Intimacy is a sense of closeness that develops over time between two people, whether it is with friends, family or romantic partners. By better understanding the role of intimacy in relationships, as well as recognising the difficulties some people may have due to previous physical or psychological hardships, you can help your relationship grow and develop a stronger bond with your partner, friends and family.
Some of your first experiences with intimacy likely came from your parents. Indeed, family relationships are one of first ways people learn about emotional intimacy. Later in life, there are more opportunities to develop intimate relationships of different types with various different people.
Men may have more difficulty with intimacy in their lives than women, largely due to cultural expectations of independence and self-reliance rather than emotional intelligence. Another challenge lies in confusing sex with intimacy, both of which can exist without the other. Although it may not be easy, challenging these cultural expectations and allowing more intimacy and trust into your relationship can only improve its quality over time.
There are many different types of intimacy, and you may experience all or only some of the spectrum in your different relationships. Emotional intimacy is the ability to freely express your emotions to your partner – and vice versa – in a safe context that does not involve potential judgment or rejection. Physical intimacy involves touch and sex that is fulfilling for both parties. You can also experience intimacy across the intellectual, spiritual, work and parenting domains of your life, among other areas.
Working on intimacy takes time, and it is essential that you don’t attempt to do so on your own. A key part of intimacy is that it is relational, so the other person in the relationship must be fully involved as well. Everyone is different, and it might take you some time to work out what your preferred method of building intimacy with them is. It may involve using more words of appreciation, spending more quality time together, giving gifts, performing practical tasks, physical touch, or a combination of these. Understanding both your own and your partner’s preferences and working on them is a key method in order to build more trust and intimacy in your relationship.