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The psychology of intimacy - and why it matters

We discuss four forms of intimacy - and why it is so important for everyone

To ‘be intimate’ is used as a euphemistic term for sexual intercourse but this can be misleading depending on the context. So what is intimacy if we are not talking about sex? 

When we look at intimacy from a psychological sense there are four forms:

Cognitive/Intellectual Intimacy

The sharing of thoughts, ideas and the enjoyment of similarity and differences between two people. It’s this sort of intimacy level that separates mere acquaintances from your nearest and dearest.

Experiential Intimacy

“Examples of this would be where 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.” It’s this conscious sharing that would mean the two are intimately involved in an experiential point of view.

Emotional Intimacy

The sharing of feelings between two people with high levels of empathy, understanding and being aware of each other’s emotional side. 

Sexual Intimacy

Though this does not just mean having sex, this form of intimacy covers any form of tactile sensual expression.

It’s the combination of these forms of intimacy that indicate how close you are to someone else. Intimacy is important in all human relationships as “the need for connection never goes away. It goes on throughout life.”

Often in relationships it’s the lack of intimacy that can cause problems. The ultimate intimacy within a relationship can be achieved with a combination of physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Intimacy can be a point of struggle for some who have been hurt in the past. Marshall Hodge author of  ‘Your Fear of Love’ states "The closer you come to somebody, the greater potential there is for pain." It is the fear of pain that often drives us away from finding true intimacy.” 

Intimacy is key to a relationship and it is something that can be developed. Making time, communicating and being aware of each other will encourage your levels of intimacy to grow. It’s the shared humanised feelings of empathy, compassion and understanding that can help cultivate togetherness.

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