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What Is Intimacy?

Jonathan Riley
What is intimacy - Counselling

“Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone — and finding that that’s OK with them.” — Alain de Botton

What is intimacy?

Intimacy is about love, trust and support; accepting and sharing in your partner’s feelings, being there when they want to let their defenses down and knowing that they will be there for you. Intimacy is expressed through words and actions, as well as the sharing of feelings and experiences such as pain and sadness, happiness and love, hard work and humour. Intimacy can be sexual, but it can also be a reassuring touch, listening, or allowing them to be open and vulnerable. You may value independence, but you also want to be close to someone, to do things with them, to know that you are loved and accepted for who you are, despite your flaws, to know that you matter deeply to someone else. It is a universal human need; without it, we have the experience of loneliness.

For many couples, the most intimate they feel is when they are making love. Sexual activity involves trust and the risk of being vulnerable with each other. Intimacy and sex are not the same thing, but they are closely connected. Sex is only one part of intimacy. The closer the couple are in ways other than sex, the more rewarding their sex life often becomes. When you can share common experiences as well as feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, happiness and excitement, you are helping to create intimacy. Sharing emotions and feelings can be especially difficult for some people who have been raised to believe that people do not show their emotions.

Here are four types of intimacy


Intellectual intimacy involves getting to know how another person’s mind works as you share ideas and thoughts. Intellectual intimacy builds as you exchange ideas and have meaningful conversations.


Physical intimacy is about touch and closeness between people. In a romantic relationship, it might include holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and sex. Your relationship doesn’t have to be sexual or romantic to have physical intimacy (Johnson, n.d.).

Emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy means your emotional needs are being met. This happens when someone accepts you for who you are, cares about what’s happening in your world, and where you feel your partner is invested in you and your relationship (Brunch, 2018).


Spiritual intimacy can look like sharing a common value like kindness, being on the same page about religion or prayer, or feeling like you were meant to be in each other’s lives.

Lastly, intimacy is built up over time, and it requires patience and effort from both partners to create and maintain. Discovering intimacy with someone you love can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship (Better Health Channel, 2014).

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – How to improve intimacy in your relationships


Relationships Australia. (2016). Retrieved from

Better Health Channel. (2014). Relationships – creating intimacy. [online] Available at:

Bunch, E. (2018). What is intimacy in a relationship? You need these 4 things | Well+Good. Retrieved 24 January 2020, from

Johnson, M. (n.d.). How to Understand and Build Intimacy in Every Relationship. [online] Healthline. Available at: