Striving For Real Intimacy In Your Relationships: A Guide

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated July 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Cultivating authentic intimacy can be difficult, 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 offer a few tips for cultivating it in your relationship.

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 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.

Many define real intimacy as a sense of closeness with someone else, whether it's your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend. With authentic intimacy, 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, revealing deep emotions or hidden aspects like struggles with porn or personal insecurities about their body. 

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 offer hope and be helpful in this context, especially for individuals grappling with issues like sex addiction or difficulties in expressing 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, 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 is to intentionally carve out time for each other to strengthen your connection. This could mean choosing to go for a walk after work, eating dinner 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 want 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, step outside of your normal routines, and 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 bungee jumping, skydiving, or rock climbing together. For couples who prefer a more relaxed time at home, it could mean trying a new recipe together, playing a new board game, or reading a new book to discuss together. For others, it might involve exploring spiritual connections, like attending a church retreat or meditation sessions together, where the presence of God can promote deeper bonds.

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 needs as well as your own, keeping an account of each other's preferences and comfort zones. 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 want 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 when experiencing conflicting schedules or 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. 

Building intimacy can be difficult

Is online therapy effective? 

Research suggests that online therapy can be effective 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 suggesting that couples who received the online program reported "significant improvements" in relationship satisfaction and 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. 


Many define intimacy as a sense of deep connection and closeness, which can involve connecting emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. If you are looking for ways to build intimacy with your partner, consider some of the tips above, including online therapy. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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