Intimacy means different things for different couples. There are four key definitions of intimacy which will be discussed in this article, alongside what these definitions mean for you and your relationships. This article will also include how these different types of intimacy interact in a relationship and how they can change over time.
Let’s start by having a quick look at the dictionary definition of the word ‘intimacy’. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘intimate’ is defined as a noun, the state of having a close personal relationship with somebody.
If we unpick this definition, we can clearly see that the relationship needs to be ‘personal’, but not necessarily physical in order to be classed as intimate. Therefore, we can surmise that there are different types of intimacy, beside the physical one.
The opinion that intimacy is more than just sex is widely acknowledged. A fantastic way to think of intimacy is to consider a mutually consensual relationship where there is complete trust and emotion (often with physical closeness).
Intimacy is the ability to bare all to your partner, not purely in a physical way, and to be vulnerable and open with them. It is providing the opportunity for them to feel able to do the same.
These four definitions are seen as encompassing what the term ‘intimacy’ means to different people. We’re all individual, and to be intimate may mean something completely different to you, than it does to me.
The first time of intimacy we will look at is intellectual intimacy. This basically means do you and your partner connect on an intellectual level? Are you on the same wavelength? You can usually tell if you have an intellectual connection with somebody as you can spend hours on end speaking to them and not get bored.
This doesn’t have to mean that you are both as smart as each other, intellectual intimacy is nothing to do with your IQ. It is more to do with your processing of information and your attitudes towards various things.
Emotional intimacy is often the most difficult for people as it can make you feel vulnerable. If you are emotionally intimate you and your partner are able to let your guard down when you are around each other, without fear of judgement.
You will more than likely have a deep level of empathy for your other half, being able to feel what they are feeling. It can often feel amazing to know that somebody cares as much about the things that are important to you, as you do.
This refers to your beliefs and how open you are with your partner about them. It is a great feeling to know your partner respects your beliefs, but it is even better knowing your partner shares them.
This spiritual bond allows you to connect on a level beyond the relationship, you never seek to harm your partner as they are precious to you. If you have a deep spiritual connection, you will more than likely share the same life philosophy, meaning that big decisions in your relationship are pretty straight forward.
Sexual intimacy is most likely the one you thought of when you first began reading this article, especially as the word ‘intimate’ is the root of the word ‘intimacy’. Sexual intimacy definitely differs between couples, but it is most certainly more than just sex. It is the freedom to express your desires with your partner and to connect on this deeper level.
Once you feel comfortable doing this, you know that you have reached a deep level of intimacy. This can enable both you and your partner to feel both fulfilled, and an incredibly deep connection.
How Do These Definitions Interact Together?
All relationships will experience different levels of the four types of intimacy. One relationship may have a really deep sexual connection, but their spiritual intimacy could be considerably lower.
Whereas, another could have super deep intellectual and emotional intimacy, but lack the sexual intimacy. A lot of the time these levels fluctuate as your relationship grows and develops. It would be interesting and beneficial for you and your partner to discuss the definitions and see if there is one, or more, that you would like to work on.
You could even talk about how the different intimacy types have fluctuated and changed throughout your relationship. This would be a great way to develop your communication and provide you with a great opportunity to talk about your relationship.
Intimacy is defined in many different ways and, more than likely, every person you speak to will have a different opinion what intimacy is and what it means to them.
Similarly, all relationships experience different levels of intimacy, covering the four areas discussed, this is perfectly normal, and all relationships should be treated as something special and individual.
This article has hopefully opened your eyes to all of the different types of intimacy and how these interact within a relationship.
Try to discuss these with your partner and see if you both feel the same about intimacy and what it means to you. It opens the door for a nice, honest and healthy discussion.