The 4 Types of Intimacy in a Relationship

plus size female couple sitting in bed
So, what are the different types of intimacy in a relationship, you ask? I'm about to explain them to you right now. While reading, reflect on your relationship, the odds are you're already practicing these forms of intimacy.

There are different types of intimacy in a relationship? What are you talking about? I know it may sound a wee bit odd, but there’s more to intimacy than just sex (and I secretly – or not so secretly – think you know that).

We’ve been told again and again, whether it’s through movies, tv shows, or music, that intimacy is about stripping down to your birthday suit and having wild sex for hours. While that’s fun (I’m not going to lie), that’s not intimacy. Well, it is, but only one form of it. 

In reality, there are a few different types of intimacy that go beyond the sexual element. In other words, sex isn’t the only thing keeping the connection alive. 

So, what are the different types of intimacy in a relationship, you ask? I’m about to explain them to you right now. While reading, reflect on your relationship, the odds are you’re already practicing these forms of intimacy.

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What is Intimacy?

Before I go on to explain the different types of intimacy in a relationship, you need to know what intimacy means. Even if you already know, it’s good we’re on the same page. 

Intimacy is an important factor in our lives because, as humans, we thrive off of close relationships (romantic and platonic).

Intimacy is connecting with someone on a vulnerable and personal level. You’re not intimate with everyone you meet; rather, you’re vulnerable and open with those you develop trust with. That is intimacy.

And intimacy can occur in any type of relationship. You can be intimate with a partner, a friend, your family – it’s not just in a sexual context.

The 4 Different Types of Intimacy

As I’ve said before, you have different types of intimacy. Now, what are they? Here are the four main types of intimacy we experience:

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is when a person feels comfortable sharing their feelings with another person, even if those feelings are uncomfortable by nature.

For example, you talk to your best friend about your relationships issues or issues with your parents. You trust that your best friend will comfort you and not use your issues to take advantage of you.

Intellectual Intimacy

This happens when people feel comfortable and trusting to share their thoughts with someone else, without the fear of being judged. 

For example, my partner and I share our political opinions with each other. We can have a debate without feeling there’s a competition or someone needs to be right.

Experiential Intimacy

As humans, we can bond while engaging in non-sexual activities and experiential intimacy can happen in all types of relationships.

For example, my mom and I would have a “mother-daughter day” where we went shopping together. 

Companies have “team building days” where they take their employees out for a fun activity. This helps the team create a bond. 

Sexual Intimacy

We all know what this form of intimacy is. Sexual intimacy is when people engage in sexual activities together. 

But this isn’t just penetration. Sexual intimacy can be foreplay, oral sex, a sensual massage.  

For example, a couple caressing each other while naked in bed is an intimate act.

Final Thoughts

The idea of intimacy being solely sexual needs to change, because intimacy comes in different forms and in different relationships.

Reflect with yourself and look at your surrounding relationships: do you experience these different types of intimacy?

Do note that intimacy is something that builds over time and is connected to trust. If intimacy is a struggle for you, I highly recommend intimacy counselling to help you along your way.


On Key

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