There are a lot of words people use when discussing intimacy.
Love. Sparks. Romance. Butterflies. Sex.
We’re all familiar with these sorts of words and most of us have probably used them all (and more) to describe a particular relationship, date, or moment. But intimacy goes so much deeper, and it’s important to consider every type of intimacy when you’re trying to build and maintain a serious relationship. Psychologists say there are five types of intimacy you should have in a successful relationship.
So let’s dig into intimacy and see what it takes to create something that lasts.
For many people, when they hear the word intimacy, physical is what first comes to mind. And for most, physical intimacy is just another word for sex. I mean, it makes sense – sex is literally as close as you can get to another person. But physical intimacy goes way beyond just sex. Touching, kissing, hugging, holding hands, snuggling up on the couch – all of these are important ways to be physical with a partner outside of sexual interaction.
Physical contact releases the “happy hormone” oxytocin into your system. As its nickname suggests, oxytocin makes you feel good. That’s why physical intimacy can help strengthen feelings, encourage more positive communication, and help forge more lasting bonds between partners.
Exploring this breadth of physical intimacy is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. Engage in physical intimacy every day to strengthen your relationship. This can include a kiss goodbye when leaving in the morning and a hug when you return.
While physical intimacy may be the most obvious, emotional intimacy might just be the most important.
It’s all about communication with your partner – open, honest, vulnerable communication. Sharing your feelings, your dreams, and your struggles with your partner can help create a connection. By acting as an emotional sounding board, you and your partner can both develop a deeper trust, bond, and understanding.
This is the kind of intimacy that provides you both stability when the waves get choppy. Being emotionally open and able to depend on supportive and candid feedback from your partner can strengthen your bond and enhance your entire relationship. Struggling to maintain emotional intimacy? Start doing weekly relationship check-ins to talk about how you’re feeling and what you can do to support each other.
While emotional intimacy deals with the “feelings” side of communication, intellectual intimacy covers the mentally stimulating side.
Each person in a relationship has different thoughts and feelings. Regularly engaging with your partner in conversation is the key to developing intellectual intimacy. It can even be as easy as reading a book, watching a show, or listening to a podcast together, then taking time to sit and discuss it.
Conversing about your day, events in the news, or playfully sparring with each other over opinions helps create a comfort and trust between a couple. It also keeps both partners learning and growing, both as individuals and as a unit. Constant growth means your relationship never stagnates.
There are moments and events throughout your life that you probably remember with sparkling clarity. To this day, you still have vivid memories and inside jokes with certain friends, co-workers, or family members. The same is true for relationships.
By taking in new experiences, you’re literally creating memories while also broadening your horizons as a couple. Experiential intimacy can easily become a foundational aspect of your relationship.
And it isn’t necessarily about coming up with grand adventures for you and your partner all the time. Simply, spend time together. Go on a trip, try a new jogging route, or even just cook a new recipe together to help keep things fresh while also creating a shared experience.
Often working hand-in-hand with other types of intimacy, spiritual intimacy embraces something a little deeper. Despite its name, spiritual intimacy is not about religion, prayer, or worship – though those may be an aspect of it. More so, it’s about mindfulness and contentment.
Consider those quiet – or even awe-inspiring – moments in life. Watching a sunset, stargazing in the backyard, standing on a hill overlooking the city, or just listening to music are spiritually-enriching moments that you and your partner can share. Anything that brings you mental calmness, a sense of serenity, or quiet contemplation are sources of spiritual intimacy that can deepen your connection as a couple.
Keeping the Balance with Levels of Intimacy
Every relationship is different. While each of these five aspects is important in order for a couple to survive, every pairing will require a different balance to thrive.
Maybe you’re a very physical couple, so sex and physical intimacy is the rock of your relationship. That’s ok. Or maybe you both revel in deep, emotional, or intellectual conversations, while physicality is secondary. That’s alright too!
As long as you’re both happy and not longing for something more, you’re on a path to longevity. Talk with your partner regularly so the two of you can do a temperature check to make sure everyone is happy – and always be open to exploring more!