What Is An Intimate Relationship And What Are Its Types?

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Intimacy is defined as the closeness between the people in a relationship. But how do you establish whether you are in an intimate relationship with your partner or not? Feeling a special connection with your partner, caring about each other, and feeling comfortable in each other’s space are some signs of what experts refer to as being in an intimate relationship.

However, sometimes, people tend to misunderstand the context of intimacy and use the term to refer to sexual activity. But in reality, intimacy means more than that. It is more than being physical with each other. Keep reading to understand more about relationships, intimacy, and ways you can be intimate with your partner.

What Is Intimacy In A Relationship?

Intimacy is an intense emotion, a sense of belonging that you experience when you are with another person. You can be close to a lot of people, but those with whom we choose to be intimate are those who love us as we authentically are. When you find such a person, you feel safe enough to be vulnerable.

Intimacy isn’t all about sex. It is about finding someone who shares your values so you feel secure in your caring of each other.

Physical intimacy is the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about intimacy in a relationship, but there are other lesser-known ways to be intimate in long-term relationships.

Types Of Intimacy

1. Emotional intimacy

This form of intimacy leads to closeness. Becoming emotionally intimate in a relationship is to know, accept, and love each other’s real selves. When you know that partner truly loves you, then you will feel safe and comfortable in opening up to them. When you openly share your feelings, dreams, and desires, you will know each other better, and that can be the beginning of a beautiful, long-term relationship.

How you can develop it

Developing an emotional connection with your partner sure does take time, but it is quite easy and enjoyable. The first step to becoming emotionally connected to your partner is spending time with them and talking about each other’s likes, wants, and desires.

Partners must be honest and open to be emotionally intimate. When they connect emotionally, they will respect, trust, and stand by each other. In turn, this can have a positive impact on one’s sex life.

2. Physical intimacy

This form of intimacy is potent. It is perhaps the most intimate way to express your love for your partner. Physical intimacy is not just about sex. It could also be hugging, kissing, or just touching your partner’s face in a moment of emotional closeness. Touch plays a major role in decreasing cortisol and increasing oxytocin levels under stressful conditions (1).

How you can develop it

Great sex life is equally vital in a long-term relationship; emotional and physical intimacies are interdependent. Also, both of these work differently in men and women and may vary from person to person.

Some require physical intimacy before they develop trust and open up, whereas some others need to be emotionally connected before getting physically close. So, to strike a balance, a couple should first understand each other’s love language. Gestures like hand-holding, kissing, or simply cuddling could help create fantastic chemistry between the partners.

3. Intellectual intimacy

What does intellect have to do with intimacy? Plenty, we’d say.

This form of intimacy is important if a couple is looking forward to a serious relationship. Intellectual intimacy involves knowing each others values when it comes to making major life decisions such as raising children.

Intellectual intimacy also helps you connect beyond the physical and emotional levels, exchange knowledge, and pick up a few good qualities from each other. This intimacy not only makes the relationship stronger but also helps the couple to become better individuals.

How you can develop it

To develop intellectual intimacy, the couple needs to have shared goals, beliefs, and likes. Intellectual intimacy also involves allowing safe disagreement during discussions, debates or conversations. Honest discussions about issues related to the environment, politics, society, books, and the world in general, while being receptive to their partner’s views and ideas, can be a great way to build intellectual intimacy.

Any meaningful conversation between the couple can help develop intellectual intimacy, which may also help the couple develop mutual respect towards each other.

4. Recreational intimacy

This level of intimacy is developed by doing things you love, together. It could be going to an exotic place, playing a sport you like, exploring new places, or just walking on the beach holding hands. Recreational intimacy will teach you to do things together as a team.

How you can develop it

To develop recreational intimacy, you can choose activities such as playing sports, taking up a hobby, or going on a vacation. Such activities will boost your physical and mental health, which are essential to strengthen your relationship. You can also take up a fitness regimen and motivate each other to adhere to it. It doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are getting to know each other, and most importantly, having fun.

5. Financial intimacy

Is that even a thing? Well yes, and not a lot of people pay attention to it or know how to relate to this type of intimacy. However, in a strong, long-term relationship, financial intimacy is important as it takes money to achieve some of the materialistic goals. Financial intimacy means that both you and your partner are committed to a common cause and agree to work for it collectively.

How you can develop it

The first step towards financial intimacy is being transparent with each other’s finances. If both the partners are willing to share how much they are spending and saving, it means you have nothing to hide. Once this intimacy is established, the couple can then discuss and have a long term goal, such as buying a house or securing the kids’ future.

By committing to the same financial goals, you both can grow closer to each other. Another way to develop financial intimacy is to spend money on things you both value the most.

6. Unconditional intimacy

This is the hardest form of intimacy and takes lots of patience and effort to attain. But once you achieve this, your relationship could stand the test of time. Unconditional intimacy lets you accept each other as you are, and forgive and forget the others’ mistakes (only when the other has realized their mistake and are truly sorry for it).

How you can develop it

Developing unconditional intimacy is not easy, as it requires you to accept each other completely, warts and all. This kind of intimacy comes from unconditional love, which makes you willing to move mountains for the partner and not expect anything in return.

In order to create unconditional intimacy, a couple has to have agreements about codes of living and interaction so both parties feel valued and respected.

Intimacy of any kind has only one goal, which is to bring the couple closer to each other. But, can a couple not be intimate and still be in a relationship? Read on to find out.

Can A Relationship Survive Without Intimacy?

No, unless you are interested in a casual fling and not a serious relationship. If you want a long-term relationship with your partner, then intimacy in any form is quite essential. It doesn’t matter what intimacy means to both of you. It could be partying and dancing all night long, having passionate sex, or stimulating conversations about life, love, and everything under the sun. As long as both of you are fulfilling each other’s emotional and physical needs, your relationship could work.

A relationship without intimacy could exist, but that would merely be two strangers living under the same roof. Keeping up such a relationship can be a struggle for both the partners, who are unhappy in it.

It is essential to understand the importance of investing a lot of your time, patience, and commitment to developing intimacy in a relationship in a healthy way. It takes time and effort to build an intimate relationship, as it requires a lot of work from both partners. And to keep that intimacy alive takes a lot more effort, for once it fades, it could be challenging to bring that spark back. Therefore, keep trying new things and live life like an adventure to light up every moment you spend with your loved one.

Key Pointers

  • Intimacy is not just about sex.
  • Couples can be intimate in emotions, intellectual, physical, or finances.
  • A serious relationship needs intimacy.
  • Understand that intimacy does not happen overnight; it can take months or even years.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Hidenobu Sumioka, Aya Nakae, Ryota Kanai, and Hiroshi Ishiguro; Huggable communication medium decreases cortisol levels; US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
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Dr. Ann Schiebert

Dr. Ann Schiebert works as a psychologist in the Emergency Department (ED) of a hospital under US Health Maintenance Organization. She also offers her services at the medical center’s Chemical Dependency Department where she deals with people facing trauma, and having chemical dependency and codependency issues. In addition to emergency care, Dr. Schiebert also takes up relationship counselling for unhappy... more

sanjana lagudu

Sanjana did her graduation in Pharmacy and post graduation in management. It was during her first job, she recognized her skills in writing and began working as a freelance writer. Later, she completely moved into content writing and began working as a full-time content writer. Sanjana's articles in MomJunction cover topics related to new parenting and relationships. A fitness enthusiast... more

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