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What Is Intimacy - part 1

Mar 09, 2017 01:43PM ● By Don Short

What’s your Intimacy?

INTIMACY - noun /  in·ti·ma·cy  /  ˈin-tə-mə-sē\

     [plural – intimacies]

Merriam-Webster defines “Intimacy” as:

  - a state marked by emotional closeness <the intimacy of old friends>

  - a quality suggesting closeness or warmth <the cafe's intimacy>

  - something that is very personal or private <They shared little intimacies in their letters.

Well, those definitions are all fine and dandy, but we wanted to know more about intimacy—what it is—how it works and how to create or improve intimacy in one’s life. Of the research we reviewed, the most commonly quoted and referenced explanation on the topic came from a report from the University of Florida – CWC, which stated:   

Intimacy is a process – not a thing. It takes place over time and is not stagnant. In fact, any kind of stagnation in a relationship kills intimacy. Intimacy can also take many forms.

One form of intimacy is cognitive or intellectual intimacy where two people exchange thoughts, share ideas and enjoy similarities and differences between their opinions. If they can do this in an open and comfortable way, then they can become quite intimate in an intellectual area.

A second form of intimacy is experiential intimacy or intimacy activity. Examples of this would be where people get together to actively involve themselves with each other, probably saying very little to each other, not sharing any thoughts or many feelings, but being involved in mutual activities with one another. Imagine observing two house painters whose brushstrokes seemed to be playing out a duet on the side of the house. They may be shocked to think that they were engaged in an intimate activity with each other, however from an experiential point of view, they would be very intimately involved.

A third form of intimacy is emotional intimacy where two persons can comfortably share their feelings with each other or when they empathize with the feelings of the other person, really try to understand and try to be aware of the other person’s emotional side.

A fourth form of intimacy is sexual intimacy. This is the stereotypical definition of intimacy that most people are familiar with. However, this form of intimacy includes a broad range of sensuous activity and is much more than just sexual intercourse. It’s any form of sensual expression with each other. Therefore, intimacy can be many things for different people at different times.

Developing intimacy in relationships takes effort, commitment and time. This is an area where we often become lazy and at times have to reprioritize intimacy to maintain a healthy and strong relationship with our partner. Over the next few issues, we’ll address more on the subject and how you can bring more intimacy into your life.

On a scale from 0 to 10, with “0” meaning poor to “10” meaning excellent, how would you rate the intimacy in your relationship?

  1. Do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas and respecting differences of opinion?

  2. How much time do you and your partner spend doing things together at home and in the community?

  3. How comfortable is it for you to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with your partner?

  4. Is there joy and openness in sharing the closeness of your physical and sexual relationship?

Join us next month for Part 2 of this article.


Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or

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Sources: University of Florida – CWC