Intimacy Definition - Positive Effects On Relationships And Well-Being

Updated April 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What comes to mind when you hear the word "intimacy"? Is it about sex? Or is it about something more profound, deeper, and more meaningful? 

Let's put it this way: intimacy can be the foundation of any healthy and successful marriage or relationship. It's about connecting with your partner more profoundly and creating a space where you can be vulnerable, open, and honest. 

Intimacy is not just about physical closeness but also emotional, mental, and spiritual connection. It can be about having your thoughts, feelings, and desires with your partner and listening to them with empathy and understanding. 

This blog post will explore the different types of intimacy and how they impact your relationship and health. We will also provide tips and strategies to enhance intimacy in your marriage.

Lacking Intimacy to Strengthen Your Marriage?

What Is Intimacy?

Intimacy is often associated with physical affection or sexual contact, but it encompasses much more than that. Intimacy can be described as a sense of closeness, emotional connection, and vulnerability between partners. 

In addition, it can involve a deep understanding and acceptance of each other and a willingness to tell thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Why Is Intimacy Important For Your Marriage?

A lack of intimacy in a marriage can lead to disconnection, loneliness, and resentment. It can also contribute to communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, and conflicts. On the other hand, a strong sense of intimacy can help couples build trust, strengthen their emotional bond, and increase their overall satisfaction with the relationship. 

 Familiarity can also contribute to better physical and mental health outcomes, including lower stress levels, improved immune function, and a decreased risk of depression.

The Different Types Of Intimacy

Several different types of intimacy can occur in a relationship, including:

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy involves any form of touch between two individuals, including hugging, kissing, holding hands, and sexual contact. When two people engage in physical touch, the body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of closeness and bonding.

Oxytocin is often called the "cuddle hormone" because it is released during physical touch and can create warmth, trust, and intimacy between two individuals. This hormone is essential for building and maintaining close relationships, including romantic partnerships.

Physical touch can also have a positive impact on mental and emotional health. For example, it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. In addition, these studies have shown that physical touch can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even help boost the immune system.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy involves having thoughts, feelings, and experiences with your partner. This type of intimacy can help build a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other. 

Emotional intimacy can also involve non-judgmental listening, empathy, and vulnerability. It is an essential aspect of a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy involves having ideas, beliefs, and values with your partner. This type of intimacy can help couples connect deeper and better understand each other's perspectives. 

When couples engage in intellectual intimacy, they may learn from each other and challenge each other's thinking, which can lead to personal growth and a stronger bond. This intimacy can be fostered by engaging in hobbies, discussing current events, or taking classes together.

Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy involves a sense of meaning and purpose with your partner. This type of intimacy is often associated with a belief system or values, such as religion or spirituality, but it can also involve passion or goal.

When two individuals have a sense of spiritual intimacy, they can connect on a deeper level and find a purpose. This can provide a strong foundation for their relationship and help them navigate challenges and difficult times together.

In addition, spiritual intimacy can provide comfort and support during times of stress or crisis. It can help couples find meaning and purpose in their lives and give a sense of hope and optimism for the future.

To cultivate spiritual intimacy, couples can engage in activities such as prayer, meditation, or attending religious or spiritual services together. They can also engage in meaningful conversations about their values, beliefs, and goals for the future.

Lacking Intimacy to Strengthen Your Marriage?

How To Cultivate More Intimacy In Your Relationship

If you feel like your relationship could benefit from more intimacy, there are several things you can do to potentially cultivate it. These include:

Communicate Openly And Honestly

Effective communication is crucial for building and maintaining intimacy in a relationship. Without open and honest communication, misunderstandings can arise, trust can be broken, and intimacy can suffer.

To cultivate effective communication, couples should try to listen actively to each other and express themselves clearly and honestly. This can involve their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that is respectful and non-judgmental. It can also include being attentive to their partner's needs and concerns and showing empathy and understanding.

Spend Quality Time Together

One way to improve communication is to set aside time for talking and listening. This might involve scheduling a weekly "check-in" where each partner can tell their thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive environment. It can also include establishing ground rules for communication, such as avoiding interrupting or criticizing each other.

Another critical element of effective communication is being willing to compromise and find common ground. This involves being open to different perspectives and working together to find solutions that benefit both partners.

Show Physical Affection

Physical touch is a powerful way to build intimacy in a relationship. When we touch our partner, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of bonding and closeness. This can help us feel more connected to our partner and strengthen our emotional connection.

One way to possibly incorporate physical touch into a relationship is to make an effort to hug, kiss, or hold hands with your partner regularly. This might involve greeting your partner with a hug or kiss when they come home from work or holding hands while walking or watching a movie together. 

Physical touch can also be incorporated into other activities, such as giving your partner a massage or cuddling before bed.

It's important to note that physical touch should always be consensual and respectful. It's essential to ask your partner if they're comfortable with physical contact and to respect their boundaries if they're not. Physical touch should always be done in a relaxed and enjoyable way for both partners.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening involves fully engaging with your partner and paying attention to what they are saying. Practice active listening to better understand your partner's thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Practice Empathy

Empathy involves putting yourself in your partner's shoes and understanding their perspective. Practice empathy to build a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other.

Benefits Of Online Therapy For Intimacy

Online therapy can offer a range of benefits for couples seeking to improve their intimacy. One advantage of online therapy is its accessibility. With online therapy, couples can connect with a therapist from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating the need for travel and making it easier to fit therapy into their busy schedules. 

This can be especially beneficial for couples with busy work schedules or who live in remote areas. Online therapy can also offer a greater sense of comfort, as couples can participate in therapy sessions from their home. 

With the convenience and flexibility of online therapy, couples can work with a therapist to improve their intimacy and strengthen their relationship, even in the face of challenges like distance or time constraints.

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy For Intimacy 

Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective tool for improving intimacy in couples. For example, a published study found that online therapy was just as effective as face-to-face therapy for improving relationship satisfaction and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in couples.

Another study found that online cognitive-behavioral therapy was effective in improving intimacy and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in couples experiencing sexual dysfunction.

Furthermore, a review of several studies on the effectiveness of online therapy for couples found that it improved communication, increased intimacy, and reduced distress in relationships. 

This review also found that online therapy was as effective as in-person therapy for these outcomes.

Overall, the evidence suggests that online therapy can be an effective tool for improving intimacy in couples. Couples who participate in online therapy with a trained therapist can benefit from the convenience and accessibility of this form of therapy while still receiving the same level of support and guidance as they would in face-to-face therapy.

Counselor Reviews

Jodi has been of great help and has helped me work on a few different aspects of my life. I’ve struggled with intimacy related issues that have caused my self-esteem to dip, as well as career path anxiety. He’s been a great help in guiding me to feel better about everything which has allowed me to continue to improve and get better. I’ll definitely be coming back to him in the future if needed.”

“Karen has helped me to be able to look outside the box to find how to find possible solutions to my sex life with my wife. A most insightful approach which I had partly recognized before but not taken seriously or realized just how I felt about it.”

Final Thoughts

Intimacy can be an essential aspect of any healthy marriage. It involves much more than physical affection or sexual contact and can significantly impact the health and well-being of both partners. 

Understanding the different types of intimacy and trying to cultivate more intimacy in your relationship can build a stronger emotional connection with your partner and improve your overall satisfaction. 

Remember, intimacy can take effort and sometimes requires open communication, empathy, and a willingness to be vulnerable. You can create a stronger, healthier, and more fulfilling relationship by prioritizing intimacy in your marriage.

For additional help & support with your concerns

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.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started