The Intimacy Definition – And Why It Is Important For Your Marriage And Health
By Nadia Khan
Updated May 06, 2020
Reviewer Avia James
When someone says the word "intimacy," what's the first thing that pops into your head? Sex, right? That's usually the first thing people think of when they talk about intimacy, so it's not surprising that it's a commonly misunderstood term among many couples, married and unmarried.
Many couples don't understand the proper definition of intimacy and the important role it plays in maintaining a happy, healthy relationship. Lack of intimacy is one of the top reasons for breakups, divorces, and infidelity, but understanding it is the first step toward cultivating it.
The Intimacy Definition: Understanding What It Is
Intimacy is the closeness and togetherness in a relationship between a husband and wife (or unmarried partners). Some intimacy synonyms that may sound familiar are affection, warmth, understanding, attachment, and confidentiality. Sex is a vital part of intimacy, but it goes beyond sexual and physical relations; it's how familiar you are with your partner on a mental and an emotional level. After all, that connection can make sex even better.
The Difference Between Casual Sex and Intimacy
Another thing many couples fail to understand is the distinction between casual sex and intimacy. Casual sex is just that-it's casual. No attachments, no ties, no meaning. It's simply a physical act that two people enjoy for pleasure. Intimacy, on the other hand, goes much deeper than sex. While sex and physical relations no doubt play an important role in the intimacy of a relationship, true intimacy comes from understanding each other's wants, needs, and emotions.
It's easy to have sex, but it's not always easy to feel comfortable enough to be yourself around someone. The ability to share your feelings openly without fear of judgment--being able to trust someone so deeply that you can lay yourself emotionally bare and share your innermost thoughts with them--doesn't happen often or with everyone.
The Benefits of Intimacy
Unfortunately, we all come into relationships with baggage, and for some people the baggage is so complicated or so troubling that it's difficult for them to be intimate. For some, their difficulties with trust, commitment, or vulnerability are rooted in childhood intimacy and trust issues. But just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not something all couples should strive for.
Why should you cultivate intimacy in your relationship? Not only does intimacy greatly benefit your marriage, it also benefits your physical and mental health. Read on to learn about some additional benefits of a great sex life.
Intimacy is Physically Healthy. An active sex life is good exercise as a 30-minute sex session can burn anywhere between 70-150 calories. (This is equivalent to taking a short walk.) In addition, heavy breathing increases your oxygen intake, which is beneficial for both mental and physical health. It can help you stay in shape and also do wonders for your mood.
Intimacy is a Good Stress Reliever. Like any physical activity, sex is a great way to relieve stress. During sexual intercourse, the body feels relaxed, and a chemical called oxytocin is released during orgasm. Oxytocin is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Oxytocin is also the reason why many people feel sleepy and relaxed after climaxing. But sex isn't the only way to release oxytocin. You can also trigger this chemical while hugging, cuddling, or generally being affectionate with your partner.
Intimacy Strengthens the Relationship. A relationship without physical and/or emotional intimacy is most likely to be unsuccessful. Over time, as the two people become increasingly disconnected, it becomes easy to cheat or walk away from the relationship when they seek intimacy elsewhere. Men usually look for physical intimacy, whereas women crave the emotional connection.
We all have an inherent need to feel loved and appreciated by our significant others, and understanding each other is the foundation of any solid relationship. It provides both partners a sense of security and confidence when they know they have each other for support no matter what comes up.
When these key ingredients are missing, it becomes difficult to build and maintain an intimate relationship. Therefore it makes sense that cultivating intimacy strengthens the relationship. When both partners feel safe and connected, it creates a positive cycle that bonds the couple together in increasing levels of intimacy.
Intimacy Is Good for Self-Confidence. Self-confidence is important for any human being, regardless of age or relationship status. When men are deprived of sex and connection, it can result in a lack of self-confidence. Similarly, women can feel emotionally insecure and wonder if there is something wrong with their appearance. This is another reason why intimacy is vital in a relationship. A lack of self-confidence can be damaging to both men and women, and it can have a negative impact on their day-to-day lives.
Sex and Intimacy Can Help You Live Longer. Sex has been linked to many health benefits. Did you know it can relieve chronic pain? This is because sex releases endorphins, which aid in relieving pain. Next time you get a headache or a migraine, consider having sex before reaching for the bottle of Advil. Women have also found sex to help with menstrual cramps and arthritis.
Furthermore, regular sex helps prevent or lower the risk of some cardiovascular diseases like strokes and high cholesterol levels. During sex, the body gets a cardiovascular workout, which contributes to a healthy heart. Sex lowers your blood pressure, helps you sleep better, and has even been linked to decreased risk of prostate cancer! Having sex at least once a week can also boost your immune system. A strong immune system reduces the risk of illness and other physical ailments. In short, sex can help you live a longer, healthier life!
Sex and Intimacy Regulate Hormone Levels for Women. Women suffering from depression and chronic stress usually have irregular periods. Sex can help as it improves mood by balancing out hormone levels. Similarly, it boosts fertility in women and can prevent issues like pelvic pain. In addition to the physical benefits, feeling loved, secure, and happy plays an important role in reducing stress levels in women.
Sex and Intimacy Increase the Blood Circulation. Blood circulation is important to your overall health. It prevents you from getting ill, and it improves your sleeping patterns and your mood levels. Sex is an easy way to increase your blood circulation, improving the flow to your organs and brain while helping to reduce blood pressure.
Sex Strengthens the Bones and Muscles. Sex strengthens muscles and bones, especially in men as it boosts the production of testosterone, which plays an important role in the mental and physical health of men. It also increases the libido, which in turn drives men to seek intimacy.
Based on these examples, it is clear that intimacy and sex play a significant role in keeping you healthy and happy physically, mentally, and emotionally. So what happens when you're missing that key ingredient in your marriage?
How to Regain Intimacy in Your Relationship
Lack of intimacy is a common issue that many couples face. If you're experiencing this in your marriage or partnership, rest assured you're not alone! Thankfully it's not a complicated fix. With some work, time, patience, and commitment, you and your partner can easily be back on track to reestablishing an intimate, sensual, and loving relationship. But keep in mind that both partners have to be equally invested in the process. It is important to have an honest conversation and ensure you're both on the same page before you proceed.
If you want to build intimacy within your marriage, you can:
Communicate. Communication is key to a successful marriage. It's practically impossible for a relationship to function without clearly communicating with each other, whether you're discussing pick-up schedules for the children or expressing your feelings, needs, and wants. Make an effort, and take the time to communicate in a positive, encouraging manner without criticism or harsh words.
Get Physical. In the midst of chaotic schedules, especially with children or demanding careers, it can be difficult to take time out to work on the relationship. Talk to you partner, and pick a day of the week or a time slot where you can have uninterrupted time together. You can start with something as simple as meeting for lunch at a nice restaurant or a park. Make that hour just about the two of you with no cell phones, no emails, and no business talk.
When you carve our time for each other, make sure to hold hands or touch. If it's been a while since you've had sex, find an evening or a night where it will just be about sex. Make an effort to set the mood with romantic music, candles, and maybe a romantic dinner or even a long soak in the bathtub. Choose whatever suits you best. Commit to this regularly, and then gradually increase the frequency of sex. This will benefit your relationship drastically.
Build Trust. In some cases, people find it difficult to trust their partners or anyone for that matter. If you feel this might be the case with your partner, consider looking into why you feel that way and what you can both do to rectify the issue.
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In cases like these, getting outside help via therapy can be especially useful because a therapist may be able to pinpoint the root cause of your distrust. For instance, is your distrust rooted in childhood problems? Did you grow up in an environment where you had to rely on yourself? Were you abused as a child? Does your partner have a history of being dishonest? A mental health therapist will go over these things with you to help you and your partner overcome these issues, so you can build a foundation of trust.
Show Appreciation. One of the simpler ways of building intimacy in a relationship is to show gratitude and thoughtfulness toward one another. Prioritize kind gestures by doing little things to please your partner. It can be as simple as serving them breakfast in bed, cooking their favorite meal, watching a movie of their choice, or anything that you know will bring a smile to their face.
Try therapy. While you work on the things mentioned above, keep in mind that it might be difficult to remain objective or know what step to take next. It may be a good idea to seek professional help in the form of therapy. A marriage counselor or therapist can work with both of you and address the issues at hand.
If traditional counseling is rather intimidating or not readily available, you can consider reaching out to an online counselor. BetterHelp has numerous therapists who specialize in couples and individual therapy. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
"Erin really helps me set goals for communication, and it's really crazy how much it's improved the communication in my marriage. She also asks me every week what I'd like to work on, so it's just really great to be able to decide and then to put it into action. Without her, I wouldn't even know where to start."
"Matthew is a great counselor and has helped me tremendously. I first started working with him when my marriage and my life was totally falling apart. He helped me rediscover things in myself and fall in love with myself again. I am now much happier in my life and every time we speak I realize something new. My only regret is not starting counseling earlier."
It's normal for most marriages to go through periods of ups and downs. There will be times when you'll feel extremely close to your partner and times when you may feel distant from them. Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase does not last forever. Careers, children, and finances can all get in the way of making time for each other and appreciating each other the way you used to. Many people take this dip to mean that love is no longer there or the marriage is over, but that is not always the case. In most cases, all you need to do is cultivate intimacy in your relationship.
If you find yourself feeling a little lost in your marriage, talk to your partner. Don't be afraid to open up about how you're feeling because they're probably feeling the same way! Once you've had that conversation, take active steps to improve your marriage and find intimacy again. Couples counseling and therapy is an excellent start to finding your way back to each other.
Remember you fell in love with your partner for a reason. Shouldn't you do everything in your power to retain that magic and romance? Take the first step today.