Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is intimacy?
Intimacy means a lot of different things, but the constant is that it relates to closeness. Intimacy means emotional closeness in some cases, whereas in others, it refers to physical acts. In any case, intimacy requires trust. Whether you're talking about physical intimacy in sexual relationships or emotional intimacy, you have to feel safe and comfortable to establish it.
What kinds of intimacy are there?
Since intimacy means multiple things depending on the context, you're probably wondering what kinds of intimacy there are. There's physical intimacy, sexual intimacy, and also emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and more. There is even intimacy that relates to experiences. For example, embarking on a particular activity may require intimacy for you. Maybe, you're comfortable going skydiving or traveling to a new city with one person, but you wouldn't be so comfortable doing those things with someone that you don't trust and aren't connected to in a way that feels intimate. Intimacy means something different to everyone, but regardless of what it means to you, it is a crucial part of our lives.
Why is intimacy important?
Intimacy is important because, as social creatures, close relationships are vital in our lives. Additionally, they have an abundance of benefits, some of which you might not expect. Studies show that social relationships are beneficial for both our mental health and physical health. Conversely, social isolation can affect our mental and physical health in a negative way, which is why it's important to work on building intimacy. If you have intimacy with someone, you likely feel safe with them, which can provide a sense of comfort and understanding.
How do you build intimacy with someone?
Building intimacy with another person takes time, especially when it comes to emotional intimacy or romantic relationships. Intimacy is not something that you can build in a day. It takes time to trust someone, get to know them on the deep level that would allow you to achieve intimacy, and to feel strongly connected. Emotional closeness requires openness on both sides. When it comes to building intimacy, you have to be vulnerable and willing to communicate. You must listen to the other person and make an effort to hear what they have to say. If you have any past wounds that interfere with your ability to establish emotional closeness, romantic relationships, or even sexual intimacy, it is possible to work through it so that you can have strong, open connections. For those who find that they have a pattern of struggling to build intimacy, working through why that is, is often the first step to being able to establish intimacy with others.
What should I do if I'm having problems with intimacy?
Whether you are having trouble with physical intimacy, sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, or getting close to people in general, seeing a mental health professional can help. A counselor or therapist can help you get to the root of your concerns regarding intimacy and help you establish long-term relationships that are good for your mental health. Search the online network of mental health professionals at ReGain and get the help that you need. Building intimacy can be difficult, but it is important, and you can get to a place in life where you are able to establish emotional closeness or other forms of intimacy without fear.