All About Emotional, Sexual, Physical, And Platonic Intimacy

Updated April 8, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

When you hear the word ‘intimacy,’ it’s likely that something like sex pops into your head. While intimacy is commonly used in the context of making love, this only describes one aspect of it. Intimacy occurs not only between lovers, but also in friendships and in other platonic relationships. It can describe closeness on an emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, or platonic level. In this article, we’ll be exploring the different types of intimacy and discussing how you can improve in each area with your partner, friend, or someone else in your life. 

Intimacy can mean different things to different people

What is intimacy?

When improving your intimacy within any kind of relationship, it often involves connecting on a deeper level whether emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually, or otherwise.

The different types of intimacy

Platonic intimacy

You’ve probably heard of platonic love 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 you can be platonically intimate:

  • Offer your friendship by being present in your friend’s life and listening to them when they come to you. You can provide them with emotional support or encourage them when they’re feeling down.

  • Platonic intimacy may include touching, although not sexual. Embracing, hugging, and giving kisses on the cheek are a few examples. Some people may feel that physical contact improves the level of platonic intimacy in a relationship since it can create feelings of trust, safety, compassion, or all three.

  • A platonic relationship isn’t expected to evolve into a sexual one. It can happen, but if one party expects it, they may wind up disappointed.

Improving platonic intimacy

If your bond with your friend isn’t what it used to be, this can be normal. Life gets in the way, and friendships 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 must go under. Here are some ways to improve your connection: 

  • Make an intentional effort to talk more. Whether it be through phone calls, FaceTime, or texting, connecting with your friends more often can foster a greater sense of closeness in the relationship.

  • Ask for a night out in the town. Find a night where your schedules align and do something fun together. Making memories alongside one another can help you feel closer. 

  • 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.

Emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy can develop between friends just as much as it can be created in romantic relationships. When you’re emotionally intimate with someone, you can talk about your feelings with them. They can also be your shoulder to cry on or someone you can hug when you feel upset. Being intimate emotionally can require a high level of trust. When you tell a person that you’re emotionally close to something in confidence, such as a secret, you can expect them not to repeat it to others. 

In a way, this form of intimacy could be the most important part of a relationship. If you can’t tell a secret to someone or express your feelings to them, you may wonder why they’re in your life to begin with. You can have different levels of this form of intimacy for different people, but it still be a cornerstone of each of your relationships, romantic or not. 

Signs of emotional intimacy with someone:

  • They’re accepting of your flaws and don’t require you to change.

  • Your secrets are safe with them.

  • They’re understanding of your feelings and are empathetic with you. While they may not agree with all your decisions, they remain supportive.

  • They care about you and want to help you when possible. 

Improving emotional intimacy

  • If you’re not as emotionally intimate with someone as you used to be and desire to be closer, talk to them about it. Tell them how you’re doing, ask how they are, and try to see each other more often. 

  • Practice active listening and offer your support when a friend or partner needs it.  

  • Build trust with someone before revealing deeper parts of yourself with them. Vulnerability can be powerful with the right people. 

Sexual intimacy

Sexual intimacy is when you form a bond with someone through sexual activity. An intimate sexual relationship is often formed through trust, vulnerability, and openness with one another. Not all sex is created equal, and the type of experience you have could depend on who you’re climbing into bed with. You might be sleeping with someone who you consider to be a friend or making love to the person you’re married to. Sex can strengthen the intimacy between two people, but it can also be a natural outcome when two people are already close in another way. Emotional intimacy, for example, often leads people to want to explore or grow their sexual intimacy. 

Improving sexual intimacy

  • All couples are different, but researchers have found that having sex around once per week contributes to greater happiness and well-being within a romantic relationship. 

  • If you feel like the sex is getting boring, try mixing it up. Try new sex positions, use toys, role-play, etc.

  • Only have sex when you want to. Consent is important for any type of sexual activity.

Physical intimacy

Physical intimacy refers to touching that brings people closer in some way. It doesn’t necessarily include sexual contact but could. For many people, physical intimacy can be an important aspect of being in a satisfying relationship. People might approach physical intimacy differently and engage in some or all of the following behaviors depending on who they’re with: 

  • Holding hands – Have you ever held someone’s hand and felt butterflies in your stomach? 

  • Hugging – A hug from someone you’re intimate with can reduce your stress, make you feel better about yourself, and help you to feel closer with that person.

  • Kissing – Kissing someone else doesn’t have to be a make-out session. A simple peck on the cheek can make you feel closer to that person, and this is a common greeting in certain cultures.

  • Cuddling – This is like hugging, but the positive feelings that come from it can last even longer. 

Improving physical intimacy

  • Discuss physical intimacy with your partner or friend. Find out what they’re comfortable with and unsure or uneasy about. Ask how you can increase the physical intimacy in the relationship.

  • Participate in activities that foster physical closeness.

  • Get consent before touching someone.

Intellectual intimacy

Intellectual intimacy if often formed with someone through discussion. It can be a discussion about your favorite TV show, religion, political ideas, or any other hobby or idea you’re interested in. If you find someone who stimulates you intellectually, you may intimately bond with them. This could be a colleague, a friend, or even your partner. The person who you’re intimate with doesn’t have to have a high IQ, but rather extensive knowledge or curiosity about a subject you like.

Improving intellectual intimacy

  • Find a subject the two of you are passionate about and have a conversation about it. 

  • Find others to have discussions with; create a discussion group with those who have similar interests. 

  • Do research on a topic together, learning more as a team.

Spiritual intimacy

If you’re religious or spiritual and are fond of attending services with like-minded individuals, you may be spiritually intimate with them. You may feel a connection with a higher power as you sing songs of praise as a group or a choir. You don’t necessarily have to be religious to feel spiritual intimacy, and you can experience it almost anywhere. For instance, if you go hiking in the mountains and explore the world with someone, this can very well be a spiritually intimate event for both of you.

Improving spiritual intimacy

  • Try attending religious or spiritual services, like church.

  • Pray or read religious text together.

  • Find a breathtaking location and go on a journey with a friend or partner to get to it. The journey itself may end up being more intimate than the actual destination.

Intimacy can mean different things to different people

Online counseling with Regain

Relationships can be complicated. If you’re not feeling as intimate with your partner as you once were, it may be time to talk to a counselor. Regain is an online platform that specializes in couples counseling. A counselor can help you reignite the spark and intimacy in your relationship, be it sexual, platonic, emotional, or physical. Although you and your partner may have busy or conflicting schedules, online counseling allows you to meet anytime and from anywhere. Instead of waiting and hoping your relationship will improve, you can begin getting the support you need to move forward right from the comfort of your home. 

The efficacy of online counseling 

Being intimate with another person can naturally lead to more opportunities for conflict. Couples experiencing tension in their relationship could benefit from online couples counseling. In this study, researchers found that couples participating in an online intervention experienced significant improvements in their relationship satisfaction and had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Counselor reviews

“Rhonda has been very helpful and consistent over the past few months as I worked through issues related to fear of intimacy. Her observations have shed light on aspects of myself that I took for granted, which I realize now are actually are holding me back and are in my power to change. I would gladly work with Rhonda again, and recommend her without hesitation.”

“Emily is a very effective counselor in our very first call she drilled down and uncovered some of our intimacy issues and gave us a game plan to help resolve them. She's timely, easy to talk to, listens but also gives advice (which I've found uncommon with some professionals). We'd use her again and recommend her in a heart beat.”


Intimate relationships take time and patience to develop. The more you invest into the people you care about, the stronger bond you can hope to have with them. If you’re having trouble growing closer to the people in your life, reach out to Regain. An online therapist can work with you to strengthen the intimacy in your relationships whether they’re sexual, platonic, emotional, or physical. Intimacy can come in many forms, and you can experience each type if you desire to. 

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