Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Is Intimacy?

What is Intimacy?
by Dr. Kevin Skinner
Are you looking for more intimacy in your relationship? If yes, let me help you get started by defining which type of intimacy you are seeking. Are you looking for more physical intimacy? Or would you prefer more emotional intimacy? Maybe you are looking for more stimulating conversations--this is what I call intellectual intimacy. Or perhaps you want more spiritual intimacy. You see, intimacy comes in many different forms. Unfortunately, our society often thinks only of sex when they think of intimacy.
The purpose of this article is to help you deepen the level of intimacy in your relationships by helping you identify the different types of intimacy. Let's begin by outlining six types of intimacy.
  • Physical Intimacy--is associated mostly with sexual intercourse, but often includes important elements such as touching, holding hands, hugs, and cuddling.
  • Verbal Intimacy--is associated with self-disclosure. It includes the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. A key element of verbal intimacy is giving and receiving feedback to each other.
  • Emotional Intimacy--is tied to sharing feelings. Couples who are effective at emotional intimacy share both good and bad emotions. They are comfortable sharing fears, worries, exciting, and happy times with each other.
  • Intellectual Intimacy--involves sharing mutual interests. Couples who have developed intellectual intimacy have found areas of interest that they enjoy doing together. They read books, watch movies, attend plays, research good buys, and enjoy sharing these thoughts with each other.
  • Spiritual Intimacy--is best described by couples who share common beliefs and values. They enjoy attending religious services together or reading holy writ. These couples use religion as a way to strengthen their relationship.
  • Psychological Intimacy--is normally described in literature as emotional intimacy. However, the field of psychology attempts to understand the role human behavior plays in social dynamics while incorporating physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of mental functioning. (1) The term psychological intimacy is much more than just emotional intimacy.
For this reason, I define psychological intimacy using four key elements:
  1. Commitment
  2. Loyalty
  3. Honesty
  4. Truthfulness
The outcome of assessing a couple's psychological intimacy using these four elements is very powerful. It has been my experience as a professional therapist that when couples implement these four elements in their relationship, their relationship is enhanced. Their hearts relax because they know that their relationship is established on a firm foundation. Conversely, when couples are struggling in their relationship their difficulties are often tied to a breech in one of the four elements related to psychological intimacy.
For example, when one partner has been unfaithful, this breech of trust often triggers questions in their partner related to commitment, honesty, and loyalty. Therefore, actions such as infidelity, lying, deceit, or lack of commitment to the relationship are going to prevent psychological intimacy.
When couples discover these six types of intimacy and learn to implement them in their relationship, they find deeper levels of satisfaction. Intimacy is so much more than physical intimacy. It has been my experience that when couples improve in the other five types of intimacy, their physical intimacy gets even better.
So here's a short assignment for you.
Assignment: Assess your relationship in each of the six types of intimacy. Give your relationship a score between 1 and 10 on each type of intimacy.
  1. ____Sexual Intimacy
  2. ____Verbal Intimacy
  3. ____Emotional Intimacy
  4. ____Intellectual Intimacy
  5. ____Spiritual Intimacy
  6. ____Psychological Intimacy
If your partner or spouse is willing, have them write down their score in each area as well. Next discuss your answers with each other and establish goals to improve in each of these areas.
If you would like to assess your relationship and receive professional feedback in each of the six types of intimacy you might consider taking The Relationship Intimacy Test This assessment is based on the six types of intimacy and comes with an 80 minute CD on how to strengthen your relationship by implementing these types of intimacy in your relationship.
Victor L. Brown once said, "The lives of most people are histories of their search for intimacy...". It seems to me that if our life history is based upon our relationships we should seek to enhance them by improving our relationship skills so that we can establish deeper intimate relationships. Good luck in your journey.
Dr. Skinner is a licensed marriage and family therapist who focuses on improving couples relationships. He is the author of "The Relationship Intimacy Test" and "The Predictive Relationship Profile." If you want to learn more about Dr. Skinner you can read about him or listen to his weekly radio shows at GrowthClimate
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