What is intimacy?

Intimacy is a requirement in a healthy relationship. Without it, a couple cannot grow and is in danger of disconnecting. But what is it exactly?

A number of words come to mind such as:

  • Openness
  • Acceptance
  • Vulnerability
  • Trust
  • Connection

There may be a temptation to think “it depends.” It depends on what kind of relationship and what kind of intimacy you’re talking about. I suggest that it doesn’t matter. It needs to be everywhere or it’s not good enough. It needs to permeate the energy of the couple.

A good way to think about intimacy is as safety.

You should feel safe to express yourself in the moment without fear of any kind. You should be able to say what’s on your mind and say how you feel without fear of judgement or criticism.

Everything is put out there by both of you as it happens. It’s spontaneous and organic. It can be routine or playful. It can be a bother or a complaint. It can be about your partner or someone else. It can be about family, friends or work.

If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, you both do it without anxiety or stress. You have a healthy conversation, listen deeply to each other, show empathy and come to a resolution.

This creates a formidable energy that adopts its own flow and its own rhythm. The energy between the two of you is frequently shifting and always staying in a safe zone.

How does your partner make you feel? Do you feel understood? Do you feel accepted for who you are?

Here’s what it feels like to not have it.

  • Fearful
  • Anxious
  • Stressed
  • Resentful

Here are some consequences of not having it.

  • You are separate from each other.
  • There is an uneasiness between you.
  • Things that need to be said are not said.
  • You worry about the future.

Here’s what it feels like to have it.

  • Cared for and supported
  • Being in a true partnership
  • Stable and steady
  • Confident about the future

Here are some consequences of having it.

  • You bond deeply.
  • You are more playful and have more fun.
  • Your sex life is better.
  • You feel more free.

How do you get it?

It requires courage and vulnerability. It requires both of you to acknowledge that the intimacy you both need isn’t there. Make an agreement that you’ll work on it together.

Start by asking yourself, “What do I need from my partner to feel safe?” Bring up a past hurt to provide an example. Replay what happened and how it made you feel. Just listen to each other deeply without judgement. Explain what you needed to hear to feel safe.

Make a pact that you’ll tell each other when you feel unsafe. Then try it again, saying what you need to hear. And remember, it isn’t personal. You are working together to achieve a shared goal.

It takes practice and you’ll get better at it. Eventually, the norm will be that both of you feel safe and intimacy will have been established. That’s a huge payoff that will last a lifetime.

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