There are so many terms out there to describe relationships. And they’re always evolving, like…entanglements? Some are pretty up front. But some are confusing. One that’s often confused: intimacy and sex. For so long, it’s been assumed that they’re the same thing, that having sex with someone meant you were intimate with each other. The words are sometimes used interchangeably. Perhaps the confusion comes from all the different terms used for sex. For so long, saying the word “sex” was considered vulgar. People would say things like: slept together, were intimate, made love. All of which implies that sex, love and intimacy are the same. And perhaps that’s where the mix up began. Being intimate with someone and having sex with them is very different.
So if intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean having sex with someone, what does it mean? According to Psychology Today, “The most important intimate moments are those that happen outside of the bedroom. Reaching your arms around your partner’s waist and giving a squeeze when he or she is working away in the kitchen or around the house is very endearing. Holding hands while you are walking into a store or going out for a stroll together in the park is a bonding experience. There are countless ways to be intimate, and most of them aren’t sexual.”
You can have sex with someone without having intimacy and vice versa. For example, you can have a one-night stand without being in love with that person or without having an emotional connection. You could also have casual sex with someone that is strictly physical and not emotional. Get it?
Although intimacy and sex are different, they are connected. In a healthy romantic relationship intimacy can improve a couple’s sex life and great sex can make intimacy stronger. Intimacy in a nutshell is allowing yourself to be vulnerable, feeling safe and feeling loved. It’s being able to express yourself and communicate with one another. Intimacy is an emotional connection that can sometimes include a sexual connection. In some cases, often due to health related issues, couples can have intimacy and not have a sexual relationship.
In some circumstances, there are people who require intimacy in order to enjoy sex. They need to feel loved and have an emotional connection in order to perform sexually. It’s different for everyone.
Some examples of intimacy are: spending quality time together, sharing feelings and emotions with each other, hugging, kissing, and holding hands. Sex is also a part of intimacy for some. Sex and intimacy are connected when there’s more than just a physical attraction or physical connection.
So why is it important to know that there’s a difference? Knowing exactly what intimacy looks like is important because intimacy can improve your relationship and your life in so many ways. Intimacy can improve your sex life, your physical and mental health, reduce stress, build trust in your relationship and make your relationship more solid overall. Sure, you may have sex with your significant other often, but if you forget to work on intimacy, you may be sabotaging your relationship.
So how can you achieve intimacy in a relationship? By being honest, learning to communicate in a healthy manner, continuing to “date” each other, hugging, kissing and showing affection outside of the bedroom. It’s important to have fun with each other, give each other healthy space, and learning to accept one another.