The forms of intimacy and their benefits

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The majority of people will have an intimate relationship at least once in their lifetime. From dating to marriage, finding the right person to settle down with is considered to be one of the biggest milestones in your life. Although at times it may seem like a lot of work, there are many benefits associated with intimacy that can positively improve your overall wellness and life. Understanding what intimacy is and how to build it can help improve your relationship with your partner.اضافة اعلان

Psychologists Harry Reis and Phillip Shaver define intimacy as “feeling understood, validated, cared for, and closely connected with another person”. In essence, intimacy comprises the innermost thoughts and feelings we have for another person that stem from affection and caring. Although intimacy is commonly used to refer to romantic relationships, it can also be used to describe the level and depth of other relationships we have with family, friends, and even acquaintances. This intimacy allows for bonds to be formed and strengthened between people. The same way intimacy can be applied to different types of relationships, intimacy can come in different forms.

Physical intimacy is the most commonly perceived form of intimacy. It can range from simple hand holding to intercourse. However, there is a difference between physical intimacy and lust; while they may overlap on the surface, intentions matter. Physical intimacy refers to the feeling of comfort and safety around your partner in a way that allows you to be more vulnerable. Additionally, these actions are used as a way to help express feelings that might otherwise be difficult to express verbally.

Emotional intimacy is another common form of intimacy that can substantially improve well-being. Similar to physical intimacy, it requires a degree of vulnerability and is often the foundation of intimate relationships. Emotional intimacy not only allows you to express your feelings to your partner, but also helps you understand what they are thinking and feeling. Improving emotional intimacy will in turn strengthen feelings of closeness and honesty.

Intellectual intimacy is an often-neglected form of intimacy. In essence, it is the ability for two people to come and share ideas with one another without fear of differing opinions. Intellectual intimacy does not have to be purely academic in nature and could be applied to a whole host of situations. Although it is important in a romantic relationship, it is a form of intimacy that can be applied to platonic relationships as well, especially friendships.
Although intimacy is commonly used to refer to romantic relationships, it can also be used to describe the level and depth of other relationships we have with family, friends, and even acquaintances.
Experimental intimacy, a perhaps unfamiliar term to many, is a form of intimacy practiced by everyone in one way or another. Experimental intimacy is going out into the world and trying new things with your partner. It is a great way to break out of the monotony of life and find joy and excitement. It also serves the purpose of developing fond memories and can serve as a point of nostalgia in a long-term relationship. Furthermore, by taking risks with your partner you can strengthen bonds, feelings of honesty, and closeness.

Spiritual intimacy is also important when considering being with someone long-term. When it comes to friends and acquaintances, it is important to be respectful and tolerant of other’s beliefs and values. However, with an intimate partner, it is more important that religious ideas, beliefs, and values align. At times, sharing these beliefs may be difficult but it is nonetheless important since it can dictate how the household is run. Additionally, it can impact serious decisions on health and wellness and therefore requires partners to be on the same page. It may seem like a moot point, but a 2016 study actually found that couples with poor spiritual intimacy had poorer overall martial intimacy and well-being.

Fear and benefits
Fearing intimacy can be a major hurdle in a relationship. It can make the person seem distant and not fully invested in the relationship. However, it is important to understand the reason behind their fear. A fear of intimacy is not the same as a fear of being vulnerable and can be best described as avoiding getting “too close”. Typically, those who are fearful of intimacy are still open with their partner but limit themselves on certain aspects of intimacy. These feelings are not usually innate and are the result of past experiences such as childhood abuse or neglect. The fear of intimacy often stems from a fear of abandonment, engulfment, or loss.

Building intimate relationships, whether they be with friends, family, or partners, can have significant benefits on well-being and even physical health. By forming, developing, and strengthening an intimate relationship, you have the potential to fulfill almost all aspects of well-being. These can include improvements to social, physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual wellness. Furthermore, having a strong intimate relationship can help improve mental health. Numerous studies have found that those who have strong intimacy with their partners report higher levels of happiness but also report lower levels of stress and symptoms relating to depression and anxiety. These improvements can also translate into many physical health benefits. The reduced stress and feelings of happiness help to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and even help us experience less pain. More impressively, these effects can actually improve healing recovery time following surgery. Additionally, numerous studies have found that those who are in a healthy, intimate relationship may even live longer. Those who have studied this phenomenon attribute the increased longevity to reduced stress and the potential positive influence a partner has on giving up bad lifestyle habits.

Building intimacy
Regardless of how long you have been with a person, you should always try to build and practice intimacy. Fortunately, being intimate does not necessarily require grand gestures and can be found in small actions. Things as small as listening to your partner’s day can help make you more emotionally available to them. By practicing listening to smaller topics, over time the feeling of intimacy and trust will grow. In turn, this will make it easier for you or your partner to discuss more deep or serious topics that require more confidence. At the individual level, practicing appreciation can also go a long way. People can express intimacy in different ways. Therefore take the extra time to notice the subtle actions your partner may do for you as an expression of their intimacy. It may come in the form of holding your hand or suggesting a movie you have been wanting to see. Although these actions are small in nature, it is an attempt for your partner to try and get closer to you. By taking the time to notice them, it can allow you to appreciate it and reciprocate their intimacy.

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