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February 3, 2018
by Hilda Huj

Relationships 101: Intimacy

February 3, 2018 21:23 by Hilda Huj  [About the Author]

The Valentine's Day hype makes it easy for us to forget that every day is an opportunity to build intimacy and rediscover romance in our romantic relationships. In a matter of fact, working on building intimacy with our partner on an everyday basis and by doing so, rediscovering romance, is one of the most important traits of successful relationships. Why? Well, in order to find out why first we have to know what intimacy really is.

What is Intimacy?

Intimacy usually denotes mutual vulnerability, openness, and sharing. By engaging in these activities we allow ourselves to form strong emotional attachments with other people, which in turn help fulfill our needs for belonging and love. By fulfilling these basic needs, we have a chance to enrich our overall human experience and experience a variety of positive emotions.

However, intimacy is something that has to build over a long period of time. Usually, it starts with single intimate interactions between us and the other person. And, in the end, it usually grows into a long-term pattern of closeness and warmth. Therefore, while new relationships might have some moments of intimacy, the long-term intimacy that characterizes close personal relationships is a building process.

Also, there are different types of intimacy. And, in order to experience all the benefits of being intimate with another person, we have to equally pay attention and built on to all different types of intimacy (Tartakovsky, 2015).

· Emotional Intimacy – In order to experience emotional intimacy, we have to be comfortable enough to share our emotions and, by doing so, be vulnerable with another person.

· Intellectual Intimacy – When we are comfortable enough to share our thoughts and ideas with another person, even when they differ from the thoughts and ideas that person has, we share intellectual intimacy with that person.

· Physical Intimacy – If we are comfortable enough to share sensual proximity or touch another person, we probably share physical intimacy with that person. Physical intimacy includes both sensuous and sexual activity usually between two people and the sharing of reactions, thoughts, and emotions that are involved in these activities.

· Experiential Intimacy – When we are able to get together with another person and share with that person activities without saying anything or by saying very little, we share experiential intimacy with that person. Experiential intimacy is when two people get together to actively involve themselves with each other, probably saying very little to each other, not sharing any thoughts or many feelings, but being involved in mutual activities with one another.

· Spiritual Intimacy – In order to feel spiritually intimate with someone, we have to feel comfortable enough to pass our egos and share our spirituality and spiritual experiences with that person.

Creating Intimacy in Romantic Relationships

As it was previously mentioned, intimacy is something that has to be built over time. Therefore, there is no easy or singular way to achieve intimacy with our partner. However, there are some practices that can help us create and increase feelings of intimacy in our romantic relationship by addressing all intimacy types.

Good Communication. Good Communication leads to higher levels of intimacy, given that intimacy builds when we share things that are deeply personal. Discussing vulnerabilities and striving to understand each other experiences help create and further develop feelings of intimacy with our partner. Good communication is not only important for creating and developing emotional intimacy, but also helps create and develop intellectual and spiritual intimacy.

Exploring Physical Touch. Sex and physical touch make romantic relationships unique. However, in order to create and develop better physical intimacy, it is important to talk about own sexual need as listening to our partner’s sexual need. By exploring each other’s physical needs we will feel more close and connected.

Enjoying Time Together. In order to create and develop experimental intimacy, we need to engage in mutual activities. Therefore, it is important to spend meaningful time with our significant other and enjoy the thing we choose to do while we are spending time with them. Also, experiencing new things with our partner can create a shared sense of intimacy as we may encounter obstacles and solve problems together.

Problems with Intimacy

Intimacy is increasingly shown by psychological studies to be a very important part of our human experience. While we can survive without experiencing intimacy, our experience will not be complete and we will most likely experience a number of problems stemming from the lack of intimacy. Not letting ourselves to connect to others can lead to severe loneliness, depression, anxiety, health issues, and even, according to recent studies, a shortened lifespan.

Some people lack skills that can ensure creation and development of intimacy. While some people fear intimacy and avoid it. Lack of skills can be easily addressed by educating ourselves about best practices that promote creation and development of intimacy. However, things are more complicated when there is a fear of intimacy present.

There are two prevalent fears that may cause us to avoid intimacy: the fear of rejection (of losing the other person), and the fear of engulfment (of being invaded, controlled, and losing oneself). When the fears of rejection and engulfment become too great, we may decide that it is just too painful to be in a relationship, and we may try to avoid intimacy altogether. Yet avoiding intimacy leads to a number of other problems.

Addressing the Problems with Intimacy

The best way to address problems with intimacy, no matter is it lack of skills needed or fear of intimacy is through therapy. Through therapy, we are able to learn new skills that we will be able to employ in order to create and develop intimacy in our relationships.
When it comes to fear of intimacy, through therapy we will be able to address the root causes of our fear of intimacy and, by doing so, heal. Therefore, therapy can make us see how intimacy, indeed, is an act of courage and not a weakness.

Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Nourishing the Different Types of Intimacy in Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2018, from
Yoo, H., Bartle-Haring, S., Day, R. D., & Gangamma, R. (2013). Couple communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 40(4), 275–293. doi:10.1080/0092623x.2012.751072

About the Author

Hilda Huj Hilda Huj, B.A., M.A.

Hilda is a registered clinical counselling and forensic psychologist in Edmonton, Alberta. She specializes in working with youth, adults and families that have been impacted by trauma. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in Psychology in Osijek, Croatia, and subsequently equated her academic credentials to Canadian standards. Currently, she volunteers with the Edmonton Police Services as a Victim Support Worker and also helps to promote Psychology by volunteering for the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta.

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