex for married couples.  It illustrates passion, vulnerability, and joy that can be achieved for couples through intimacy. The ability to connect both physically and verbally.  

Raewynne J. Whiteley explores inviting love, finding complementarity, yearning fulfilled, searching for love, exploring dimensions of love, and universalizing love as she fully engages the text. (Catherine Clark Kroeger 2002) Song of Solomon clearly conveys the pledge and importance of love and emotional connection.  

Furthermore, exemplifies a romantic demonstration of their passion and desire for one another. The poetic narrative is an enduring love story that provides insight into the fears that may threaten relationships and gives insight into the power of love and commitment to overcome during times of uncertainty.

12. Independence

In Intimacy and Solitude:  Balancing Closeness and Independence, she writes, “Bringing intimacy and solitude together explicitly acknowledges that those needs exist in relationship to each other:  that your knowledge of others grows with knowledge of yourself; that you are likely to need relationships while also wanting to express your individuality; that you need closeness and protection as well as autonomy.” (Dowrick 1995)  

She illustrates the importance of having a clear understanding of self and allowing freedom within the relationship. That one does not have control over the other, but instead, there is mutual respect and a sense of self that is needed to allow connection on an intimate level.   

Related Reading: 11 Stages of Physical Intimacy in a New Relationship

Final Takeaway

All in all, each type of intimacy is a process. It can change, so work on it with your partner for a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship. You can also seek intimacy counseling to enhance your relationship.

The above-shared definitions of intimacy and what they mean to you can be an excellent base for building everlasting intimacy with your significant other.

 Defining and exploring so many levels of intimacy is an exciting journey that you must take.

Intimacy in relationships

Author: Butsovska Tetyana
Category: International problems

30 spring

Intimacy in relationships is a great value, which speaks of the quality of these relationships. As opposed to dependent relationships. Proximity is primarily a process of approaching - distancing. This is a constant choice of the distance of comfortable interaction with the Other, and this distance is always fickle.

It is always a risk to be without masks and protections, faced with vulnerability, loneliness and rejection. It's like a dance of two partners, two personalities. Where there is the ability not to depend on the Other. There is a capacity for unity and autonomy, there are boundaries of I and YOU. When I love you, but today I want to read a book and be alone without feeling guilty about leaving you alone. When you want to support a partner, but now he is annoying ... closeness is experienced as the integrity of life in the presence of another person. Intimacy is always a two-way process.

The ability to have close relationships implies, firstly: the desire to get close to another person, and secondly, the ability to feel one's own boundaries, to distinguish and respect other people's boundaries, the ability to be separate. And to face your loneliness and rejection, to live it without being destroyed in the process. For this, a positive experience of living loneliness, rejection should be formed. The experience of living intimacy and trust in childhood is important ... with mom.

Some, after childhood traumas, do not dare to experience such living at all. It’s easier to go into cynicism, humor, sex, rejection, run away ... in your defenses, in general, do everything so as not to risk reliving the experience again, when the one who is so needed not only rejected my offer or my act, he rejected ME, me in my essence, accusing along the way of some of my badness. Therefore, in order for intimacy to happen, it is important that trust is formed in the relationship.

It is also impossible to talk about intimacy, ignoring the phenomenon of dependence. These are two different experiences and different experiences. But people often mistake addiction for intimacy, but that's not the case. In a dependent relationship there are no separate autonomous personalities, here I am not separate from the other, there is no way to see the partner as he really is. When without another person there is no me, there is no life, when I cannot be without him. But it's hard to be with him.

In such a relationship it is safe, there is no responsibility for oneself, and all responsibility is shifted to the partner, he must take care of me, satisfy my needs, where he acts more as a parental figure. In such a relationship, there is a lot of expectation of unconditional acceptance and love. In fact, it resembles a parent-child relationship, when he did not separate from his mother, from her sissy ... and the partner, in fact, continues to be this mother ....

The road from addiction to intimacy is a whole journey of growing up, experiencing acceptance, rejection, loneliness, disappointment and unjustified expectations for the world and partner. Establishing the boundaries of the individual, thus separating oneself from the other. And the risk to live intimacy, to feel it in communion with the Other. Where you are is you.

And I am me. If we accidentally meet each other, it's wonderful.

And if not, so be it. So intimacy can happen, or maybe not ... then so be it.

Closeness to you in a relationship!

Butsovska Tetyana

Intimacy in a couple relationship - Tarkvanem never. The feeling of falling in love is all-encompassing, and the only desire is to be together. Partners feel like a single whole, one dissolves into the other. At this time, many of the needs of everyday life do not seem so important.

At this time, it is difficult for partners to formulate many expectations about the relationship and their partner. However, after 1–1.5 years after the start of a relationship, their own needs begin to play a large role. Two people cannot endlessly count and feel the same thing. This creates tension in the relationship, and a time begins when the feeling of falling in love either decreases or gets the opportunity to develop into love between two completely different people.

Relationships of couples who are not ready to commit themselves strongly and for a long time fade away. To a lesser or greater extent, this is a painful process, but all relationships that a person experiences are valuable, because being in a relationship can only be learned by being in them . Each new relationship experience helps to better understand yourself and your needs, and also forms more realistic expectations.

Couple relationships are the most difficult relationships in the world. They are influenced by everything that happens in the world, around these relationships and within the person himself. In couple relationships, people are so close to each other that the most important knowledge in order to show the real you is the reliability of the partner. Only when there is an awareness that the partner will not criticize or reject, when he can be shown his needs and true self, can he be emotionally accessible and open.

The more reliable the relationship becomes, the more independent and separate a couple can be, without fear of losing the other. Intimacy is then possible without physical presence and panicked grasping. You can trust each other and find a balance between two opposing desires - to be independent and to be together.

When two people have reached intimacy, it is their joint effort that is now bearing fruit.

Being together is easier for couples who have good interpersonal skills. They are flexible, supportive, adapt well to change and accept themselves. For couples who want to be together but lack these skills, life can sometimes get very difficult. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned and there is room for improvement in this area.

Commitment to one person is a decision, but a couple relationship is a team effort.

It is important to remember that people in couples develop at different rates and their motivation for change is not the same or simultaneous.

Joint development in relationships is much more important than how they started. The longer people have grown up together, the more they love their relationship.
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