Throughout many sessions as a sex and relationship therapist, one theme stands out as an undercurrent for all human connection: intimacy. Intimacy plays a fundamental role in all relationships and serves as the foundation for deeper connections and feeling known by your partner(s). Despite what mainstream media might portray, the sense of feeling known by and connected to one’s partner(s) expands far beyond just sex. By increasing the scope of how we define intimacy, we can work to enhance relationship satisfaction on multiple levels.

When thinking about the concept of “intimacy,” sex is often what comes to mind. However, it is important to consider the many additional and equally important types of intimacy within relationships. Interpersonal connection surpasses physical bonds, and by recognizing the many types of intimacy we can deeply enrich our relationships. This blog aims to delve into different types of intimacy and provide insight into effective strategies for integrating them into meaningful relationships.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy refers to the closeness of tactile expression between individuals, which can in turn foster a sense of closeness. While sex is included in this, physical intimacy includes much more than sexual encounters. Seemingly simple actions such as hand holding, sitting near each other while watching a movie, or giving a hug before leaving home can go a very long way. Physical intimacy can further help to enhance communication, identify and practice boundaries, and cultivate a sense of trust. Physically intimate actions are a powerful way to express love, vulnerability, and affection between partners.

Suggestions of how to Increase Physical Intimacy:

  • Couples massage
  • Dancing together
  • Cuddle time (including sexual aftercare)
  • Exercising together
  • Holding Hands
  • Sexual Togetherness
  • Physical affection routine
  • Surprise kisses (within boundaries)
  • Body-related affirmations
  • Shared initiation of touch
Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is described as feeling close, connected, and supported by your partner(s) and is often a profound experience. This connection occurs when partners share their innermost thoughts and feelings with each other. By allowing for connection beyond surface-level interactions, partners can create a deep sense of trust, understanding, and mutual support. Emotional intimacy tends to involve deep levels of empathy, vulnerability, active listening, open paths of communication, and the presence of a safe space without a fear of judgment. This type of intimacy forms the bedrock of meaningful connection and promotes a lasting and fulfilling bond between partners.

Suggestions of how to Increase Emotional Intimacy:

  • Deep conversations and/or building love maps
  • Daily check-ins (including gratitude exercises)
  • Surprise letters and notes
  • Sharing past happy memories
  • Letters of affection
  • Sharing emotions and processing together
  • Practicing vulnerability (discuss fears, anxieties, dreams)
  • Show empathy for your partner’s experiences
  • Mutual journaling
  • Combined mindfulness practices
Intellectual Intimacy

Although it is often lesser known than its counterparts, intellectual intimacy is a key component of long-term relationship satisfaction. Intellectual intimacy refers to any form of intellectual connection between partners, as well as the sharing of ideas and intellectual thoughts. This can look like discussing current events, learning new things together, or discussing various other intellectual pursuits and interests. High levels of intellectual intimacy reflects a respect for each other’s thoughts and a shared meaning for the world. Intellectual intimacy also stimulates intellectual growth, encourages open-mindedness, and contributes to a unique form of connection. Embracing intellectual intimacy strengthens the foundation for a lasting and fulfilling connection through its ability to foster a unique and enriching connection.

Suggestions of how to Increase Intellectual Intimacy:

  • Read a book together
  • Attend a cooking class
  • Visit a museum or gallery
  • Debate friendly topics
  • Trivia or board game nights
  • Discuss favorite hobbies or interests
  • Attend a new workshop together
  • Lean a new skill
  • Philosophical conversations
  • Documentary Night
Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy refers to the connection that develops through shared experiences and time spent together. These practices help to create lasting memories and contribute to a deeper bond between individuals. While it is necessary to be physically present during these experiential practices, it is also important to be mentally and emotionally present in order to actively engage in meaningful experiences with your partner(s). Creating shared moments and meaning, both in everyday activities and more unique adventures, strengthens an emotional bond between people that can in turn enhance trust, communication, and a sense of unity. Positive experiences also work to create continuous positive associations with your partners through emotions such as joy, excitement, novelty, and adventure, all of which work to increase overall relationship satisfaction and fulfillment.

Suggestions of how to Increase Experiential Intimacy:

  • Recreate your first date
  • Watch a sports game
  • Take a long drive
  • Complete a DIY project
  • Go on a day trip/travel together
  • Plan a tech and screen-free day
  • Take a hike or spend time outdoors
  • Complete a fitness challenge
  • Attend a concert or live performance
  • Volunteer somewhere together
Spiritual and Creative Intimacy

Although they are often left out of conversations related to intimacy, spiritual and creative intimacy are both important aspects of a well-rounded and fulfilling relationship. The connections created through spiritual and creative outlets can serve as a powerful catalyst for a well-rounded and deep-rooted relationship. While both are prioritized on different levels within each relationship, both help to create a very deep and complex shared meaning. The connection fostered from spiritual and creative intimacies can also help partners to navigate various life stressors from a shared perspective, as well as encouraging individuals to maintain a sense of romance and intentionality within their relationships. Together, spiritual and creative intimacy practices form an intricate narrative of connection that is helpful for a balanced and resilient relationship.

Suggestions of how to Increase Spiritual Intimacy:

  • Discuss and reflect on beliefs
  • Meditate together
  • Attend a spiritual service or gathering
  • Read spiritual texts
  • Listen to spiritual music
  • Create a sacred space in your home
  • Take a mindful nature hike or walk

Suggestions of how to Increase Creative Intimacy:

  • Craft night
  • Photography adventures
  • Make a scrapbook
  • Redecorate a room in your home
  • Music Jam Sessions
  • Paint blank canvases
  • Vision board creation
Do you feel disconnected from your partner?

If you are experiencing feelings of disconnection from your partner(s), you are not alone. Sometimes life gets busy, children change routines, or you both are exhausted from your daily lives. Feeling unknown, unseen, or disconnected from your significant other(s) can feel incredibly isolating and hopeless. A lack of intimacy within relationships can create self-esteem concerns, difficulty communicating effectively, and feelings of loneliness. In many situations, a long-term lack of intimacy can cause individuals to question their relationship and/or themselves. While these feelings are entirely understandable, it is important to remember that there are tools and support to help reclaim a strong sense of connection and intimacy. By integrating the suggestions listed above, it is entirely possible to reconnect with your partner(s) in the ways that you desire and deserve. If the suggestions feel far away and daunting, working with a relationship therapist is a wonderful and courageous way to meet your goals of returning to a strong sense of intimacy.

The many clinicians at Hey Emma are more than happy to support you with these concerns and are available in-person and through Telehealth in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.