What is intimacy? It’s not sex, but is crucial for your wellbeing. You’ll learn about the different types of intimacy, why intimacy is hard, and tips to help you foster more intimacy in your relationship.
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What Is Intimacy?
In this episode, you will learn what intimacy is. It’s not sex, but it is crucial for your well-being. You’ll learn about the different types of intimacy, why intimacy is hard, and tips to help you foster more intimacy in your relationships.
It is the month of love.
All of this. Love is in the air.
It is why we think it’s so important to start talking about intimacy.
That’s right. We’re going to be talking about intimacy, not sex. Get your head out of the gutter.
I can lead there. I definitely could talk about it full chisel.
We have that on the calendar. We’re going to be talking about sex and have an entire episode on sex, but this is not that episode because intimacy is not just sex.
I agree with you. It’s a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual connection. It can be present in any type of relationship. I know we often associate intimacy with intimate or romantic relationships. Side note, as I was putting my show notes together, I came across these eight stages of intimacy. I know that they were meant to be a partner. I’m not going to necessarily talk about them on the show. It might be a separate episode, but as I was going through it, I noticed that Siria and I met 7 of the 8. The only one we lacked was sexual intimacy. I was like, “There’s still some hope.” I don’t like to be a quitter but I like to hit all eight boxes.
You would get FOMO reading something, being like, “I’m not in a romantic relationship here, but damn it, this platonic relationship doesn’t hit all the boxes.”
You read my mind. Before we begin into this intimacy and why it’s so important, a question that came up for me was like, “Do you believe it is love or intimacy that’s more important in a romantic relationship?”
In a romantic relationship, I would say I don’t even see the difference. I feel like intimacy helps nurture love, but you don’t get to intimacy if there isn’t love already. It’s like this symbiotic relationship.
Is it like the chicken before the egg kind of thing?
That’s what it sounds like. It feels like you’d love someone because you want to be more intimate with them. The more intimate you are, the greater your love and capacity for love for that person increases.
Funny for me, I was reading this article, and when that question was posed to couples, 80% of them said love, but in actuality, it’s an intimacy that’s more important, according to this guy. I forgot his name. I would agree that it is intimacy for readers. My husband and I were in a rough patch and on the verge of divorce. I found myself saying, “Love isn’t enough.” It was the absence of that intimacy, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual connection that posed the greatest risk to my relationship. Love is a beautiful byproduct and it comes out of intimacy. They were talking about how the majority of divorces are people that do get divorced. It’s not that there is a lack of love, but a lack of intimacy.
That’s interesting. That would make sense. There are all kinds of things that lead to divorce and we’ve had plenty of time to study all of that. Now that we are here in this intimacy world, I find it fascinating.
I did too. What did you come up with?
Did you know that besides sex, there are four types of intimacy.
What are they?
They are emotional, intellectual, experiential, and spiritual intimacy. If we go and break each one of these down, emotional intimacy is what allows you to let your guard down with someone. You are sharing your emotions and you feel safe to do so. That’s going to be the big component in the emotional intimacy category.
In the intellectual intimacy category, you are getting to know how the other person’s mind works, and basically, you’re sharing a roadmap of your mind with them. You’re able to have stimulating conversations where you could have different points of view. It’s okay because that’s part of the exciting part of having this intellectual intimacy. Side note, I love a good conversation and show me what you’re passionate about in a conversation. I get so excited. That’s one of my favorite ways of being intimate with people.
For me, it’s like, “You’re smart and you’re so hot.” It’s more of smart and super sexy. Experiential is when you do things together. If you and your husband ran a 5K together, that’s quality time, which is one of your big love language ways of showing love. The more you’re able to share experiences, that is considered a form of intimacy. Of course, spiritual, where it could be your religious beliefs, but talking about what you believe about the world overall. It’s having all of these different types of intimacy that don’t necessarily have anything to do with an eggplant emoji.
I agree. As we were circling this topic, I was thinking back to my marriage with my husband and how it was on the rocks in this need for intimacy. Being intimate is being vulnerable. What makes us hesitant to be vulnerable with someone? It’s this fear of rejection or judgment. I even went back further in terms of where our need for intimacy comes from? I was very fascinated because our ancestors lived in big families or small communities. These close-knit communities would work together to provide for most of our needs, such as physical support, emotional support, safety, food, and shelter. In today’s society, specifically the American culture, we’re able to meet all of our needs ourselves. It supports this need or serves our need for autonomy but not for intimacy.
With technology advancements, the internet, the rise in social media, remote work, DoorDash, and online learning, all of these things, in my opinion, have stifled our ability to engage with people and develop meaningful relationships with others. According to Psychology Today, it’s this cultural change that most people have not learned how to reliably sustain pleasure in intimate relationships. It’s separation from others. With this level of autonomy, I don’t need a person for anything. I can do it myself.
How often have you felt alone, and yet you’re in a giant conference room with a ton of people or you’re in space? You’re here with other people but if you don’t have that connection piece and allow yourself to do that, it can be a lonely world.
I know that this is going to be right up your alley. Have we talked about capitalism in this episode?
Thanks to capitalism because there is a shift topping and the American Workforce assigns a person’s worth to productivity, the number of hours you worked, and whether you are exceeding your sales goals. While the pandemic may have encouraged autonomy, like DoorDash, and all that stuff, it’s surfaced or resurfaced our need for intimacy. You and I have talked about the pandemic pause before, and this pause has invited the opportunity for us to reflect on our life. We’ve made career changes, and rather than staying in relationships or situations where we’re unhappy, people are actively seeking out happiness and fulfillment. Not only do people want happiness and fulfillment, but they also want it most in their intimate relationships.Not only do people want happiness and fulfillment now, but they want it most in their intimate relationships. Click To Tweet
It makes sense that they want these things. From a personal experience, I’ve noticed that surface conversations don’t do it for me anymore. If you want to keep something surfacey, if that is where you want to be and that’s your comfort zone, I get it and I will respect it. Matt and I were on a walk and they were redoing the baseball fields across the park where we live at. His family would not shut up about it. They were excited about, “Why are they ripping up the stuff?” I was like, “I could care less about this.” They are literally talking about the surface. He’s like, “It will be exciting when all this stuff is on there.” I said, “I could care less about the surface of what’s going on over there.”
It has nothing to do with me and I don’t want to keep it surfacey. I did say,” I am interested as to why you’re interested in it.” He’s like, “You don’t care about it, so I don’t want to talk about it.” It shut down the whole conversation. It was super frustrating. I’m on this planet and I want to be present, which is my current bracelet that I’m wearing. I want to be here and have a meaningful conversation with you. If it is like, “Tell me about that issue you did yesterday. How long did it take? Was that a personal record for you? How was the weather that day?” If that is the conversation we are having, I don’t want it.
I went on a trip with a friend of mine, and this pool attendant was making small talk with us. This friend of mine said, “There is a clear point in the conversation where your face changes like you are over the conversation. I will make this nice with you, but if this goes more than a couple of minutes, I’m gone. I will physically be in this space. I share that space with you, but I’m not mentally there with you, and I will check out.” I know that’s rude. It’s probably a little mean, but I’m not interested in having surfacey conversations. It does nothing for me.
I don’t think it does anything for anybody because you’re not connecting. What do you learn about a person? We talk a lot about this in the lawyer group I’m involved in and from Hostage Shiro about chasing resonance. What that is you’re chasing a deep conversation where you feel seen, heard, and validated. You don’t get that where it’s like, “Tell me about the race? You did it in 35 minutes. Was that fast for you, or was that slow for you?” When your fact-gathering of other people, you may think, “I’m very interested in this person.” No, you’re not. You’re at the surface. A big part of it is wanting that connection but also being able to say, “Can I trust this person with this piece of me?”
That goes into one of the reasons why we find intimacy hard. We talked about vulnerability, but if you’re afraid of being vulnerable, then chances are you fear intimacy even though you crave it. We are afraid of being judged. Can I trust that person? In order to trust that person with you, I hate to say this. I hate when people tell me, “You go to take a leap of faith.” You do have to take a leap of faith and hope that person catches you. If not, then you know but you’re never going to know where that person stands in your life without taking that leap of faith.
It is putting yourself out there and having that faith of, “I can go ahead and give this information to this person.” They’re going to respond in a way that is helpful and beneficial as opposed to judgey, but you know who these people are. There are certain things that I am willing to have a conversation with my mother about. There are way more things that I’m not. I have found myself being in conversations like, “Am I going to share this piece with this person?” I think about it because I know what it is. I know if I disclose this, it’s going to create a deeper level of intimacy and trust because I’m being vulnerable.
Sometimes I think to myself, “I feel like I can’t do that yet.” What it does for me, and I talked to my therapist about it, was I don’t think our relationship is as close because I wasn’t willing to have this part of the conversation. My therapist being a therapist, turned it around me. He was like, “I’m more interested as to why you thought you couldn’t disclose. What was it about you in that situation as opposed to the relationship itself?”
Speaking of counselors and vulnerability, I was struggling with this. We mentioned earlier that intimate relationships aren’t just romantic relationships. I want to have a deeper connection with my father. We were estranged for a very long time. One of the things that I had talked about in some of my counseling sessions was, “I hate how servicey our conversations are.” They’re like, “How’s work?” “Good.” “How’s the weather out there?” “Good.” It was fucking boring.
We would do this for an hour. I remember telling my counselor, “I hate how surfacey these are.” She’s like, “You’re the reason why they’re surfacey. You are not willing to share anything and put yourself out there. I guarantee you that once you start to put yourself out there, that person will then feel safe enough that they can reciprocate it.” Sometimes it requires us being the first one to share, to be open, and be vulnerable. After that, I did notice a shift, then my dad started sharing more with me, and the relationship has been able to deepen because of it.
You’re going to have some surfacey and catching-up stuff. You’re like, “I haven’t seen you. How was your trip?” “The weather was beautiful,” then you get to the deeper things. If you stay up there the whole time, it’s exhausting. You feel like I don’t have anything to talk to about this person, or they’re not even interested in me. There are seven key factors for intimacy. You’re going to need to have trust, acceptance, honesty and safety. Safety is huge for most things, especially if you want to be growing. Number five is compassion, affection, and communication. These are things that you will need to have in order to increase closeness in personal relationships.There's seven key factors for intimacy: trust, acceptance, honesty, safety, compassion, affection and communication. Click To Tweet
How fascinating. I’m still fixated on whether we want intimacy but It’s so hard. We have this fear of vulnerability. You alluded to another reason why it’s hard for us to be vulnerable, which is intimacy versus sex. A lot of us confuse intimacy and sex, and they’re not synonymous at all. Oftentimes, we’ll associate love with sexual activity.
One study found or reported that 80% of people said that the definition of intimacy is sex. That sex with a partner can build intimacy. As we all know, not all sex is intimate. It is possible to have intimacy without sex and sex without intimacy. The problem is when we confuse the two, it can lead us to feel sad, angry, used, or betrayed when we fail to satisfy our needs for intimacy or closeness during sex.
It’s important to understand that sex is not intimacy and intimacy is not sex. This last one that I came up with as I was reflecting on why I felt intimacy was so hard. I have no role models of what a healthy relationship looks like. If we’re looking to build relationships based on genuine feelings of equality and vulnerability, I don’t know what the hell that looks like. Most of us do not know or have role models to show us what a healthy, loving, and meaningful relationship looks like. In fact, for many of us, we grew up looking to our parents. Speaking from experience, we’re completely dysfunctional, unhealthy, and distrustful relationships. This was the main point of reference for the relationships I would engage in later on in my life.
Role models and where would we find these? It would be inappropriate for teachers to do it.
It would, but like you and I have talked about this off air. There are 1 or 2 couples that have a strong bond, level of intimacy, and love for each other. The majority of couples that I know would be like, “I’m good. I’m going to pass on that.”
You’re right. I have two couples that are my gold standard of coupling, and I love them completely. I love how they show up in the world. A big part of it is that they don’t compromise who’s around for their relationship. They continued to be the same in every single space and situation because at the end of the day, their relationship is what matters most. They’re not doing this song and dance of there are all these other people around. That’s where I want to get to.
I’m not there yet but I’m feeling some song and dance things happening. It’s something where I want to have that security and assurance that it doesn’t matter that the relationship we’ve built has so much more. That’s true with other types of relationships as well. Not just your romantic relationships. There are certain friendships that we’ve experienced, emotional and intellectual, even experiential, if we’re able to talk in-depth about these things or share these pieces of ourselves like we have an intimate relationship.
Yes, we do. You mentioned the seven key factors. In addition to having those seven key factors, what have you done to foster a more intimate relationship?
I have done that analysis in my head. Is somebody that I want to have that with? It might not be a person that wants to have that conversation with. It may be a situation where I feel like I’m not ready to have that conversation. I’m not ready to disclose this piece of myself that feels scary is what it is. I’m just not ready to do it. Tuning into yourself and realizing that just because there’s an opportunity for intimacy doesn’t mean you have to take it.
If you were talking about sex, you don’t have to have it all the time. If one person does, another person doesn’t. You still want to have that emotional consent. You still want to be in a space where you feel like this is safe and it’s something that could be reciprocated. Not that it has to be, because that’s the other thing too, that some people get into this tit-for-tat like, “I told you something personal. Now you have to tell me something personal.”
That’s not how it works. Because you are willing to disclose, I appreciate that, but I may not be there. Understand that it’s a process and we’re all in different stages of our development, emotional growth maturity, and being able to respect that. It’s understanding that it’s not about you. It’s about yourself and having that respect for the other person that you’re in a relationship with.
I’d like to add to that, and I’m speaking from my own experience. The first step that I did was to develop or strengthen my self-awareness. The reason why I think that is probably the first step is because you might be avoiding intimacy for reasons you’re not even aware of. It wasn’t until I went to some therapy sessions that my counselor and I together uncovered several events and people in my life that have fostered this fear of vulnerability. Over time, I began to process those experiences, which lessened, not eliminated, my fear of being vulnerable.
The second thing I started doing was communicating. Now I know this sounds super easy, but it’s not. From my experience, I’ve learned that communication is the key or the foundation of any relationship. I’d always tell my husband, “Don’t assume that I’m some mind reader. It’d be cool if I was.” If you’re afraid of letting people in, communicate that to your partner because I did.
I would tell Vince, “This is very hard for me to share.” I would explain why and it brought us to the same playing field, so together, we were able to work on creating a more psychological safety space for me to feel comfortable enough to share. The third thing that I did, and it’s something that you talked about earlier, which was to make a concerted effort to spend time together.
Planning a date night is nice, but when a person is checking the sports scores, Vince, or me checking social media, texting, or emailing, that’s not being present of what you were talking about. Make a concerted effort to be present with that other person. Lastly, Siria, you hit on this topic too, which was include them to participate in your life. It’s sharing ideas and projects and stuff. I was terrible about this becuase I did everything on my own. I’m going to give a short story. The house that I’m in right now is a house that I bought before I married my husband.Make a concerted effort to be present with that other person. Click To Tweet
After we got married, I would try to make this house a home. I would try to invite him into it and be like, “This is your house.” It wasn’t we thing or anything like that. That was reinforced by the fact that I chose everything, like decorations, paint colors, and stuff like that. I’m in the process of painting my house a different color, and I invited him to help me find the color. We were able to go several times to Lowe’s to find the paint color. He was the one that found the paint color that we’re going to be using.
It’s nice because I asked him, “Do you feel like this is more of your house?” He’s like, “Absolutely.” I said, “What do you think accounted for that?” He’s like, “Just where we are.” That’s because we’ve grown as a couple. We’ve both been vulnerable and communicated. We made concerted efforts to spend time with each other and started to include the other person in things. Not to say that person needs to be in every aspect of your life because you do need some time for yourself, but including them in things like that brought Vince and I together.
That’s beautiful, and it touches on the romantic aspect. You can also apply that to platonic relationships. Spending quality time like we have. We call them the Squad. There’s a group of us. We all make a concerted effort to spend one-on-one time with each other as opposed to all of us together all the time. That’s important, and making sure that you are spending one-on-one time with those friends and relationships that you want that Increased intimacy. It is a way of including them in your world. I love what you talk about the inclusion part because I felt the same way about events like, “No, this is Matt’s house.” When I’m in a mood, I’m like, “This is your house.”
That Latina side has to pop up sometimes.
She pops up and is like, “No, this is your house. This is your problem.” It’s feeling that inclusion. A big thing that helped us was my mom, at that time, was working at a furniture store so she had a mad employee discount. I had met his parents and his parents had threatened to throw out the couch. This couch was a man cave. He had this old couch that was dirty, and one of the couch sides was falling apart. If you sat on it wrong, it would go flying off.
They were like, “When we come back in the fall and if this is still here, your dad is going to take one end and I’m going to take the other end and we’re going to go toss it out, and then we’re going to go buy what we want.” I came out and was like, “You’re a grown-ass man. We’re not letting your parents buy you a couch.” I am not going to let them pick out the couch that I’m going to be sitting on fucking year-round?
It helped us put a fire under his ass and have my mom with the employee discount. We went and we ended up picking up all the custom furniture together. It became our space and it was that integration. It wasn’t anything that was, “This was his before and this was mine before.” We combined it. It was all brand-new things that we were able to pick together. There were even these reading chairs.
I liked a certain style and he liked a different style. We were having a hard time and we want to get the matching set. At that time, my mom was like, “Why don’t you make the fabric the same? They’ll still be matching, but they’ll be different chairs that you guys each want.” It was like, “That’s genius.” That’s what we did.
For our audience out there that thinks that intimacy and vulnerability are too scary and I’m not ready, I found this study to be super interesting. Studies have shown that infants will fail to thrive if they do not experience physical and emotional closeness from another human being.
Is that the baby-killing study? A bunch of babies died.
Really? I didn’t know. I did not go into that.
They did this study with babies. They gave them food and water, but they didn’t give them any physical or emotional touches, and the babies all started to die. They had to pull the plug on this study.This need for intimacy, even though it might be scary, is a necessity. Click To Tweet
I’m not where I was going with this. It establishes what I’m trying to say here, which is this need for connection and closeness never goes away and will continue throughout our entire lives. Without human connection, it is no surprise that we’ve become susceptible to things like depression, anxiety, and addiction. This need for intimacy, even though it might be scary. It’s a necessity.
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