Striving For Real Intimacy In Your Relationships: A Guide

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be difficult to cultivate real intimacy, even if you love your partner deeply. Intimacy, which generally involves feeling close and deeply connected, might require a level of vulnerability that can feel nerve-racking. 

However, real intimacy is something many of us want in our relationships—leaving many wondering  how to go about building it. 

Here, we’ll explore what real intimacy is and a few tips for how to cultivate it in your relationship. 

AGUSTÍN FARIAS
Building intimacy can be difficult

What is intimacy? 

To understand intimacy, it can be important to note that intimacy and sex are not generally regarded to be the same thing. Many people might equate the term intimacy with sex, and some may use the phrase "being intimate" as a way to refer to having sex—however, intimacy can involve connecting emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and/or physically beyond acts in a sexual scope. 

You can be intimate without having sex, and you can also have sexual intercourse without it being an intimate experience. 

Real intimacy, in our context, can be defined by many as a feeling of closeness with someone else where you might both feel deeply connected to each other as your real, true selves.

When you have a real intimate relationship with another human being, for example, you might likely feel very comfortable around them—like you can trust them with anything, and like they love you for who you are. Couples with very intimate relationships may feel comfortable being vulnerable around one another. 

Certain forms of intimacy may come easier than others for many. For instance, some individuals may feel more comfortable with physical intimacy than with emotional intimacy, as it may feel scary to open up to their partner about their true feelings. Online therapy can be helpful in this context, possibly empowering those experiencing difficulties to express their true feelings. 

Additionally, intimacy can look different from one couple to the next, depending on each person’s comfort level, preferences, love language, and more. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

Ways to build intimacy with your partner(s)

Just as intimacy may look different from one couple to the next, the most effective ways to build intimacy with your partner may also vary from couple to couple. As you and your partner determine the best approach for you both, you may consider some of the ideas below. 

We do want to note that whatever approach you try, it can be important for you all to feel comfortable and safe. 

Spend quality time together

One way to try to build intimacy can be to intentionally carve out time for each other to give yourselves an opportunity to strengthen your connection. This could mean choosing to go for a walk together after work, deciding to eat dinner together without phones or TV, or picking one night each week as “date night,” for example. 

During this time together, you and your partner can decide how you both want to try to build intimacy—it could involve serious intellectual conversation and lots of cuddling while watching a movie, for example. 

Experience new things together

Another way to build intimacy is to try experiencing new things together. This can give you both an opportunity to learn something new about each other and yourselves, to step outside of your normal routines and to deepen your bond through a fun activity. 

These new experiences can vary widely from one couple to the next. For couples who love adventurous activities, it could mean going bungee jumping, skydiving or rock climbing together. Or, for couples who prefer a more relaxed time at home, it could mean trying a new recipe together, playing a new board game or both reading a new book to discuss together. 

Communicate your desires 

Communication can be a crucial tool for building all types of intimacy, including physical intimacy. For instance, if sex is a part of your relationship, being able to discuss with each other what you both like and don’t like can help you to build a more satisfying sex life that can help you feel more connected physically. 

It may feel awkward at first, but you can try to speak with your partner about their desires and their needs as well as your own. This can empower you to work together to find ways to incorporate things you both want and are comfortable with. 

Seek help through therapy

If you would like additional support in building intimacy in your relationship, you can also consider seeking therapy. Finding time to meet with a therapist can be difficult for many couples, especially if they are experiencing different schedules or conflicting commute times. 

In these cases, online therapy options such as BetterHelp (or ReGain for couples) can offer the benefit of remote participation, wherever is most convenient for you and your partner. 

Getty
Building intimacy can be difficult

Is online therapy effective? 

Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective option for couples experiencing relationship concerns. 

For instance, one study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology examined the effectiveness of an online couples therapy program. It found information that suggests the couples who received the online program reported “significant improvements” in relationship satisfaction and relationship confidence. 

Couples also reported gains in areas of independent function and within their own experiences related to pre-existing mental health conditions—noting that symptoms of anxiety disorder and overwhelm had also lessened. 

Takeaway

Intimacy is defined by many as a feeling of deep connection and closeness, and it can involve connecting emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and/or physically. If you are looking for ways to build intimacy with your partner, you may consider some of the tips above, including online therapy. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

Gain insight into healthy intimacy

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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