There’s more to intimacy than sex and deep, meaningful conversation. Surprised? Let’s talk it through. 

What is intimacy?

When you think intimacy, you may automatically jump to ‘the physical’ – kissing, sex, holding one another, etc. After all, intimacy is the sense of closeness you feel with another person, and physical closeness often includes levels of unparalleled vulnerability. 

However, there’s more to intimacy than physicality. Intimacy means ‘into-me-you-see.’ It’s about being vulnerable with someone both in and out of the bedroom. It’s the closeness you feel with your partner or another person and it can be purely emotional or conversational as well. 

Another definition of intimacy reads, “​​the state of being intimate, which is marked by the consensual sharing of deeply personal information. It has cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. Intimates reveal themselves to one another, care deeply about one another, and are comfortable in close proximity.” 

This definition says nothing about sex because intimacy isn’t reserved for romantic partners or romantic relationships – intimacy exists in many forms in addition to romantic relationships; for example familial relationships, close friendships, and mentorships.

Intimacy can be built on many foundations like trust, vulnerability, comfort, shared experiences or values, and so much more. 

Types of Intimacy According to Dr. Elizabeth Fredrick

Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick is a Relationship & Intimacy Coach, professor, podcaster, writer, and presenter. She specializes in emotional and physical intimacy, relationship barriers, communication skills, and helping her clients to break the “toxic cycle” & address dysfunctional relational behaviors. 

In an Instagram post, she said, “Humans are complex, therefore so are our relationships… thus, they should be treated as such.” This text is found in the caption of an infographic that details the five “types of emotional intimacy (that require effort and attention).” 

In the same post, Dr. Fredrick enumerates and characterizes the types of intimacy (emotional, physical, experiential, spiritual, and intellectual).

How to tune in to different types of intimacy

Dr. Frederick says you shouldn’t focus solely on physical and emotional intimacy, but rather “Spend some time exploring how you can shift your efforts and attention towards intellectual, experiential, and spiritual intimacy as well.”

Here are some ‘dares’ (yep, that’s a double dog dare for you) curated to foster all types of intimacy:

  1. Watch a movie with your partner that makes you emotional, or cry, and have a conversation about the feelings that it brings up for you. 
  2. Take a class together – cooking, painting, tantra… dealer’s choice!
  3. Make a (fun) presentation about something you find interesting. Maybe it was something you studied in school or something you do at work. Teach each other and see your partner’s eyes light up with passion about a topic you know nothing about. Then, discuss what you learned!
  4. Try meditating together.
  5. Experiment with nonverbal communication – use your bodies to tell a story.
  6. Explore In Tune, Rythm’s card game designed for couples by therapists here

Written by: Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH

Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist