Trust, caring, acceptance, love — these feelings are the building blocks of an intimate relationship. Intimacy involves being emotionally close and connected to another person, which is both a unique and wonderful experience.
However, it also takes work. Relationships thrive when you understand intimacy and put effort into maintaining it.
There are many kinds of intimacy, as well as many levels. In a couple, intimacy can be emotional, physical, and, of course, sexual. In order to strengthen all ways you are close with your partner, it’s important to nurture this feeling.
Couples’ intimacy exercises for a deeper exercise can go a long way toward building intimacy — both in and outside of the bedroom. As a result, you’ll experience a more holistic connection and meaningful sense of closeness.
What Are the Four Types of Intimacy?
Intimacy is a complex concept. It’s often thought of in relation to sex, primarily because sexual intercourse is just about as close as you can physically get to another human being.
However, there are other types of intimacy that don’t involve sex at all. In addition to sexual intimacy, here are the four other types of intimacy:
1. Emotional Intimacy
Thoughts and feelings are very personal — and when you share those with another person, that’s emotional intimacy. It means you can share your deepest fears, most hopeful dreams, and even hidden emotions.
This sense of connectedness means you feel seen, understood, and heard without any inhibition. For instance, you might take the time to talk about an experience you had as a child that still impacts you now. In an emotionally intimate relationship, your partner will be attentive, listen, and offer emotional support.
2. How Do You Rebuild Emotional Intimacy?
Building — or rebuilding — emotional intimacy requires deep, introspective conversations. Ask open-ended questions, and take the time to really listen to one another. For instance, you can ask, “Where do you see yourself living in 5 years?” or “What has your experience been like being a father to our new baby?”
If you’re not sure where to start, find a list of questions online that speaks to you. Make an effort to be honest with both yourself and one another as you take the time to listen and connect. Don’t forget — uninterrupted listening is critical to this process.
3. Intellectual Intimacy
Allowing another person into your mind is an intimate experience, and that’s called intellectual intimacy. Talking about beliefs and viewpoints — without arguing or worrying about potential conflict — shows that you both have the freedom to think for yourselves and value each other’s opinions.
Whether you talk about the meaning or which actor played “The Hulk” the best, this exchange of ideas is key to a strong and healthy relationship.
4. Experiential Intimacy
Inside jokes, private memories, shared experiences — these are all types of experiential intimacy. The “remember when?” and “that was so funny” memories bring you and your partner closer together in your own little bubble of moments.
For example, if you and your partner train for a marathon together, you share the moments of being challenged and experiencing triumph. If you cook a meal together, you foster teamwork and enjoy a delicious meal together. If you move together, you bond over packing boxes and eating takeout dinner on the floor of your new home.
Keep in mind — you both live separate lives, and you don’t have to experience every single moment side-by-side. But the more experiences you have together, the stronger this experiential intimacy will grow.
5. Spiritual Intimacy
Going far beyond simply religious practices, spiritual intimacy is another way to share closeness. Spirituality can take the form of prayers and worship together, or it could be something like watching the sunset together or standing in awe at the beauty of the Grand Canyon. Spiritual intimacy is about transcendent connection — something that extends beyond logic and conscious thought. Whether it centers on religion, nature, or a sense of purpose, this is a way to deliberately develop a bond.
What Are the Five Levels of Intimacy?
Now that you know the types of intimacy, it can be helpful to understand the levels. Whether you’re on your third date or your third year of marriage, the levels of intimacy in a relationship can fluctuate over time.
1. Safe Communication
A basic form of intimacy, safe communication simply means that there’s a low risk of rejection surrounding your conversations. For instance, you might talk about impending rain or acknowledge a sports team’s win — both fairly factual pieces of information.
2. Sharing Other People’s Beliefs or Opinions
A little more of yourself begins to open up when you discuss what other people believe, helping you to test the waters and see your partner’s reaction to an opinion that is not necessarily your own. For example, you might say, “My boss always says…” to see how they react to their thoughts — and then adjust accordingly.
3. Sharing Your Own Personal Beliefs or Opinions
A much bigger risk is when you being opening up about your own thoughts and perspectives. Sharing your own beliefs is a way of bonding — but it also makes you more vulnerable. As a result, if you don’t get the response you want, you may pull back a bit in the future.
4. Your Own Feelings and Experiences
Going being beliefs, sharing your feelings and experiences is a deeper form of intimacy.
When you discuss your hopes, dreams, failures, and joys, it’s can feel riskier because you can’t change your experiences. However, it also forms a deeper bond between you and your partner.
5. Your Own Needs, Emotions, and Desires
This deepest form of intimacy requires the most trust. When you truly feel comfortable with someone, you can express what you need, feel, and want in a relationship and in life. It’s a very personal form of intimacy — one that forms the strongest bond between two individuals.
What Causes a Lack of Intimacy?
Intimacy takes work, time, and effort — and sometimes couples can experience a lack of intimacy.
One possible reason for this is that the idea itself can be scary or intimidating. While most people who fear intimacy do desire it, the possibility of getting hurt can get in the way. This could be from a previous negative experience, such as an unhealthy relationship.
One way to combat this is to encourage and build intimacy with yourself (or your partner with themselves). This is an important building block to intimacy with others.
Another root of intimacy issues is feeling that your partner isn’t putting as much into the relationship as you are. This can lead to resentment and feelings of loneliness. In many cases, having a conversation about your feelings can help you move forward. It might feel awkward or difficult at first, but it can pay off in the end by bringing you closer.
What Are Some Signs of Intimacy Issues?
Keeping an eye out for signs of intimacy issues can help you deal with them before they become more of a problem. In some cases, this may mean working through any issues, but in other cases, it may mean making the difficult decision to end a relationship.
Some things to look out for include:
- Shutting your partner out emotionally
- Letting down your partner when they need you, such as avoiding texts or phone calls after an important event
- Feeling hesitant to continue your relationship
- Avoiding physical intimacy
- Questioning whether your partner is the right match for you
Keep in mind, if you experience any of these signs, your relationship isn’t necessarily over. There are ways to strengthen your connection with your partner — starting with some intimacy exercises.
Intimacy Exercises to Strengthen Your Connection To strengthen how you are your partner connect both in and out of the bedroom, intimacy exercises are a great start.
Here are five intimacy exercises to strengthen your connection:
1. Soul Gazing.
Face each other in a seated position and maintain eye contact for 3 to 5 minutes without talking. (Yes, you can blink.) It might feel a little awkward at first, but push through!
2. Cuddle Time.
Take the time to purposefully cuddle — without the distraction of cell phones, books, or the television. Aim for at least 20 minutes for your cuddle session.
3. Uninterrupted Listening.
Set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, and let your partner say whatever they need to get off their chest. This could be about their day, their work, something related to you, or anything that’s been on their mind. Your job during this? Just listen. You can give non-verbal listening cues (like a head nod), but don’t speak. Then, switch roles, and repeat this stream of consciousness exercise.
4. The CEO Meeting.
Avoid communication errors on your team and dedicate 30 minutes a week to talk like grown-ups. Start with questions like “How do you feel about our relationship today?” or “Is there anything that you feel we need to further discuss?”. You can delve into deeper topics during this time, too, if you want.
5. 5 Things — Go!
This exercise is quick and simple. Plus, it can be done anywhere. Choose a code word (like pineapple). Whenever one of you calls out this word, choose a theme and go through 5 things surrounding that topic. Some examples include “5 things you’re grateful for,” “5 things you love about your partner,” and “5 things you want to do in the next few weeks together.”
Intimacy takes work. Whether you’re just starting out in your relationship or 20 years into your marriage, be purposeful in building intimacy in order to strengthen your bond and continue to build trust, communication, and love.