A lot of people wrongly assume that intimacy starts and stops with sex. But sex is only one of the ways to express intimacy in a relationship.
There are other types of intimacy that are crucial to every relationship.
Cultivating intimacy in a relationship is an important part of maintaining that relationship and making sure that it’s healthy. So don’t just settle for sex when you want to build intimacy and bond with your partner.
You’re about to learn about all the types of intimacy in a romantic relationship with examples of how to build each of them. However, let’s first discuss the subject of intimacy and what it really means for you and your relationship.
What is intimacy in a relationship?
Intimacy is that special feeling of being close and connected to another person, and it’s the foundation of every healthy long-term relationship.
Having intimacy in your relationship not only brings you closer to your partner, it also contributes to your physical health and mental health. However, don’t assume that having sex is enough to have this level of intimacy.
There are actually 5 types of intimacy: physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and experiential intimacy.
Each of these types of intimacy is crucial for making a relationship work in the long run. So how can you express all these types of intimacy? Read on to find out.
The 5 Types Of Intimacy
Feel close and connected to your partner in more ways than one by cultivating all the types of intimacy. And if you’re wondering how to do this…you’re about to find out!
1. Physical intimacy.
Physical intimacy certainly involves body closeness, but it’s not just that. Hugging, cuddling, and other forms of touches are also examples of physical intimacy.
It’s important to make a person feel safe and comfortable with these touches while respecting their boundaries.
It might be difficult to get close to someone with intimacy issues, but it’s important to cultivate this form of intimacy. Help your partner learn to express and enjoy physical intimacy outside of sex.
How to cultivate physical intimacy:
Obviously sex is one of the ways couples build physical intimacy. This can include oral sex and other forms of sexual touches. While sex is an important part of a romantic relationship, it shouldn’t be the only type of physical intimacy you share.
Couples can connect and be affectionate with each other by cuddling and through other types of gentle touching. Cuddling is more than a form of foreplay, and it doesn’t have to lead to sex for it to bring you closer together.
Obviously you should kiss each other to develop physical intimacy. You can do this whenever you meet and while cuddling. Share romantic moments with each other and don’t let your kisses turn into a routine. Enjoy each and every one of them to the fullest.
Sometimes you should simply hug to make each other feel safe and sound. You don’t have to touch your partner in a sexual way to build physical intimacy, and a simple hug can make your partner feel safe and connected to you.
Sit close together.
You should also sit close together whenever appropriate. Sometimes this is enough to make your partner feel safe and cared for even if they’re not an affectionate person. Maybe they’re not that into kissing and hugging, but simply being close can help them relax enough to enjoy these other things as well.
Hold hands while you take a walk in the park or when you go on a shopping trip. You can also hold hands to offer emotional support when your partner is going through something difficult or while you’re on a romantic dinner date.
Any type of skin-to-skin contact cultivates physical intimacy with your partner. However, you don’t even have to have skin-to-skin contact to do this. Something as simple as playing with your partner’s hair counts too.
2. Emotional intimacy.
You have emotional intimacy in your relationship when you feel safe to share your deepest emotions and fears with your partner. You know that you’re going to be cared for no matter what you say.
You can talk to them about what worries you, whether it’s related to your relationship or other aspects of your life. You know that they’ll be there for you and that they’ll listen and try to empathize.
It can be difficult to cultivate emotional intimacy with someone who is afraid of intimacy due to bad past experiences. However, you can work on developing trust and making them feel secure enough to share their feelings with you.
How to cultivate emotional intimacy:
Engage in deep conversations.
Feel closer to each other by engaging in long, meaningful, and deep conversations. Talk about your wants, your hopes for the relationship, and your fears. Emotional intimacy is built when we feel understood.
Small talk is fine sometimes, but don’t let what happened that day, or the upcoming weekend plans, be all that you talk about. Have important conversations that make you feel connected on a deeper level so you can bond over serious topics.
Open up about things that you don’t share with others.
You don’t feel safe talking about certain things with other people, but when you share them with your partner, you’re building a deeper connection with them. Open up about things that you don’t share with others, whether they’re problems at work, family troubles, or personal issues and insecurities.
Listen to your partner, ask them questions, and try to understand them.
Emotional intimacy is all about actively listening to your partner and being curious to learn more about them and their feelings. Ask them questions to better understand them. Show empathy and look at things from their point of view. Even if you can’t relate to them, show that you can understand them.
Be honest and open with each other.
You should generally be honest and open with each other to build emotional intimacy. Most importantly, you should feel safe enough to be honest and open. Build trust in a relationship and respect each other enough to keep each other’s secrets.
Talk about your wants, your future, and your fears.
What do you want from this relationship? What are you hoping to achieve in the future, and where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? What are you most afraid of right now in your life? Talk about these things to build a deeper connection with your partner.
Talk about the problems in your relationship.
What issues are you currently facing in your relationship? How could you improve your relationship so that it’s healthier and more likely to work out? When you talk about these things, you’re expressing and developing emotional intimacy in your relationship.
Be vulnerable with each other and offer emotional support and validation to one another.
Validate your partner’s feelings and offer emotional support when they show their vulnerable side. And expect the same in return!
It’s very important that you both feel safe enough to be vulnerable and that you can talk about your biggest fears and hopes. Most importantly, your partner should make you feel cared for and loved. They should also validate your feelings and show compassion, support, and understanding.
3. Intellectual intimacy.
Can you communicate your point of view without worrying that you’ll get into a fight with your partner? Do you share ideas and beliefs even if you and your partner disagree on some things? Have you had stimulating conversations where you felt challenged but knew that your opinions were valued?
Intellectual intimacy is formed when your partner stimulates you intellectually without arguing with you or forcing you to agree with them. You can have stimulating conversations without getting into a fight over opposing views. In fact, you like to compare your points of view and learn from each other’s perspective.
How to cultivate intellectual intimacy:
Discuss things that you disagree on without getting angry.
Your partner shouldn’t pressure you into agreeing with them or argue with you just because you disagree with them on certain things. This challenging aspect of your conversation should stimulate you to compare and discuss your ideas, maybe even learn from them; not argue over how different they are.
Talk about abstract concepts and ideas.
Small talk is okay, but you should have meaningful conversations to have a healthy relationship. Don’t only talk about where you’ll go, what you’ll do, or what happened during your day. Talk about abstract concepts and ideas and compare your opinions. Discuss politics or philosophy and even get into a debate.
Talk about the purpose and the meaning of life.
Why are we here? Talk about philosophical concepts such as our purpose or the meaning of life.
Do we have a purpose, or do we find one on our own in doing what we love? Does life have meaning, or are we just running around with no point? What do you and your partner think? Remember, you don’t have to agree on this, you just need to share your ideas with each other.
Read a book and compare your takeaways.
Nothing says “intellectual” like sharing a good book and comparing your interpretations. Don’t just talk about what the author meant when they wrote the book. Discuss how the book affected you and what you felt while reading it. What did you learn from the book, and what can you learn from each other?
Consider things from each other’s perspective and challenge one another.
It’s important to listen to your partner’s point of view. Try to consider things from their perspective, and challenge each other with confronting opinions without getting into an argument. Push each other to think outside the box, grow, and consider different sides of the same story.
Share your thoughts and opinions with each other.
You should generally share your thoughts and opinions with each other to have intellectual intimacy in your relationship. Don’t feel the need to always think the same and agree on everything. It’s okay to see things differently; just remember to share those thoughts with each other.
Play a board game.
A fun board game can be intellectually stimulating just like a good conversation. Get competitive, but again, remember that this is not about fighting. Try to win, but be okay with losing the game as well. When you can confront each other without turning it into a fight, you’re connecting on a deeper level.
4. Spiritual intimacy.
Sharing your beliefs and values means cultivating spiritual intimacy, and this doesn’t necessarily need to include religion. If you are both religious, these beliefs and practices apply too.
However, you could also have some values and beliefs regarding health, lifestyle, the meaning of life, or anything else. Discussing spiritual topics can build spiritual intimacy in your relationship.
How to cultivate spiritual intimacy:
Talk about spirituality, a sense of purpose, and your ethics.
What do you believe in? How do you know right from wrong? What is good? What is the purpose of existence? More importantly, what gives you a sense of purpose? Talking about these things is good for your relationship.
Religious practices, such as praying together, help you build spiritual intimacy. You could pray before meals or before going to bed. On the other hand, you could meditate or read religious books, depending on your beliefs.
Taking a walk and watching the sunset or the sunrise together is a great example of developing spiritual intimacy, even if you’re not a religious couple. Enjoy nature and its wonders.
Observe the wonders of the world.
Explore the Grand Canyon, visit the pyramids, and kiss on top of the Eiffel Tower. Observing the wonders of the world, or admiring some of the world’s greatest manmade monuments, is a fantastic way to connect on a deeper level.
Read religious books.
If you’re religious, you can read religious books together. Bond over your shared beliefs and discuss any differences you may have. As already mentioned, it’s important that you can discuss differences without arguing.
Talk about your beliefs and values (whether you are religious or not)
You should talk about your beliefs and values whether you are religious or not. Is there a God? What happens after we die? What does it mean to be a good person? What is the meaning of life? Discuss these big life questions together.
Meditation is a great way to bond as a couple. Take some time to just relax and breathe next to each other. You could listen to a guided meditation, visualize your ideal future, and discuss one another’s version of the perfect future afterward.
5. Experiential intimacy.
An important part of being a couple is sharing experiences, and this is how you cultivate experiential intimacy. These little adventures that you go on bring you closer together and create private moments and inside jokes.
When you engage in the same activity, you work as a team to achieve a shared goal, and this is obviously good for your relationship. It’s great when couples share some hobbies and engage in fun activities together.
How to cultivate experiential intimacy:
Plan new activities that you can do together.
What could you do as a couple that could inspire teamwork and help you connect on a deeper level? Maybe you could run a marathon, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or attend a local food festival and try new cuisines together.
Go on a date.
Don’t forget to keep going on dates, even if you’ve been together for a long time. Share romantic moments at your favorite restaurant, try new things together, and simply have fun.
Go on a treasure hunt, try kayaking, or pick apples in an orchard. You could also light some candles and try different kinds of wines while blindfolded… A date can be anything you want it to be, the important part is that you share a fun new experience.
Join a team.
Maybe you both like tennis, kickboxing, or even chess. Join a team and compete together and against each other. Having physical activity in your schedule is good for your health and your relationship.
Cook a meal.
Bond over preparing a meal together and sharing a fun new experience. While you make the main dish, your partner could prepare a salad and dessert. Experiment with new recipes and try different cuisines.
Make the most of a sunny day by riding your bikes together. You could also go for a hike, do some outdoor yoga together, or even pretend that you’re nature photographers while jogging. Find what works for you and creates happy memories that you can look back on.
See the world.
Traveling together is great for your relationship, and it helps to see how well you really get along. You can take a road trip or go on a romantic weekend getaway. You could even drive to the nearest town that neither of you has ever visited. This is one of the best ways to build intimacy.
Start a hobby together.
There’s an endless list of hobbies to do as a couple that you can try. Having the same hobby leads to bonding over a shared interest and connecting on a deeper level.
Set aside some time each week for a hobby that you’ll practice together. Choose something that you’re both passionate about, and don’t hesitate to try new things to see if you’ll like them.
All in all, there are a lot of ways to build intimacy in a relationship other than sex or even physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and experiential intimacy are just as important as physical intimacy. The same goes for different ways of expressing physical intimacy, such as hugging, cuddling, and kissing.
If you cultivate intimacy in the ways outlined above, you are bound to improve your relationship and feel more connected to your partner. So try to cultivate all forms of intimacy in your relationship so you can connect in more ways than one.