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Building an Intimate Relationship Is About So Much More Than S*x, Therapists Say

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Building an Intimate Relationship Is About So Much More Than S*x, Therapists Say

 

There’s a famous scene in Pretty Woman, when, as things start to heat up between Vivienne and Richard, she warns him: No kissing on the lips. It’s a rule she learned from her friend Kit, we later learn, because kissing is “too personal.”

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The scene perfectly exemplifies why intimacy is about so much more than hot sex. Sometimes, you just want your partner to hold your hand—or even look at you a certain way. It’s why emotional cheating can be so much more devastating than physical infidelity. So, what does an intimate relationship really mean?

“Intimacy is essential to the human experience, as it encapsulates the closeness people seek in personal relationships,” says Carolina Pataky, Ph.D., a relationship and s*x therapist and co-founder of the Love Discovery Institute. “It’s a basic psychological need that is indispensable when seeking and maintaining healthy relationships.” And it’s not confined to romantic relationships.

Many of us experience intimacy from the moment we’re born: Those special moments when we were held close by our parents, showered in love and protection, allowed us to feel safe and connected. As we grow older, we continue developing intimacy with loved ones by sharing vulnerable and emotional aspects about ourselves, building trust.

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That said, many people struggle with intimacy in relationships—especially over the course of a marriage—Pataky says. Below, experts break down the best ways to improve intimacy with your partner and other loved ones.

Building an Intimate Relationship Is About So Much More Than S*x, Therapists Say

What is intimacy, exactly?

Basically, intimacy is a close or familiar relationship. “As social creatures, individuals crave the ability to share their innermost selves, as well as learn of the depth of other persons,” Pataky says.

Intimacy isn’t just an essential part of human nature, it’s also essential to our health and well being. “Studies have repeatedly found that humans live longer, happier, healthier lives when they are in an intimate relationship,” says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Fragile Power. He adds that people in intimate relationships tend to have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and decreased levels of stress.

A study published in Journal of Child and Family Studies also found that adolescents with highly intimate relationships with their parents experienced less loneliness, greater self-esteem, and more happiness than those with low intimacy. Moreover, an absence of intimacy can have detrimental psychological and developmental effects, leading to “feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety,” Pataky says.

You’re probably here because you know creating intimate relationships is important. You just aren’t sure how to get started. So, the next step is about understanding the various ways through which you can be vulnerable with someone.

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Building an Intimate Relationship Is About So Much More Than S*x, Therapists Say

What are the types of intimacy in relationships?

Intimacy is often linked to s*x, especially during our formative years, Pataky says. But if you’re struggling with how to “keep the spark alive” or hearing that your partner wants to “feel even closer to you,” it may be that you’re overlooking a few of the many other ways experts define intimacy:

1. Physical intimacy

“The most common is sexual or physical intimacy, which includes components of touch and closeness of bodies,” Pataky says. Acts of physical intimacy include s*x, kissing, cuddling, and holding hands. If you’re feeling insecure in the bedroom, consider trying out new forms of foreplay or one of these intimate s*x position recommended by s*x therapists.

2. Emotional intimacy

While physical intimacy allows you to express your feelings through touch, emotional intimacy requires you to communicate words. And it’s not just about saying “I love you,” Pataky says. “This usually takes some time for couples to build, as it requires a lot of trust and honesty.” Need help getting those convos started? Try an Intimacy Deck like this one.

3. Intellectual intimacy

“Intellectual or cognitive intimacy is when a couple is comfortable sharing and exchanging thoughts and ideas,” Pataky explains. “While remaining respectful of one another’s differences and enjoying hearing one another’s point of view, this type of intimacy requires our ability to communicate.” Think of it as the next step after emotional intimacy. One activity: Spend the morning reading the newspaper, then come together and discuss what you thought about any articles that stuck out to you.

4. Creative intimacy

Creative intimacy is when we express ourselves through our passions. “Whether it’s in the form of laughter, art, music, dance, literature, this type of intimacy also communicates our expressive self,” Pataky says. So, if you’re a fan of poetry, share a poem that you think reflects your relationship—and why. If they love to paint, ask them to create a painting that represents the relationship today. If you struggle with words, these more familiar outlets can be a better way to get your point across.

5. Experiential intimacy

“Experiential intimacy involves the sharing of activities and the time we enjoy with our partners,” Pataky says. In other words, you may just need more creative date nights. “This may be a walk in the park, a night of playing board games, or weekend BBQ,” she adds. “It’s all about the playfulness behind spending and sharing these activities together.”

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6. Spiritual intimacy

Spiritual intimacy involves sharing higher beliefs and values. “They do not have to be the sharing of our religious views, but they can also be linked to our questions,” Pataky says. “This intimacy reflects our desire and ability to find something within our outside of ourselves that has a powerful meaning. It can be a journey of inner growth, a mindfulness practice, a group affiliation, or a shared belief.”

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What are the traits of an intimate relationship?

Another way to think about intimacy is by reflecting on the ways you want to make your partner feel, and all the benefits of a close relationship that you want to have in return. Pataky suggests prioritizing the following pillars:

  • Communication: Are you pushing past any discomfort in order to be vulnerable with your partner about how you’re feeling? Are you actively listening to what they have to say, rather than thinking about how you’ll respond as they’re talking?
  • Trust: Do you believe what your partner is telling you? Are you being a reliable partner right now?
  • Honesty: Are you being authentic in your words and actions, and vice versa?
  • Acceptance: Do you accept your faults as well as where your partner may fall short? Are you willing to love them despite their weaknesses?
  • Safety: Do you feel a sense of security in this relationship? Are you providing that same kind of environment for the other person?
  • Compassion: Do you not only care about their suffering, but want to relieve it?
  • Affection: How are you showing this person your love? How do you feel loved by them?
  • Space: Do you recognize your own inability to hold emotional space for your partner when they’re in pain, and vice versa?

Building an Intimate Relationship Is About So Much More Than S*x, Therapists Say

How to improve intimate relationships

Now that you have a clearer understanding of intimacy, and what it really means to become closer with someone in a broad sense, you may be looking for brass tacks ways to put that knowledge to use. There’s no shortcut to an intimate relationship (even if reality television sometimes suggests otherwise!). Close bonds take work. But Pataky has a few additional steps to get you on the right track:

1. Get into the right headspace.

In order to connect with others, begin with a calm, open mindset. Before a vulnerable conversation, for example, Pataky recommends setting aside some time for yourself, without any distractions. “Find a quiet bench, close your eyes, connect to your breath, and spend 20 minutes focusing on your body,” she says. “What is it feeling, how’s your breathing, what is my mind doing? Notice any tension, fidgeting, anger, or fear.”

2. Check-in with your younger self.

Reflecting on your past can help you discover your own intimacy issues that may be creating difficulty in connecting with others. Pataky suggests looking at a photo from when you were eight to ten years old and asking yourself, “What did this child need that they didn’t get? What am I not getting today? How can I begin to help that child and now myself receive what might be lacking?” Write down any answers that come to you.

3. Look, really look at each other.

Spend as little as 5 minutes (up to 20 if you’re comfortable) and stare into the eyes of your partner or loved one in silence. It may feel silly at first, and that’s OK! Keep going. “You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn just through the eyes,” Pataky says. Afterward, talk about the experience: What came up just by looking at your partner? What did it feel like to be looked at by your partner?

4. Practice empathy.

Ultimately, Hokemeyer says that the best way to be intimate is by cultivating empathy for your partner. “Try to understand their world through their experience. Once you have a sense of what they value, take actions that show them you see and hear them,” he says. We know, we know: Easier said than done. Which brings us to our last point:

5. Consider couples therapy.

We all have blind spots, Pataky says. “A therapist’s primary job is to help make you aware of them.” While one couple may struggle with physical intimacy, another may not be on the same page emotionally. “Learning about your life and your behaviors solely from your perspective is limiting,” she adds. “A good therapist can help you see you identify patterns, help your become more aware of what you’re not seeing, and learn healthier ways to navigate relationships.”

Source:YAHOO

 

 

 

 

 

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