“The married are those who have taken the terrible risk of intimacy and, having taken it, know life without intimacy to be impossible.” – Carolyn Heilbrun
For most of us, the word intimate conjures up romantic images of candlelit dinners, slow dancing, and long passionate kisses. Romantic gestures are certainly a dominant theme of intimacy, but there is more. Intimacy in the real world is the result of expressing our feelings, our personal secrets, and our deepest truths to each other. It arises when we feel cared about, accepted, and loved for our own sake, warts and all.
The word intimacy originates from the Latin word intima, which means “inner” or “innermost.” Thomas Patrick Malone writes in The Art of Intimacy, “The outstanding quality of the intimate experience is the sense of being in touch with our real selves. It allows us a fresh awareness of who, what, and how we are.”
Ideally, intimacy is a blend of emotional closeness, spiritual connectedness, and an open heart and mind. Its origin lies in intellectual collaboration and familiarity, especially with one another’s culture and interests. It may also involve shared religious or philosophical beliefs. Finally, intimacy can be an emotional response to knowing someone well by virtue of shared experiences. When we think of the word intimate we see both the word in and the word mate. That is kind of how it works: being inside another person in a way that feels as though we psychologically mate with him or her and in that way become intimate.
When we share details about our life that usually remain hidden, we are connecting in an intimate way. The extent to which we can disclose deeply private personal feelings and experiences is proportionate to how safe we feel, so safety is a requirement for intimacy as well. Of course, intimacy means different things to different people, and its meaning for us may even change over time. It can be linked with sexual closeness, but not necessarily; intimate feelings arise from shared moments of emotional connection as well as from sexual encounters. Whatever its particular nature, intimacy is the product of relationship work and the result of feeling emotionally connected to our loved one. It’s the operating principle for creating love.
As Thomas Patrick Malone eloquently makes clear, intimacy is not only about the other, it is about who we are. And the most powerful and profound awareness of who we are comes when we open our hearts to others, allowing them to touch our deepest sensitivity. In the act of risking our tender inner world, we become more of who we are because we feel touched in an untouched place.
Intimacy takes courage because we must risk expressing our deepest sense of self to create it. We may be apprehensive about opening our hearts and minds to another for fear of being judged or rejected. But the reward is immense. It is the antidote to painful loneliness. It reaches into our hearts, providing love that satisfies our need for emotional food. Our ability to establish and maintain nurturing intimate relationships is not only gratifying, it nourishes us and ultimately helps keep us sane. Our survival as a species requires that we seek connections with others and open our own inner world to them. Intimacy breaks into our isolation and intertwines our souls and, if done with tenderness and care, creates safe and secure attachments. This ability to intimately connect with others is the backbone of civilization. Intimacy is what makes us human.
Tags: Couples, Dating, Marriage, Personal Growth, Psychology, relationships
4 Replies to “The Importance of Intimacy in a Relationship”
Thanks for sharing this blog. We often see that couples around us fight with each other or else think to get separated as they lack the spark in them. Yes, intimacy, both physical and mental is very important. Intimacy is about knowing each other from the innermost depth. Most of the professional therapists suggest getting close with your partner with bring back the charm in the relationship.
Superb blog, thank you.
My partner isn’t intimate at all, in fact, he isn’t in the slightest romantic and sometimes it makes me sad. He doesn’t like to hold hands or anything, and doesn’t like to kiss in public etc (not full on snogging, just a peck on the cheek).
I completely agree with your post, intimacy is very important to make any relationship work and I am starting to question whether this relationship I am currently in is working or not!
Thanks, keep up the great work x
Yes this is a great blog, thanks for sharing. I have been in relationships where there definitely wasn’t enough emotional intimacy and they didn’t work out. Now I am in one where we are both physically and mentally intimate and it is fantastic. You need separate lives, but you also need to feel like you know each other inside out.
Each one of us may have a little difference in opinion as to what is intimacy. But, even if we may have different views, what matters is that we are able to understand its importance not just to us but for the people that we love and as long as we are able to practice respect and selfless love, then true intimacy is always there.