The Benefits Of Intimacy For Your Relationship And Well-Being

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling drawn to and close with your significant other can help create a deeper connection within your relationship. Intimacy is 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 involve imparting your thoughts, feelings, and desires with your partner and, in turn, listening to them with empathy and understanding. In this article, we will explore the different types of intimacy, discuss their impacts on your relationship and well-being, and provide tips for cultivating intimacy in your relationship.

Physical and emotional intimacy can be vital to a relationship

Intimacy definition

Intimacy is often associated with physical affection or sexual contact, but it can encompass much more than that. Intimacy is more than just knowing each other’s first names and having a surface-level friendship. Instead, it is described as a close association, emotional connection, and vulnerability between partners. In addition, it can involve an understanding and acceptance of each other and a willingness to discuss deep thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Why is intimacy important for your relationship?

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

Research suggests that people who experience greater intimacy and harmony in their relationships tend to have positive mental health outcomes. This type of familiarity may help contribute to better overall health outcomes, including lower stress levels, improved immune function, and a decreased risk of depression. 

The different types of intimacy

A sense of closeness can be developed in varying contexts within a partnership. The following types of intimacy can be developed in a relationship.

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, their bodies release 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, physical touch can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even help boost the immune system.

Emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy involves imparting 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 involve non-judgmental listening, empathy, and vulnerability. Research suggests that emotional intimacy is an important aspect of healthy relationships and is closely related to other forms of intimacy 

Intellectual intimacy

Intellectual intimacy involves revealing ideas, beliefs, and values with your partner. This type of intimacy can help couples connect more deeply and better understand each other's perspectives. When couples develop intellectual intimacy, they may learn from each other and challenge each other's thinking, leading to personal growth and a stronger bond. This intimacy can be improved by engaging in hobbies, discussing current events, or taking classes together.

Spiritual intimacy

Spiritual intimacy involves having 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 a common passion or goal. When two individuals have a sense of spiritual intimacy, they can connect on a deeper level and find a common 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 develop a sense of hope and optimism for the future. Spiritual intimacy has also been connected with improved well-being and overall intimacy

Physical and emotional intimacy can be vital to a relationship

How to cultivate intimacy in your relationship

If you feel your relationship could benefit from more intimacy, there are several things you can do to develop a warm friendship and deeper connection. The following are tips for developing different kinds of intimacy.

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 be difficult to maintain. In a study on the importance of quality time in relationships, researchers concluded that “couples who spend a larger proportion of their time together talking reported greater satisfaction, perceived more positive qualities in their relationships, and experienced greater closeness.” 

To cultivate effective communication, try to listen actively to your partner and express yourself clearly and honestly. This can include being attentive to your partner's needs and concerns and showing empathy and understanding. 

One way to improve any form of intimacy is to set aside time for communication. This might involve scheduling a regular check-in, during which 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. This may help create a warm and familiar environment where both partners feel stable.

Another critical element of effective communication, especially in a couple, group, or family setting, is being willing to compromise and find common ground. This involves being open to different perspectives and working together to find solutions that benefit all parties.

Spend quality time together

Research suggests that time spent together can contribute to relationship quality in a substantial way—and that it is the quality of time more than the quantity that is important. Consider setting aside a specific period each week to spend time alone with your partner, whether it's a date night, a walk together, or simply cuddling on the couch. Try to give your partner your full attention periodically, even if it's just through a quick check-in each day. You can build a stronger and more fulfilling relationship with your partner by prioritizing this type of intimacy.

For example, individuals can engage in activities such as prayer, meditation, or attending religious or spiritual services together to cultivate spiritual intimacy. By discussing the subject of faith and values in meaningful conversations, individuals may enrich their personal relationships, whether romantic or platonic.

Show physical affection

Physical touch, an act of care and connection, can be a powerful way of building intimacy in a relationship. One way to 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.

Practice empathy

Empathy involves putting yourself in your partner's shoes and understanding their perspective, which can be crucial to developing all forms of intimacy. There is thought to be a strong association between empathy and relationship quality. You can develop more empathy by frequently asking your partner about their feelings and working to better understand their motivations, desires, and personality. 

Finding support for intimacy in personal relationships

Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective resource for partners looking to promote intimacy in their relationships. For example, researchers in one study found that online therapy was just as effective as in-person therapy for improving relationship satisfaction and alleviating individual mental health challenges. Two of the primary focuses of the program were intimacy and sexuality.  

If you’re looking to build a sense of closeness between you and your partner, consider connecting with a licensed therapist online. With online therapy through BetterHelp (for individuals) or ReGain (for couples), you and your partner can work with a therapist remotely, which can be particularly helpful if you’re busy or in different physical locations. 

BetterHelp and ReGain work with a team of mental health professionals with detailed knowledge and expertise in various specialties. Therefore, you may be able to connect with a suitable therapist who can help you nurture an intimate relationship. Continue reading for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help for similar concerns in the past.  

Therapist 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.”


Intimacy can be an important aspect of healthy relationships—and it can involve much more than physical affection or sexual contact. Understanding the different types of intimacy can help you build a strong, healthy connection with your partner. Intimacy can take effort and sometimes requires open communication, empathy, and a willingness to be vulnerable. If you’d like help as you foster closeness in your relationship, consider utilizing an online therapy platform. With the right help, you and your partner can develop a deep and fulfilling emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual bond. 
Gain insight into healthy intimacy
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