What Is Intimacy?

10109420_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s Leslie Kolb, MSW.

What is intimacy? That might at first seem like a very simple question with a very simple answer, but in reality the concept of intimacy can mean different things to different people. Let’s start with the basics. Merriam-Webster defines intimacy as “very personal or private,” “having a very close relationship,” and “involving sex or sexual relations.” Perhaps one of these three phrases precisely defines your personal understanding of intimacy; most of us, however, experience intimacy as a unique combination of all three.

When we think about intimacy, we might envision the closeness we feel when talking with an old friend, or the quiet moments we spend with a romantic partner. We might imagine the connection we have felt with sexual partners, or the bonded experience we share with our siblings. Each of us has our own idea about what intimacy looks like, but no matter how you experience it, intimacy in a relationship can be incredibly rewarding. What does it mean to you?

Take some time to consider for yourself what your personal definition of intimacy is and how you experience it in your daily life. What might it feel like to let someone in by sharing your feelings with them? For you, is intimacy more rooted in emotional closeness or sexual closeness? Do you have enough intimacy in your relationships or do you crave more? Do you experience intimacy with just one person or with many?

Now let’s move beyond simple definitions. Conceptualizing intimacy is helpful, but how can you actually achieve it? You can develop intimacy by allowing yourself to be vulnerable with another person while nurturing that person’s vulnerability in return. In doing so, the two of you can, over time, build a safe space in which you can share your true inner-self and find support, comfort, and acceptance.

Of course, like many things in life, taking steps to build intimacy with another person can sometimes feel easier said than done. If you struggle with vulnerability, as many often do, opening yourself up to a truly intimate relationship is an ongoing process, much like exercising a muscle. It takes regular practice, but just like exercising that muscle, the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Set an intention to spend some time this week being mindful of feelings or situations that keep you from allowing yourself to be vulnerable. If you can identify at least one, you can then experiment with slowly pushing yourself to be more open and overcome your fear. This could mean sharing your feelings with your partner or allowing your friend to comfort you in a time of need, even if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Just remember to keep practicing! Soon you’ll find yourself operating further outside of your comfort zone than ever before.



Elana Clark-Faler
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