Intimacy: A Users Guide
What is Intimacy?
Intimacy is the basis for the formation of strong emotional attachments with other people. Intimacy is vitally important in the process of forming social bonds and networks. People have a powerful need to belong and to love and feel loved – it is intimacy that allows for this to occur. Intimacy can only grow through shared experiences with and knowledge of another person. It requires vulnerability, dialogue, reciprocity and transparency.
Too sustain an intimate relationship one needs to have a good level of emotional and interpersonal awareness. In the case of an intimate romantic relationship, partners need to be able to deal with a wide range of interactions – including occasional robust conflict. Care should, however, be taken to ensure that there is always a strong foundation of loyalty and trust. This is because we are most vulnerable to hurt from those that we are closest to and those that we have revealed our vulnerabilities to.
Intimacy does not just exist between lovers. It should form the basis of relationships with family members, friends and even sometimes colleagues and team members. Bear in mind that there should be a balance between sharing honestly and avoiding getting ‘too close’too soon.
Romantic and physical intimacy.
Intimacy is a vitally important ingredient in a romantic relationship and it goes beyond mere sexual attraction. It is based on love which is quantitatively and qualitatively stronger than fondness. To be part of a ‘couple’ means that a sense of permanency of the intimate relationship has evolved. This provides a foundation of emotional security that bolsters performance in other areas of life such as ones work and social life.
How can I build intimacy with my partner?
Romantic love: We have to work at it. It doesn’t just happen on its own. Well, it does at first. But if we sit by and do nothing, over time, the fire will die. Sad, but true. Dr. Christina Hibbert
Dr. Christina Hibbert has some excellent tips on how to build intimacy. Below is a summary and comments regarding her 7 of her top tips.
- Work on communication – According to Dr. Hibbert, communication is ”the number one issue that couples complain about”. In a successful relationship we need to know how to ask for help and express ourselves in a way that our partner really ‘gets’ what we are saying. She suggests spending time each evening discussing the day and sharing the good and the bad. The hopes and fears. Don’t forget to tell your partner that you love and care about them! Also be sure that if you have to argue you do it fairly and with kindness and compassion.
- Strengthen physical intimacy – Physical intimacy goes beyond just sex. “It involves spending time together, hugging, cuddling holding hands” says Dr. Hibbert. A common mistake that men make is to only be physically affectionate just before lovemaking. Women, however, expect and really appreciate physical affection that does not have an expectation of sex attached. “The more you expand your definition of physical connection, the stronger that connection will be.
- Have fun together – If you want your marriage or relationship to be enjoyable then it is very important to do enjoyable things together – ie. HAVE FUN. It’s okay for adults to play – in fact play makes people both more creative and more joyous. It also, according to Dr. Hibbert, “creates deep bonds between strangers, promotes healing and creates more intimacy.
- Get to know each-other better – Sometimes couples that have been together for many years begin to take each-other for granted presuming that there is nothing new to learn about the other person. Take time to ask your partner about their childhood and their hopes and dreams. Dr. Hibbert recommends an excellent intimacy building exercise: “have each partner write 20 questions to discuss then cut them up and put them in a jar. spend a night or two or ten asking questions and getting to know each-other better”. This will greatly improve the relationship and build greater intimacy.
- Get involved in your partners’ passions – Even if you have different hobbies and passions it’s important to find some things that you can do and enjoy together. Good examples of this are walking or hiking, travelling or going to sporting or cultural events. By becoming involved in things that are meaningful and enjoyable to your partner you will be a sense of loyalty and understanding. And also, as mentioned in point three above, have fun together.
- Work together as a team – a huge part of romantic love and lasting relationships is to work together as a team. Important examples for married couples is how you bring up your children and how you deal with aging parents. Teamwork makes the unavoidable challenges of life far easier to deal with and is also an excellent way to build intimacy in your relationship.
- Build your spiritual connection – Remember that, as is written in the bible, “man does not live by bread alone.” Even if your partner has different religious beliefs or even if they are an atheist, it is important that you discuss your faith and beliefs with each-other. By discussing these things you will greatly improve your understanding of your partner and also build intimacy. Just please remember to be respectful if your partner does not share your beliefs!
I hope that you find the above advice useful and put it into practice as soon as you can.