What Is Intimacy and 12 Types of Intimacy in a Relationship

The dictionary defines “intimacy” as closeness or sexual intimacy, but did you know that there are more ways to define what types of intimacy are? 

An interesting way to define intimacy would be the blending of hearts. Intimacy with our partner allows us to “see into” who our partners are and makes our companion “see into” us as well.

The thing you need to ask yourself is this: what does intimacy mean to me? This can be a definition of intimacy in relation to marriage or any relationship. To define intimacy is really to determine how both of you relate to each other.

The meaning of intimacy

What is the meaning of intimacy? What is true intimacy? What are the different types of intimacy? And is intimacy without sex even possible?

Some in psychology today see relationship intimacy as more than just being close or being sexually intimate. The true definition of intimacy is not only about two bodies merging for physical intimacy or sex. It is deeper than that. 

‘What is intimacy meaning in a relationship’ or ‘What is intimacy in marriage’ could have a different meaning for different people. 

The concept of intimacy involves a mutually consensual relationship where two individuals reciprocate intimate moments and feelings of trust, emotional and physical closeness towards each other. 

Being intimate with your partner is more than just about the physical interaction between the two of you. Here are some types of intimacy that exist between two people.


1. Intellectual intimacy

Are you both on the same wavelength? Do you “get” each other? Can you talk ‘til all hours of the night about anything and everything—even stuff like kids and finances? That is what is meant by the definition of intellectual intimacy.

It’s not that one person is smarter than the other; more so that you have a similar approach to life and enjoy conversing with each other. You may have different ideas, but you work to come together.

Apart from physical and emotional intimacy, a relationship needs a certain degree of intellectual homogeneity between the partners for a relationship to thrive. Ways to be intimate without being physical include intimacy of many other types. It is a type of intimacy that is very crucial.

An intellectually intimate relationship is where couples can indulge and contribute to each other’s lives through their intellectual prowess.

The laws of intellectual intimacy rely on the fact that people with similar intellectual capabilities are more compatible.

So here are a few things to keep in mind to harness intellectual intimacy:

Find and engage with people with the same attitude and desires as yours.

Look for people with similar interests and goals.

Bond with people with a similar set of loyalties and values.


2. Emotional closeness

What’s the meaning of intimate relationships in terms of emotions? Or what is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy in marriage is when a couple’s intimacy develops as a strong sense of closeness and love with each other.

Such a relationship is defined by the extent to which the couple can feel secure, have trust, and communicate with one another.

When you are emotionally close, it means you are vulnerable. You let your guard down and feel safe doing so.

When you feel this kind of closeness, you can tell each other anything and feel accepted. You both can “feel” what the other person is feeling.

Many couples may have been together for a long time and still lack emotional intimacy. That’s because this one is probably the scariest. Often, they do not even recognize a lack of emotional intimacy in their lives until it is too late.

Here are a few things you can do to grow emotional intimacy in your marriage:

Spend quality time with your partner without distractions.

Be kind, respectful, loving, and compassionate towards your partner.

Explore new things and activities that you can do with your partner.


3. Spiritual bond

Probably the last thing you think about when you hear “intimacy” is spirituality. But if you believe that God or some higher power wants us to love each other, then it makes sense.

We aren’t here by accident, and somehow we find each other. We form strong connections. When you develop a spiritual bond, you both understand each other’s spiritual quest and beliefs.

You allow the relationship to have spiritual competence.

Why do we not harm others just because it’s the law? No, because we believe life is precious. That is a spiritual bond. When you achieve that in your intimate relationship, you are connected to your partner spiritually.

A spiritual intimate relationship meaning is when a couple mutually commits to respect, preserve, and enhance God’s purpose in their lives.

Spiritual intimacy is profound and intense, and it enables you and your partner to become the best versions of yourselves.

It teaches you to value the presence and will of God in your marriage and lives. It enriches your belief in something greater than yourself and demands a sacrifice in terms of shedding your natural sense of selfishness.

Here are a few things you must do to enrich your lives spiritually:

  • Believe in something higher than you and support each other to evolve into your beliefs.
  • Practice meditation
  • Address your psychological issues and how to overcome them.

Healthy intimate relationships have a spiritual intimacy, more often than not. 


4. Sexual expression

Being “intimate” is at the root of the word “intimacy,” but what does that mean? Is it just sex, or is it more than that? Is there a difference between sex and intimacy?

The definition of intimacy in a relationship is different from couple to couple.

But the ideal has to do with sexual expression. If you are both free to express yourself sexually and feel comfortable with each other, you have reached a good level of intimacy.

It is more than just sex—you are sharing that most unique part of yourself, and vice versa.


5. Understanding self and partner

Understanding is also a form of intimacy. Understanding self and partner, one must be honest with self and open to learning of one’s partner.  Intimacy is not selfish, but it is an action of love towards your mate. 

When one understands self – they know who they are and what they desire. This allows them to get to know their companion and be fully engaged. When this occurs, building intimacy creates space for emotional connection.


6. Mutual respect

Respect for each other shows intimacy in a very mature form. Mutual respect simply allows for each person to create space for difference and exemplifies your love in action.  

You have a shared responsibility when it comes to creating intimacy within the marriage. Moreover, each partner is accountable to the other to value, demonstrate appreciation, regard, and admiration.


7. Communication

We can only really communicate with someone we are close with, and communication shows a different level of intimacy. Communication generates vulnerability, trust, and openness.  

Therefore, allowing each person to be fully present and engaged in the other’s needs, wants, and desires.  Thereby eliminating the focus of self but the focus of the other. This causes a vulnerability in each spouse and allows for freedom and recognition of the needs of the other.  


8. Vulnerability

We only allow someone to see how vulnerable we can get when we are close with them. The vulnerability allows for sincerity and honesty between one another.  

Additionally, vulnerability recognizes that there is a need to be approachable and establish trust.  When partners are vulnerable, they dis-armor and re-engage on a level that acknowledges the desire for oneness.   


9. Trust

Trust is an important aspect of fostering intimacy.  It allows couples to have confidence that their partner is loyal, honest, and committed to the marital relationship.  

Each aspect outlined portrays intimacy as more than a sexual act, but rather an emotional connection that invites and produces an emotive merging of two, becoming one that supports mutual respect, communication, vulnerability, and trust.  In conclusion, couples must unmask and make space for the other to participate in the act of intimacy. 


10. Intimacy between spouses

Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.  

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (Barker 2008)

The scripture describes the need for mutuality of love, affection, compassion, security, and protection.  

It articulates the need for a connection between a husband and wife. Each is responsible and accountable to one another to ensure intimacy.  Not just sexual, but emotional and physical. Lastly, it illustrates the equality between spouses. (Catherine Clark Kroeger 2002).


11. Passion with vulnerability

Song of Solomon 1-5 is a book of poetry in the Bible, which describes a love song sung by King Solomon and his bride to be the Shulamite maiden.  

It provides validation of intimacy within marriage and the beauty of love, intimacy, and sex for married couples.  It illustrates passion, vulnerability, and joy that can be achieved for couples through intimacy. The ability to connect both physically and verbally.  

Raewynne J. Whiteley explores inviting love, finding complementarity, yearning fulfilled, searching for love, exploring dimensions of love, and universalizing love as she fully engages the text. (Catherine Clark Kroeger 2002) Song of Solomon clearly conveys the pledge and importance of love and emotional connection.  

Furthermore, exemplifies a romantic demonstration of their passion and desire for one another. The poetic narrative is an enduring love story that provides insight into the fears that may threaten relationships and gives insight into the power of love and commitment to overcome during times of uncertainty.


12. Independence

In Intimacy and Solitude:  Balancing Closeness and Independence, she writes, “Bringing intimacy and solitude together explicitly acknowledges that those needs exist in relationship to each other:  that your knowledge of others grows with knowledge of yourself; that you are likely to need relationships while also wanting to express your individuality; that you need closeness and protection as well as autonomy.” (Dowrick 1995)  

She illustrates the importance of having a clear understanding of self and allowing freedom within the relationship. That one does not have control over the other, but instead, there is mutual respect and a sense of self that is needed to allow connection on an intimate level.   


Final Takeaway

All in all, each type of intimacy is a process. It can change, so work on it with your partner for a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship. You can also seek intimacy counseling to enhance your relationship.

The above-shared definitions of intimacy and what they mean to you can be an excellent base for building everlasting intimacy with your significant other.

 Defining and exploring so many levels of intimacy is an exciting journey that you must take.