The 3 types of intimacy – let’s talk about sex! (and the other types)

 In Blog, Life

“Intimacy” is a close connection between two people. There are three types of it, and their presence, absence and interplay lead to different types of relationships. Let me define them.

The first type of intimacy is mental, intellectual, spiritual – I’m talking about the intimacy of the mind. It is that wonderful space where you can share what goes on in your internal world, in your brain, with someone who not only listens, but actually “gets” you. It doesn’t mean you have to necessarily agree with each other, but there is a profound interest in and respect of the other’s thoughts.

This form of intimacy is usually present between good friends – that lovely feeling of being able to say what is going on inside yourself, and also discovering another person’s internal world. Ideally it comes without any judgement (but we are human – let’s strive for it, but not beat ourself up if we don’t reach that ideal).

The second form of intimacy is physical touch (of a non-sexual nature). This type of intimacy can often be found between family members (hugging, holding hands) and with your pets (snuggling with my cat definitely qualifies in my eyes lol). Sometimes also between good friends – this is when we talk about a close or intimate friendship.

The third form of intimacy is sexual. But don’t get mistaken, not all sexual contact will qualify as intimate,  I think there needs to be a desire to give and (or) receive for it to be truly intimate.

According to the brilliant book “Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch, when there are issues in the sexual intimacy within a couple, it is often due to resentments about one or both of the other forms of intimacy – i.e. if you don’t feel “heard” you may feel less inclined to engage in sexual intimacy, and similarly if there is an absence of tenderness.

What it boils down to is that one or more forms of intimacy have to be present for a relationship to last – otherwise it is solely a partnership of convenience; and that will only last for as long as there is whatever goal to be achieved (study-buddies, going-out-only friends, and some couples who stay together “for the kids” or to save on rent are all examples of relationships without intimacy).

There are many ways to meet your needs for intimacy. I am particularly privileged because my work is one of the most intimate experiences (of the mind only!) that I have lived. When someone opens their entire internal world to me, with all the trust that implies, the connection is as close as you can get to someone without touching them. And for some of my clients, it is their only source of intimacy, and sometimes even their first – and that trust they give me I treat as sacred…

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