All About Emotional, Sexual, Physical, And Platonic Intimacy
Updated March 04, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
When you hear the word 'intimacy,' what do you imagine? Odds are, you imagine sex. This is because the word is commonly used in the context of sex. You get intimate with your partner. It's one of those words that almost sounds scandalous, doesn't it?
But this is only a part of what intimacy is. In this article, we will break down all the types of intimacy.
What Is Intimacy?
The dictionary definition of intimacy is "closeness," describing familiarity or friendship that's close. In other words, if you're intimate with someone, you have a feeling of closeness, and it doesn't have to be your spouse. It can be your friend. Being intimate with someone is doing an action that strengthens that bond. That's why sex is considered an intimate act because whether you're having sex as lovers or just friends, it's a way to bond.
There Are Different Types of Intimacy
You've probably heard of the word platonic before, but what does it mean? Simply put, it's love that is non-sexual. Named after Plato, who talked about love, this can apply to friendships or even relationships themselves. Here's how to be intimate platonically:
-Be a good friend. Listen to your friend's emotional needs and be there for them whenever possible. Don't just be a fair-weathered friend who is only there when your friend is happy, and then vanish when things got rough.
-Platonic intimacy can involve touching, but it's non-sexual. Cuddling and hugging are a few examples.
-A platonic relationship should not be expected to evolve into a sexual one. It can happen, but if one party expects it, they may wind up disappointed.
How to Improve
If your bond with your friend just isn't what it used to be, don't worry. Life gets in the way, and friendships do go through periods of stagnation. We all grow older and have jobs, kids, and lives to deal with. But that doesn't mean that your friendship has to go under. Here are some ways to improve that.
- Talk more. Most people have social media and phones, but we're all too afraid to talk to one another. Fix that.
- Ask for a night out in the town. Find a night where your schedules align and get at it.
- Or just invite your friend over. Do something like you did in the good old days, be it a game night or just a night of chatting.
This is like platonic intimacy, but it can happen for both sexual and non-sexual relationships and friendships. If you're emotionally intimate with someone, you're sharing all your feelings, secrets, and desires with them. They're the person you can go to whenever you feel like talking about your feelings. It doesn't have to be verbal, either. They can be your literal shoulder to cry on, or someone you can hug when you feel upset.
Being emotionally intimate does require a high degree of trust. They're someone you can trust your secrets with, a person who is not going to tell others your confessions. Your secrets are safe with them.
In a way, emotional intimacy is perhaps the most important part of a relationship. If you can't tell a secret to a friend, they're not a very good friend. If you can't express your feelings to your spouse, then what are you doing married to them? It's a cornerstone of all relationships. You will have different levels of emotional intimacy for different people, but you'll still have at least some emotional intimacy with most of your friends.
Signs That someone Is Good at Emotional Intimacy To Include:
- They're accepting of your flaws and don't require you to change.
- You can share pretty much anything with them. Your secrets are safe with them.
- They're understanding of your feelings and will always be empathetic with you no matter what. While they may not agree with all your decisions, they'll still be supportive.
- They care about you and want to help you any way you can.
How to Improve
- If you're not as emotionally intimate with someone as you used to be, talk to them. Tell them how you're doing, express your emotions more, and just speak.
- On the other hand, you can be the empathetic one. Be the one who listens and offers advice for the person.
- Just remember to talk to a trustful person. The last thing you want to happen is having half the town know your secret.
Perhaps the one type of intimacy people think of when they think of intimacy; sexual intimacy is when you form a bond with someone though, well, sex.
Not all sex is created equal, of course. You can have casual sex with a friend that lacks intimacy. It's a way to make you feel good, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it as long as you practice safe sex, but it's not quite the same as having sex with someone who you have hard feelings for, is it?
Intimate sex involves a bond that strengthens as you have sex. It doesn't have to be the cliché of having candles in the room and making love in a missionary position. It can be slow, rough, wild, or anyway else you like having sex. But it will feel different, like two people's bodies melding into one.
How to Improve
- With sexual intimacy, you should have sex with your partner at least once a week to keep the bond going strong.
- If you feel like the sex is getting dull, try mixing it up. Try new sex positions, new toys, new ways of having sex, sex in costumes, the list goes on.
- Only have sex when you want to. Don't do it out of obligation, but instead of passion.
This is one step below sexual intimacy, and it involves physical activity. It can be associated with platonic intimacy, but it can also be associated with sexual relationships as well. A few examples of physical intimacy include:
Holding hands- ever held someone's hand and felt butterflies in your stomach? This is an intimate bond you're sharing with someone.
Hugging-a hug from someone you're intimate with can reduce your stress, make you feel better about yourself, and make you feel closer to that person.
Kissing-It doesn't have to be a hot make-out session. Just a peck on the cheek can make you feel closer to that person compared to a less intimate kiss, such as a greeting in certain cultures.
Cuddling-This is like hugging, but the good feeling lasts so much longer.
How to Improve
- Be physical with your partner more. Or your friend. Just make sure they're comfy with being touched. Always ask first.
Here's another form of intimacy that is less common, but still worth talking about. Intellectual intimacy is when you form a bond with someone through discussion. It can be a discussion on your favorite TV show, political ideas, religion, or any other hobby or idea you're obsessed with. If you find the person intellectually stimulating, you are intellectually intimate with them. It can be a friend, colleague, or even your partner. The person who you're intimate with doesn't necessarily have to have a high IQ, but just someone who has extensive knowledge of a subject you like.
How to Improve
- Find a subject the two of you are passionate about and have a good conversation about it. If you can't think of anything, maybe introduce each other to your hobbies, which can lead to a good conversation.
If you're religious and go to church, you may be spiritually intimate with your churchgoers. You will feel a bond as you worship your God and feel good singing songs of praise and preaching to the choir. However, you don't necessarily have to be religious to feel spiritual intimacy. The experience must be awe-inspiring. For example, if you hike to a mountaintop and see the world with someone, this can be a spiritually intimate experience for the two of you.
How to Improve
- Go to church with some good people. The spiritual intimacy should come tumbling out.
- Alternatively, find a breathtaking location and go on a journey with your friend to get to it. The journey itself may end up being more intimate than the actual destination.
If you're not feeling as intimate with your partner as you once were, then maybe it's time for you to talk to a counselor. They can help you spark that intimacy, be it sexual, platonic, emotional, or physical. Everyone needs to have some form of intimacy in their lives. If you feel like your life hasn't been that intimate, and our advice isn't working, talk to a counselor today.
And those are the types of intimacy. What is your favorite type? Are there any you've been missing? Tell your stories. We love to hear them.