Types Of Intimacy & Factors Within An Intimate Relationship

A guide to building intimacy in relationships and connecting to your partner on every level,

Reviewed by Joseph Moore, Certified Relationship And Life Coach Joseph Moore Joseph MooreCertified Relationship And Life Coach
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , MA Sangita Goel MA linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Last Updated on

A relationship is not just about having great sex or getting feet-sweeping messages from your partner. An intimate relationship is what makes the partnership work! Sometimes, the sex can be toe-curling, but the rest of the relationship barely exists. You may also have tear-jerking conversations but you realize you know nothing about your partner’s finances or parents. These scenarios doom the couple to fall apart.

There are various types of intimacy a couple needs for the relationship to flourish – like physical intimacy, financial intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and of course, sexual intimacy.

Being open and vulnerable to your partner gives them an insight into the real you and makes them love you even more. While it is difficult to share perfect intimacy, once you start working on it, building intimacy is a never-ending adventure for couples that want to stay together for long. Explore the different kinds of intimacy to ensure your partner and you know where you stand relationship-wise. Scroll down to learn more.

What Is Intimacy In A Relationship?

Young couple in an intimate and happy relationship
Image: IStock

Intimacy in a relationship involves feelings of mutual love, care, closeness, connectedness, commitment, and trust with your partner. To build an intimate relationship with your partner, remember to communicate smoothly, be transparent about your feelings, and be open about your vulnerabilities. Intimacy does not automatically occur in a relationship; you must work in tandem with your partner with great patience and effort. Once you discover the joys of intimacy in your relationship, there will be no looking back.

However, intimacy should not be confused with co-dependency and over-protectiveness. You must remember that both you and your partner should give space to each other to grow individually and as a couple. Do not shut out the external world in the process of developing intimacy with your partner.

Mentioned below are some ways you can forge an intimate relationship with your partner without getting needy and clingy.

1. Build Great Trust In Each Other And Your Relationship

Trust is not something that can be built the moment you get into a relationship. Trust is built over time through mutual efforts and the respect you have for each other. The more time you spend together to get to know each other, the better you will be able to understand each other. Do not worry if you are not there yet. Be patient and build trust through small, loving methods.

2. Do Not Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable Around Your Partner

Woman crying vulnerably and man comforting her
Image: IStock

Your vulnerabilities make you beautiful. Do not be afraid of them or hide them. Human beings are hardwired to love and be loved. If loving someone requires you to be vulnerable, do not shy away from it. Being vulnerable and opening up can be difficult in the beginning and can leave you feeling exposed, but it will help you forge an intimate and close relationship with your partner. Ask yourself these questions to understand yourself and your vulnerability better.

  • Are you fearful of exposing certain parts of yourself to your partner? If yes, why?
  • Does keeping an emotional or physical distance from your partner make you feel safe? If yes, why?
  • Do you fear your partner will abandon you if they know all about you?
  • Do you hide away from sharing your true feelings with your partner?

3. Communicate Candidly With Each Other

It is very important, to be honest with each other and speak about your true feelings. Do not shy away from a conversation just because you think it will be difficult. Take time to prepare yourself – but have the conversation as soon as possible to ensure emotional intimacy in a relationship. Do not take any feedback your partner gives you personally. Try to understand the reason they said what they said and work together to find a solution. Disappointment and discomfort are momentary after a difficult conversation, do not be afraid of them. Embrace them to ensure intimacy and a bright future together.

These methods require constant practice, but the results will be beautiful. Understanding the various types of intimacy can help you achieve clarity on how you want to work on your relationship.

Types Of Intimacy

Intimacy between couples is often thought about in terms of sexual pleasure and other physical activities. However, this is a highly mistaken notion as there is more to intimacy between couples. Even a simple act of sharing intellectual ideas can be an intimate act. There are six major types of intimacy usually found between couples.

1. Physical Intimacy

Spooning is a great way for couples to experience physical intimacy
Image: IStock

Do not confuse physical intimacy with sexual intimacy. This form of intimacy is what most people want in their relationship. Simple acts of holding hands while walking, cuddling while sleeping, spooning after having sex, or a simple peck on the cheek before leaving for work are crucial for maintaining a healthy romantic relationship. This non-sexual physical intimacy is a great way of conveying to your partner how much you love them without having to make grand gestures.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Physical intimacy is about creating closeness and connection through touch because it triggers the release of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone).

2. Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy is a great way to keep the spark alive in your relationship after you have been together for a long time. As the years go by and the relationship matures, your sexual needs might change over time. To maintain a good sexual life, it is important that you and your partner communicate openly with each other. Certain things you should keep in mind to have great sexual intimacy include:

  • Accept and embrace both your flaws and eccentricities
  • Plan date nights at regular intervals
  • Experiment with sexual acts like roleplay
  • Understand the needs your partner has in the bedroom
  • Do not let work, kids, and other social obligations come between you

3. Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is what will make your relationship last. Sharing your deepest desires, dreams, fears, disappointments, and thoughts, and showing empathy and feelings will allow you to understand each other intimately. A healthy emotional intimacy will make you feel safe and comfortable with your partner. Your partner will end up becoming your idea of a home where you can express yourself freely and accept your partner without any judgments. If you feel your partner is emotionally distant, you can get them to open with you gradually. Start by asking them about their day and future plans, and share your plans with them. Eventually, your partner will realize you are there for them and will finally walk that extra mile every intimate relationship requires.

Jeannie Davis, a blogger, shared her thoughts on why emotional intimacy is important in a relationship. She said, “Talking about our emotions can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a marriage. Once I learned that Richard [her husband] would not condemn my feelings or try to change how I felt, in other words he offered validation of my feelings, I was more open to sharing with him how I felt and things I wanted for our lives (i).” The blogger is of the opinion that fostering emotional intimacy helps in developing a meaningful and healthy relationship.

4. Intellectual Intimacy

Couple reading a book and sharing ideas with each other
Image: IStock

Intimacy in a relationship is also defined by sharing ideas, thoughts, skills, and hobbies with each other on a deeper, intellectual level. Diverse discussions will allow you to learn something new from each other and enable both of you to evolve individually and also as a couple. Do not shy away from sharing your political ideologies, philosophical thoughts, and intellectual pursuits with your partner. They might have something new to tell you or learn from you. Certain ways you can cultivate intellectual intimacy in your relationship include:

  • Read books together and discuss them once you finish reading.
  • Go to movies, plays, and concerts together.
  • Discuss with each other before taking important life decisions.
  • Take advice from your partner on work and personal issues.
  • Try new hobbies together.

5. Creative Intimacy

Creative intimacy is a great way to remind each other how much you love them. You might have heard couples who have spent years together complaining about a lack of excitement in their relationship. Creative intimacy is all they need to restore the spark in their relationship. Certain ways you can inculcate creative intimacy in your relationship include:

  • Send each other cute messages.
  • Organize surprise dates or weekend trips.
  • Gift them something they love.
  • Take them out for a movie or a play.
  • Send them flowers.
  • Write romantic letters to each other.
  • Compliment them on how great they look.
  • Cook their favorite meal.

6. Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy is not usually found in romantic partners. Most couples are not even aware of this type of intimacy. Experiential intimacy runs along the lines of intellectual and creative intimacies. It will also allow you and your partner to discover new things together and explore your likes and dislikes.

Do not shy away from pushing each other a little out of your comfort zones to collect new experiences. Create a list of the new things you want to try with your partner and schedule a time to make them happen. These could be adventure sports, cooking/baking classes, poetry sessions, etc. You might learn new things about your partner in a new and alien setting that you may otherwise not discover in your everyday routine.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Recalling moments always triggers involuntary sensory reactions in people. If the moment was pleasurable, then it prompts that same energy again when relieved.

7. Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy does not necessarily entail praying together or following certain religious practices. Though praying and worshipping together can help you become intimate spiritually, there are other moments that can also help. A simple act of watching the sunset together or taking a walk in the park amongst the beauty of nature can help you connect deeply and transcend into the more intense bodily experiences.

However, do not put a lot of conscious thought and effort into making these moments happen. Let these spiritual experiences happen organically. Grab these opportunities whenever possible.

8. Sensual Intimacy

Sensual intimacy is the art of deepening emotional bonds using the senses to foster a profound connection beyond the physical. If you want to cultivate sensual intimacy in your relationship, prioritize communication, attentive listening and understanding your partner’s desires and boundaries. Create a sensorial ambience by incorporating soft lighting, pleasant scents, and build a comfortable surrounding for conflict resolution. Explore non-sexual touch through activities like massages, cuddling, or holding hands, promoting a sense of closeness. Be present and engage in activities together that heighten the senses, like enjoying a shared meal, listening to music, or stargazing. Most importantly, build mutual respect, trust, and a willingness to explore and appreciate the subtle, sensory aspects that can make your moments truly intimate and special.

Exploring these various types of intimacies can strengthen your bond and keep your relationship flourishing for a long time. That said, is intimacy actually essential?

Can A Relationship Survive Without Intimacy?

Your relationship might survive without romance, but intimacy is the X-factor that makes a relationship exciting and passionate. Do not confuse romance with intimacy – the two are vastly different. Romance can be defined as a way of expressing your love through gestures, gifts, compliments, expressions, etc. Intimacy, on the other hand, is the backbone of love.

As mentioned above, intimacy is what makes a relationship meaningful and significant. It allows you to connect with your partner deeply and build something beautiful together. Just like seasonal changes, even a relationship can see numerous changes. You both may evolve and grow into your better versions. Or you may also see certain undesirable changes in your relationship – in such a case, do not be silent about them. Strike a conversation with your partner and find a solution.

Of the different types of intimacy mentioned above, try to focus on improving one at a time. If you are having trouble getting intimate physically, work on emotional intimacy. Share your thoughts and feelings, and eventually, everything else will fall in place. Here are certain tips to keep the intimacy in your relationship alive.

  1. Communicate openly with each other and talk about the issue at hand.
  2. Step out of your comfort zone and try new things together.
  3. Do not shy away from conflicts. Talk about them, clear your doubts, and move on.
  4. Do not forget to take care of yourself.
  5. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable in front of your partner.
  6. Try new ways of initiating sex.
  7. Take out time for each other from your busy schedules.
  8. Focus on touching each other affectionately. These include body massages, foot rubs, roleplay, etc.

Important Factors Within Any Intimate Relationship

Intimate and affectionate happy family
Image: IStock

Almost everybody is searching for the key factors that make a relationship exciting and promise great intimacy. While each relationship is different, certain factors are common to all. These, if ignored or not handled responsibly, can complicate a relationship. We have discussed such factors below:

1. Family

With family comes great responsibility. If you are a couple with kids and have other extended family members living with you, it is important to maintain a great family life. The happiness of all family members will also determine your happiness as a couple. Divide the responsibilities of parenthood, communicate with each other, and do not unnecessarily prolong conflicts. Healthy emotional intimacy will go a great way in ensuring a great family life along with the success of your relationship.

2. Honesty

Lack of intimacy in a relationship is often caused by unwillingness to communicate with each other openly and express all emotions. If you are angry at your partner over something, do not hesitate to talk about it openly. Conflicts are sometimes great to resolve issues. Just remember to not let disrespect, insensitivity, judgments, and blame creep into your arguments.

3. Physical Presence

The quality of intimacy in a relationship is greatly dependent on how present you are in the lives that you both lead. Often, busy schedules make it difficult for either of you to spend time with each other. But it is important to take time out for your better half before going to work, after coming back from work, or on weekends. This will not only allow you to be physically present with each other but also enhance emotional and creative intimacies.

Some other factors that help build intimacy in a relationship include safety, responsibility, positive intentions, no distractions, gratitude, accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement.

Intimacy can manifest itself in different ways within a relationship. It can be spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or sexual. If you communicate candidly with your partner, are not afraid to be vulnerable around them, and have trust in each other, the intimacy in your relationship can grow manifold. You can also deepen the intimacy on various levels with your partner by paying attention to your partner, being present in the time of their need, and being honest with them. Intimacy helps strengthen your relationship and makes it last long.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does intimacy mean to a man?

Most men view intimacy as bonding through common activities or doing things together.

What is the difference between love and intimacy?

Being in love is having deep feelings of affection for someone, while intimacy relates to how close a bond you share.

What creates intimacy?

Honesty, open communication, trust, mutual respect, and sensitivity to the other person’s emotions and feelings help build intimacy.

Key Takeaways

  • Intimacy does not automatically occur in a relationship; you must work in tandem with your partner with great patience and effort.
  • There are six major types of intimacy usually found between couples.
  • Intimacy in a relationship is also defined by sharing ideas, thoughts, skills, and hobbies on a deeper, intellectual level.
  • Openness in communication and trust are the most important elements for building intimacy. Without these qualities, it can be difficult to know if what you are doing is right or wrong.
intimate relationship

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A psychotherapist explores the roles played by different types of intimacy in this informative video. Discover the 6 types of intimacy and learn how they can help foster a deep connection in your relationship. Watch it now!

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Joseph Moore
Joseph MooreCertified Relationship And Life Coach
Joseph Moore is an ace relationship coach and public speaker who started coaching in 2015. Although Joseph is a trained electrical engineer from the University of Chester, he found passion in helping people get it right with their love life.

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