I am wrapping up our April sexual appreciation month and it wouldn’t be complete without really discussing intimacy.  Most people feel like intimacy is really just about sex but it is so much more. In fact there are four different types of intimacy and only one of them includes sex (but that one can happen even without sex)!  If you are struggling with libido then you are most likely struggling with intimacy.

Intimacy is really a close familiarity.  What do you picture if I were to say… the room was very intimate?  You would probably say cozy, feels warm, comforting, small and familiar.  It FEELS safe.  Somewhere you want to be.  That’s what our relationships are all about.  Feel safe, somewhere you want to be.

There are four types of intimacy.  We don’t have to get all of these from our significant others and in fact it is rather rare to have one person fill all of those needs but most of us do need somebody  (like friends) who fills these voids (at least for women).

READ ON to learn the four different types of intimacy for a better sex life….

As you read these I want to caution you of mentally checking the box with “I do that”.  Instead, ask your significant other if you do that for them.  You might be surprised of what you think you are doing the other one is not perceiving as the same thing.  Also keep in mind, a real sense of closeness involves a combination of all four types.

Emotional Intimacy.

This is harder than you think.  Author Sharon Pope has a beautiful definition: “the feeling of being deeply known by another human being and being able to deeply see, hear and totally accept and trust them as well.  It is a feeling that occurs through consistent ACTION, but the actions themselves don’t automatically lead to emotional intimacy”.  Let’s break this down.  To be deeply known you must really talk from your heart. Say what’s hard to say by processing your feelings before you speak.  The key word here is vulnerable.  Psychologist, Helene Brenner,  said this really well…”Take the risk not to protect yourself.  You can’t simultaneously protect yourself and be emotionally intimate.  Let your heart be seen”.

When you are on the receiving end of someone sharing you must stop everything, give them your full attention and acknowledge what they are saying.  Keep your opinion out of it for now. When someone shares with you, your first job is to listen and make sure the other person knows you have heard them.  This sets up the foundation for emotional intimacy.   Whatever the other person is expressing is their reality even if you disagree and if you stop them and start trying to correct them or tell them why they are wrong then you have basically said your not listening, they aren’t important and have completely shut down any chance of connection.  You might also fall into the trap of saying “I’m listening and making sure they are heard but we still don’t seem to connect”.  Remember what was said earlier…the actions themselves don’t automatically lead to emotional intimacy.  If the other person doesn’t feel like you are sincere or that you have really heard them emotional intimacy won’t occur.  It doesn’t happen after one time either.  This is something that takes time and consistency to really develop that deep connection.  Repeated ACTION not words nurture this.

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Spiritual intimacy.

Spiritual intimacy comes in the form of respect of other’s beliefs.  Maybe there is a shared purpose or you nurture each other.  Your mutual values and ethics can be a form of spiritual intimacy.  This doesn’t have to be religious but can be.  What moves you?  When do you feel joy?  When you do feel joy, share that moment with your significant other for an opportunity to connect spiritually.

Mental Intimacy.

Author Sharon Pope defines mental intimacy as “being able to talk to one another and share ideas with one another”.  Maybe this involves the wit and banter you two share.  Being able to have stimulating conversations or problem solving together.  This doesn’t have to be work but maybe a game, puzzle or sport you both share (key word is BOTH).  Playful competition for some couples can be stimulating but make sure you are evenly matched or it defeats the purpose.  Don’t fall into the misconception that this is about IQ.  You can be mentally stimulated without having the same IQ if you have found other ways to connect mentally.

Physical intimacy.

Physical intimacy is not just about sex.  It’s about the ability to express ourselves with another person sexually.  This includes affection but is more about a physical comfort and closeness with the other person with or without sex!  It is the giving and getting of pleasure for both people.  Many times if you don’t have a connection in one of the other areas of intimacy it is really hard to connect physically.  So, if you and your partner are struggling physically I would encourage you rather than demanding sex you take a step back and ask yourself how have you connected with your partner in the other areas.  Keep in mind what you did last week is long gone and connection must occur on a regular basis.

If you are reading this and realize you don’t have any of these with your partner, don’t panic.  Chances are you have filled several of these with your friends and are feeling very connected, regardless.  If not then maybe you and your partner need to slow down and have a heart to heart conversation and start working on these.  A good starting point would be sharing these different types of intimacy and asking if they feel connected in these areas.   If your partner is resistant then focus on your actions of how you are showing up for that person and you might be surprised what you start receiving.

To your health,

Laura