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What Does Intimacy Mean and How it Enriches Your Relationship

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

What does intimacy mean in today’s dating world? It certainly seems to have changed with the progression of gender roles and wider interpretations of sexuality. We explore the multi-layered concepts behind intimacy. 

What does it mean to be intimate?

Intimacy is the sense of profound closeness and connection you can feel with another person. It doesn’t have to be sexual, although is often interpreted as such. Intimacy can exist in any human relationship but it is the mortar of a romantic one.  

When asking what does intimacy mean, it helps to define its three key forms: physical, emotional and psychological. But these are not exclusive.  

They interact and complement each other, which is why finding a balance in all three is the foundation for not just enduring love, but trust, respect, a sense of security and increased relationship satisfaction.  

So what does it mean to be intimate when our relationships are made of thousands of tiny moments we can neither explain nor separate?.  

Intimacy is the layer where all those moments come to rest and crystalize into emotions and feelings about your relationship.  

What does intimacy mean: 3 Different types as the answer to the question

Let’s look at those three examples of  what does it mean to be intimate with someone and build a strong connection.  

Physical intimacy

This is the sex one and probably what many first think when asked, what does intimacy mean? But it’s not just that. Physical intimacy is also about smaller moments like a lingering hug or cuddling when you know your partner’s feeling down.  

Emotional intimacy

This involves sharing your thoughts and expressing your vulnerabilities, building trust and support, and trying to gain a deeper understanding of your partner. This is where strong communication is important.  

Psychological intimacy

This can be heavily influenced by your interactions and background1. It’s how we subconsciously feel and perceive each other. While it may not be so obvious in your relationship, it’s probably the most important yet complex form of intimacy2.  

A man and a woman are standing in the kitchen unpacking gorcerie bags. The woman is searching for something on her iPad. They are laughing together and it seems like they are about to cook together.

Your partner isn’t opening up?

Fostering open and meaningful conversations is a key ingredient for building strong relationships and intimacy. We have some concrete tips on how to get someone to open up when dating or being in a relationship. 

How to strengthen intimacy

When asking what does it mean to be intimate with someone, communication is the starting point. Talking is critical to your relationship so it’s a good idea to get in the habit of doing it openly and constructively.  

If you feel you can be honest and talk through your emotions, and you’re both actively listening, you can make up for lacking intimacy in other areas and address relationship issues.   

Trust and intimacy

Trust is an intrinsic part of exploring what does intimacy mean. You can’t have one without the other. Your partner can’t properly feel intimate with you if there’s no sense of security. They need to trust you’ll be there to catch them if they fall, emotionally speaking.  

Trust is built by being there when your partner needs you. It can be anything from a minor problem to a full-blown life crisis, where you provide a support structure. 

Boundaries and intimacy 

Giving your partner space where they need it is one of the most important aspects of intimacy. While compromise is important to a relationship, so is recognizing what contributes  to your partner’s sense of well-being. It’s key in the question of what it means to be intimate.  

Setting boundaries early in the relationship stops certain behaviors in their tracks before they become a pattern in your relationship. But this, once again, is where communication is crucial. 

Vulnerabilities and intimacy

When you look at what does intimacy mean, it is at its core about sharing our full selves. You can’t offer someone your full self without your weaknesses coming with the package. Vulnerability is about being willing to pull down defense mechanisms and showing people a deeper, more sensitive side of yourself as an act of love and trust.  

As much as we think we prize strength, we tend to connect intimately with vulnerability. You can practice this by being open about your feelings and receptive to feedback from your partner. 

Why being vulnerable builds your relationship

Being vulnerable is about dropping parts of the emotional armor you’ve cobbled together your whole life as a preservation mechanism. Let’s look at how to be vulnerable, its value in relationships and when it’s not always a good idea. 

What does intimacy mean in your relationship

Intimacy connects every deeper aspect of our relationships, but the three things that help it blossom most are trust, communication and empathy. Working on these helps create a pattern of respecting boundaries, expressing vulnerability and deepening your love. 

If you’re having a problem finding someone just right for you, join eharmony where we match people on compatibility, creating deeper connections. Try it out today. 

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