From reality TV and film to dating sites and classic novels, we have seen the idea of an intimate relationship for centuries. But are intimate relationships real? Is there more to love than long walks on the beach and gazing deeply into each other eyes? You bet! Intimacy is much more than what we have been led to believe.
What Is Intimacy?
Do you find yourself asking, "What does being intimate even mean?" Intimacy is an act of love that goes far beyond the physical realm. It is a mental and emotional sense of well-being in a relationship. It is a deep connection we have with someone else that requires us to have a firm understanding and appreciation of our partner.
Intimacy involves a certain level of comfort in the relationship. It seeks to meet the needs of both partners on a fundamental level. It requires partners to be open and honest with one another, and relies on a couple's utmost respect for each other.
Intimacy is much more than a single act. It is a day-to-day conscious commitment. It exists whether the day is good or bad, and is found in the highs and lows of relationships over time. Most importantly, intimacy is reserved for those who want to find it and work hard to make it the foundation of their relationship.
What Is Intimacy Not
There are a lot of things that intimacy is not. We often confuse intimacy with the material parts of relationships because that is how it is often presented to us. When deciding if you have intimacy in your relationship, keep this in mind:
- Intimacy is not just sex. While physical aspects of a relationship can enhance intimacy, intimacy itself does not usually survive in a relationship that lacks a deeper connection. Because the two go hand in hand, it is easy to confuse their purpose. Remember, sex can fulfill a physical need, but intimacy fulfills physical, emotional, and mental ones too.
- Intimacy is not a gift. While meeting our partners' needs is a crucial aspect of a healthy relationship, and while doing things for someone we love can be fulfilling, intimacy is not something that is bought or sold. Gift giving, lavish trips, and expensive dates are not a solid foundation for intimacy.
- Intimacy is definitely not a fairytale. All relationships have their ups and downs, and in truly intimate couples, intimacy will exist despite the ups and downs. Falling in love is nice, and getting caught up in a whirlwind romance is exciting. But if those feelings of butterflies eventually start to fade, and the relationship begins to fade with them, chances are intimacy was not playing as big of a role as it should have.
Do You Have an Intimate Relationship?
Intimacy looks different in each relationship because no two people are the same. However, being able to answer "yes" to the following questions is a good sign that your relationship is on the right path:
- Do you and your partner spend time exploring each other's interests?
- Does the opinion of both you and your partner matter when making decisions?
- Do you and your partner support one another in your goals?
- Do you and your partner accept each other as you are?
- Do you and your partner make it a priority to communicate?
- Do you and your partner discuss dreams, goals, and fears together?
- Do you and your partner prioritize a physical relationship?
- Do you and your partner show one another affection regularly?
- Do you and your partner treat one another with respect?
- Do you encourage each other to maintain individuality?
- Are you and your partner each other's "go-to" when things get tough?
- Do you and your partner have inside jokes?
- Do you and your partner understand each other's "nonverbal" communication?
- Do you and your partner make time for each other without distractions?
- Do you and your partner take advantage of opportunities throughout the day to talk or spend time with one another?
Answering "yes" to most of these questions is a sure sign that your intimate relationship is thriving when it comes to intimacy. Couples who have high levels of intimacy in their intimate relationship achieve it because they have open lines of communication, respect, and understanding with one another.
These couples support one another despite what is going on outside of the relationship, and actively encourage one another to pursue what is important to them. Highly intimate couples do not just prioritize the needs of the partner, but allow for individuals to advocate for their own needs in the relationship too.
Relationships based on real intimacy create a safe space for both people, who actively try to maintain that sense of security for one another. Remember, all of this happens consistently physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Keep in Mind
If you found yourself answering these questions with more "no’s" than you would have liked, then maybe it is time for you and your partner to reevaluate your needs. Do not worry though, answering "no" to any of the above questions does not mean that your relationship is destined to fail.
Rarely is a relationship perfect all the time. The questions you answered "no" to can serve as starting points for a conversation with your partner, and can guide you to a decision about what you want your relationship to look like in the future.
Keep in mind that the definition of "intimate" is different in every relationship. If you and your partner do not answer "yes" to all these questions but are otherwise happy in your relationship, it may mean all of your intimacy needs are already being met.
Do not forget: it is possible in a relationship for one person to feel as though their needs are being met, while their partner does not feel the same. This is where communication with your partner is key. If you find that there is an area of your relationship that you are not being fulfilled by, you must advocate for yourself and your own needs.
How Can You Get Closer To Your Partner Emotionally?
Just because you feel your relationship lacks intimacy, that does not mean you and your partner are doomed. Building intimacy in a relationship is a process, and while some relationships create that foundation quickly, others take time. There are many things you can do to increase intimacy in your relationship, including the following:
Explore Your Partner
Challenge yourself to find out more about your partner. Sure, you may know their favorite food and movie, but do you really know who they are at their core? Discuss big issues with them. Find out their hopes, dreams, and deeply held beliefs about anything important to them. Do not shy away from talking about negative experiences too—the more you can share with one another the closer you will become.
Make Intimacy a Priority
Learning more about your partner requires communication and time. It is hard to build intimacy when racing between work and errands and dealing with everyday issues. Create uninterrupted time to practice intimacy, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental. This does not have to be restricted to a long date on the weekends, but can happen all throughout the day in short bursts when possible.
A major part of communication and learning about one another is listening. Ensure your partner knows that their thoughts and ideas are important to you. Actively participate in conversations with them by asking them for details. Encourage them to communicate everything on their mind. Remember, what they share with you is most likely closely guarded. Listen without judgment, and strive to be their "go-to" person when they need support.
Put Away Distractions
It is easy not to realize how often we are distracted by technology in today's world. We tune into our favorite television shows each night, pop in headphones while we are exercising, and spend our downtime scrolling away on social media. All these activities force us to turn inwards, and draw us into our own world.
Unplug the electronics especially when spending time alone with your partner. Instead of sitting side by side on the couch with your technology in hand, spend time actively interacting with each other.
While intimacy is not the same thing as sex, couples who are physically intimate may have an easier time connecting on deeper levels. Simple acts such as holding hands and cuddling can build a relationship of trust that is key to intimacy.
Exploring Your Relationship With BetterHelp
Studies have shown that online therapy is an effective way of helping couples and individuals confront concerns about intimacy and other aspects of their relationships. A study published through the Australian Association of Family Therapy found that online platforms are a useful way of providing guided therapy
to distressed couples. The study concluded that online therapy can help improve satisfaction, communication, and the mental health of those individuals in the relationship. Researches noted the ability to access resources from the comfort of home—and elimination of concerns about privacy, cost, and stigma—as primary reasons for the effectiveness of online therapy platforms in helping couples.
Sometimes, two people want more intimacy in their relationship but have a difficult time tapping into it on their own. If this is the case, and you are uncomfortable reaching out due to privacy concerns, know that online therapy through BetterHelp
can be completely anonymous. Also, unlike with most traditional therapy, you will have the opportunity to contact your counselor outside of sessions. You and/or your partner can simply message your therapist, and they will get back to you as soon as possible. If you want to create more intimacy with your partner, consider speaking with a couples therapist—one with the proven ability to identify the areas where a relationship may need some additional support. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from those who have experienced similar issues.
“Mark has been extremely attentive to everything that I disclose. He’s not only provided me support but insight and encouragement to let me know I’m on a good path to self improvement and discovery. Furthermore, Mark has provided me valuable insight on my romantic relationship, specifically with learning more about the relationship dynamics and how to build a stronger, healthier relationship.”
“Stephanie is a gem! She's very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful but most of all helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just "knew" I didn't need it. She's been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks Steph!”