Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is the Definition of Intimacy
Intimacy is the feeling of being close to another human being. There are a few forms of intimacy including physical, emotional, and sexual. You can feel close to someone, or if you take it to the next level, you can be intimate.
Types of Intimacy
Physical intimacy refers to when two people are engaged in a sexual act that makes them feel closer to each other. Some people can be physically intimate, but not combine that with emotional intimacy. They can detach their feelings from sex. Some individuals don’t disconnect their emotions from sex because they view sex as an emotional connection, which leads us to emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is when two people connect at a much deeper level. They can “feel” the other person’s emotions. When you are close to somebody, and you have emotional intimacy with them, you care about how they feel and want to make sure that their feelings are validated. To establish intimacy, regardless of whether it’s sexual intimacy or emotional intimacy, you need to feel safe with the other person.
When you have an intimate connection with someone, you feel safe with him or her. You can express yourself freely, without fear of being judged. To have a genuinely close relationship, you need to feel as if you can be yourself and you don’t have to put on a mask. It’s virtually impossible to achieve intimacy if you are hiding parts of yourself from another person. To have an intimate relationship, the two individuals need to not only know each other, but also trust each other.
When you hear the term “intimate relationship,” you may automatically assume that the relationship involves sex. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Intimate relationships are a part of human existence, and they can be of a romantic nature, or they can exist between two people who are friends. It doesn’t necessarily need to be sexual. The thing about intimacy is that it always exists between two individuals. Regardless of the type of relationship that you have, intimacy denotes that you are highly connected to the other person. Now, let’s talk more about the different kinds of intimacy.
Physical intimacy means that you are either physical with another person - meaning, sexual - or, you could be close with somebody that is a friend and display physical contact. Physical intimacy is not always sexual. It might mean cuddling with a person or engaging in any other physical activity that is not sexual but still exists as a display of affection. Being “physically intimate” with someone means that you enjoy their contact. It depends on the nature of the relationship, but it involves two bodies connecting in some way, which could indeed lead to sexual intimacy.
Sexual intimacy is precisely what it sounds like it is. It refers to two people who are engaged in some sexual activity together. Some people have a more profound sense of intimacy while participating in a sexual act with their partner. In other cases, someone’s feelings may be detached from engaging in sexual acts. Many people experience sex as a way to connect and feel extremely close to their partner, which is why sexual intimacy is important to them and their relationship.
Emotional intimacy is when you feel connected to someone emotionally, whether that’s your friend, a family member, or another loved one. Being emotionally intimate is something that is extremely special. You can learn a lot about yourself from a connection with someone who understands your emotions. If you are having trouble achieving emotional intimacy, it may be necessary to seek help from a therapist. A therapist can help you work through your problems with emotional intimacy and understand the root cause of them.
If you are having trouble achieving feelings of emotional intimacy, seeing a counselor can help you achieve those goals. You might not understand why it’s hard for you to get close to people, but working with an online counselor who understands mental health will help you understand why you are having intimacy issues. You can begin to develop healthy relationships so you can feel close to other people. Therapists help people to improve their self-image and they also support clients in forming healthy relationships with others. If you have problems with intimacy, your relationships are probably not all they could be. Speaking to a professional is one of the best ways to help your social connections stay healthy. Speak to an online counselor at BetterHelp and find ways to develop and nurture lasting relationships.