Nourishing the Different Types of Intimacy in Your Relationship

When we talk about being intimate in a romantic relationship, we often equate it to sexual intimacy. But sex is just one form of intimacy.

“Intimacy is a process whereby we feel truly seen, known by and connected to our partner,” said Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, a psychotherapist who provides individual and couples counseling in Washington, D.C.

And this can manifest in many ways. Here are other types of intimacy and how you can nourish each one.

Emotional Intimacy

Being emotionally intimate with a partner means that you can talk to them about your innermost thoughts.

You’re able to share your joy and pain with your partner. “It’s the person you can cry with.”

“Truly understanding your partner, being able to be vulnerable, and share feelings is key to emotional intimacy.”

One component is building love maps, which is how well we know our partner’s psychological worlds, their history and hopes, and their worries and joys.

You can build love maps by asking open-ended questions and really listening to your partner’s responses.

It is vital to be honest with each other. If you’re feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner, explore what might be underlying this disconnection. “It could be a host of reasons. It could have something to do with your partner or yourself.”

Maybe you’re feeling disconnected because you’re still upset about something your partner did or you’re keeping a secret.

Other issues such as anxiety or any kind of ongoing stress can affect an emotional connection.

Intellectual Intimacy

This includes “exchanging ideas and thoughts about things you think and care about. For instance, to deepen your intellectual intimacy, you might share your favorite songs, experiences, books. “You can even have an intimate 

For instance, to deepen your intellectual intimacy, you might share your favorite songs, poems or books, she said. “You can even have an intimate book club for two where you read a book and discuss.”

You also might share your thoughts about life in general or interests such as volunteering and places you’d like to travel, she said.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy is not the same as sexual intimacy. It’s essentially being affectionate with each other, which can include everything from hugging to holding hands to kissing to cuddling on the couch.

Again, if you’re feeling a disconnect here; For instance, if your partner tries to massage your neck, but you’re shrinking away, consider where this reaction is coming from. Pay attention to your thoughts and the reactions you have to your partner’s touch.

It’s also helpful to talk about it (or to talk with a therapist). There is safety in the multitude of counselors. If your partner is the one who seems to be disconnected from you, ask them about it. Avoid “creating a story about what’s going on with them.”

First, ask your partner when they’d like to talk. This way they “can be prepared and don’t feel attacked.” Approach the conversation with kindness. If either of you finds your emotions are escalating and you can’t be kind anymore, take a break, and agree to talk another time, he said.

Also, when talking to each other, have a “spirit of inquiry and understanding.” For instance, you can say: “I would like to hear more about that. How would you feel about that? What’s that like for you?”

Experiential Intimacy

Couples don’t have to do everything together, but it’s important to share experiences (without any distractions). F.i. going to movies, concerts, dining out, travel, visit family etc…

Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy is sharing awe-inspiring moments together. This might mean “worshipping as a couple”. Honoring each other, maintaining trust at all times. Keeping God first is vital. A threefold cord cannot easily be broken. And a family that prays together, stays together.

If you feel disconnected from your partner in any of these areas, again, it’s important to talk to them (or see a therapist/counselor). In fact, talking to your partner about intimacy can actually build intimacy.

In other words, if you are able to be open and honest with each other, to listen to what your partner is saying and to try to understand where they’re coming from, then you’re already nurturing your connection.