What Is Intimacy And What It Means In Your Relationship

The real meaning of intimacy in a relationship and marriage

By Sylvia Epie
What Is Intimacy And What It Means In Your Relationship

What Does Intimacy Mean In A Marriage

grayscale photography of woman holding man's face

Typically when we think of intimacy in a relationship or marriage most people think of sex. However, intimacy though it may include a form of sensual expression, it incorporates a broad range of things to different people at different times. By definition, intimacy is the coming together or mixing of two or more elements. In relationships, it refers to mixing your life with someone else, the mingling of your souls, emotions, and bodies.

True intimacy is revealing who you are totally and completely to someone else in such a way that you feel alive and seen in the depths of your soul. As humans, we’re designed to connect by developing intellectual, emotional and spiritual intimacy with others. And until we experience true intimacy with someone, we’ll always feel ignored, misunderstood and unfulfilled in our relationships. Being intimate with someone else, physically, verbally, and emotionally, requires you to be confident in their love for you. In marriage, intimacy is experienced in so many ways, from the major decisions to the little things of everyday life. If you’re wondering what intimacy really means in a marriage, we’ve got you covered, here’s how intimacy is expressed in marriage. 

1. Knowledge

A man and woman cuddling together in bed.

Generally, by the time you marry someone, they know everything about you and vice-versa (well almost everything! Just saying!). Marriage usually is an indication that you know the good, the bad and the ugly sides to your partner and still choose to love them. The amount of knowledge and information may differ from one person to another but for there to be intimacy in marriage, there should be shared knowledge. Couples feel safe sharing the most intimate topics with their spouse from their deepest fears, wildest dreams, desires, past traumas, future goals to their craziest fantasies.

2. Commitment

In a healthy marriage, there is a mutual volition for the union to continue indefinitely, each partner is committed to compromising and making sacrifices for the good of the marriage and this brings them together in an intimate way over time. Each partners happiness becomes the other partner's priority, with time it evolves to become second nature and a subconscious effort. This kind of intimacy allows for trust to deepen, common knowledge to grow and continuous effort to be made. Partners put each other first and their partners well being supersedes theirs, this is the greatest form of intimacy in a marriage.

3. Care

man and woman sitting on gray beanbag

Intimacy in marriage is also expressed through care, each partner places a great amount of care on the other. They do for their other half what they won’t do for any other person. They show concern for each other well being even in basic things like the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their comfort and safety. Married couples are usually highly interdependent, each partner influences the others choices, feelings and personality. While the display of care differs from one person to the next, intimate partners tend to display genuine, selfless care for each other.

4. Mutuality

This means recognizing and responding to each other's needs, understanding and supporting each other in difficult times. When each partner feels like the other meets his or her needs, they feel appreciated and loved. Each partner recognizes a close connection and changes his or her view from "me" to "we." The culmination of such feelings is intimacy as both partners form a unit.

5. Sexual Intimacy

This is the kind of intimacy people are most familiar with in a relationship, sexual intimacy is of great importance in a marriage. Such intimacy between two people is a way of connecting not just their bodies but their emotions too. It can be in the form of sweet and soft passionate lovemaking or a quick raw, primal and animalistic romp, but it won’t be the same all the time. Within a healthy union, both types of sex is an intimate way of expressing closeness. Intimacy can also be expressed physically with a simple touch, cuddling, showering together, foot rubs, massages and even just spending one-on-one time together.

What Does Intimacy Mean In A Relationship

couple holding hands

6. Trust

In a relationship, there can’t be true intimacy without trust. Trust is a difficult concept to define because of its complexity and how people perceive it very differently. But simply put, trust is the confidence that we place in another human being to act in a way that benefits us, or at the very least, that our partner will not cause us purposeful harm. Being able to confide in the other person about your insecurities, your fears, and your deep dark secrets that you don't tell anyone else. Sometimes men who are expected by society to ‘’strong’’ and not cry can only let loose and spill tears only with someone they’re in a deep relationship with because they feel secure in the other person's love and know they won’t be judged for being vulnerable that right there is intimacy. 

7. The Little Things

man and woman toasting a cups

Intimacy is also in the little things of everyday life as a couple, simple things like sharing a bathroom or brushing your teeth together. Friday evenings spent cuddled up on the couch, coming home to your favorite meal, just looking into your partner's eyes and saying "I love you, or buying them a gift all could mean intimacy in a relationship depending on the importance these things have in your relationship.
Sometimes in a relationship, these little things could be very deep and touching to your partner, there’s not just a single way of being intimate. As long as it appeals to your partner and touches them in a way only you can, then it’s in the bag.

8. Non-verbal communication

There’s deep intimacy in communicating without words, it may be with a simple glance, a smile, or a hug it doesn’t matter. When you and your partner can understand each other without words and communicate what you’re feeling non-verbally, that’s intimacy. You have developed a sixth sense and a higher level of connection to each other that is spiritual and doesn’t need to be bothered with words.

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9. Affinity

man hugging woman from behind near stair

Affinity is feeling a deep attraction and connection to one another, it's intimacy when you prefer each others company to anyone else. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or with whom, as long as your partner is there you’re good. You can sense the exact moment they walk into a room or when they leave. Your relationship becomes something you protect from everyone else, it's both of you against the world. 

10. Humor

A shared sense of humor is also a form of intimacy in a relationship. As a couple, you and your Bae most likely have inside jokes that only you understand. We all know how it feels to be around two people who are laughing their ribs off at something no one else seems to grasp, that’s intimacy. Both partners can notice something and start laughing without even saying a word to each other. Maybe it reminds them of a past experience or something they’ve discussed no one except them knows.  

Physical Vs Emotional Intimacy

grayscale photography of man and woman kissing

Physical intimacy is not only about sex. It also includes simple things such as a kiss on the cheek, a hug, and holding hands. Physical intimacy requires a certain amount of trust and vulnerability. Physically intimacy requires you to let your guard down and let another person into your personal space. Physical intimacy cannot replace emotional intimacy and vice versa. But some people need physical intimacy before emotional intimacy, while others need emotional intimacy before physical intimacy. And some even get married without ever having any form of physical intimacy. 

When it comes to emotional intimacy, Paul Dunion, a licensed professional counselor, says as humans we all crave emotional intimacy from the moment we are born. We just become more aware of the need as we grow older. Couples crave an emotional bond with each other. They want to be loved and accepted for themselves and to share a sense closeness, trust, and comfort with each other. For most people, emotional intimacy is a prerequisite for physical intimacy. They need to feel a sense of security with someone before being physically intimate with them. This very common with women. When such people don’t feel accepted and loved, they refrain from being physically affectionate and intimate. 

Which one is more important?

A bride and groom hugging and about to kiss.

Many people do not realize is that emotional and physical intimacy are two distinct forms of intimacy in a relationship. And those who realize it wonder which one is more important than the other. But the truth is, they’re interwoven.

Although physical and emotional intimacy is completely different and can both exist without each other, they still go hand-in-hand. Physical intimacy may exist without emotional intimacy but it does not last. On the other hand, whether you become physically intimate with your partner or not, you still need to build emotional intimacy in order for your relationship to last and in the long run, you’ll need physical intimacy to solidify your marriage. Physical intimacy is not necessary to build emotional intimacy, but emotional intimacy is vital if you want to be physically intimate long term.


man and woman lying on bed

If you want your relationship to thrive, you need a mix of both emotional and physical intimacy. Different relationships require different levels of physical and emotional intimacy at different stages. It all depends on the people involved, what’s important to them and their individual needs.
So, do you need to have physical intimacy before emotional intimacy or is it the other way around?

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