The inherent and universal need for intimacy and closeness with others is obvious. One author writing on the topic called intimacy “the essential factor in adults’ health, ability to adapt, happiness, and sense of meaning in life” (M. Popovic).
Marriage is one of the primary ways we attempt to meet this need. Additionally, there is extensive research that shows that long healthy marriages are associated with overall health. However, maintaining closeness with another person over a long period of time is difficult. It takes constant work like cultivating, maintaining, and caring for a garden. It requires continuing to prioritize one another despite all the business, distractions, and pain of everyday life. One good way to start is to recognize that there are many different types of intimacy.
Consider reviewing the below list with your spouse. No relationship has them all, but most successful relationships have a few. You may be able to find 2 or 3 types which are strengths. Many couples report not having considered a certain area as intimacy. Remember to congratulate one another on the areas where you are already doing well. Additionally, it may also help to pick 1 or 2 types where you would like to grow.
- Aesthetic Intimacy – Sharing experiences of beauty – music, nature, art, theater, etc.
- Communication Intimacy – Connect through talking. Keep communication channels open. Listen to and value your spouse’s ideas. Be loving, compassionate, respectful, giving, truthful, and open in your communication.
- Conflict Intimacy – Facing and struggling with differences together. Using resolution of conflict to grow closer together.
- Creative Intimacy – Experiencing closeness through acts of creating together. Sharing expressions of love in creative ways.
- Crisis Intimacy – Developing closeness in dealing with problems and pain. Standing together in tragedies. Responding together in a united way to pressures of life such as working through problems, raising a family, illness, aging, etc.
- Emotional Intimacy – Feeling connected at an emotional level. Being in tune with each other’s emotions; being able to share significant meanings and feelings with each other, including negative feelings.
- Financial Intimacy – Working together to balance differing attitudes about money. Developing a unified plan for budgeting, spending, and saving. Having shared financial goals.
- Forgiveness Intimacy – Apologizing to each other. Asking for forgiveness. Asking your spouse, “What can I do to be a better husband/wife?”
- Friendship Intimacy – Feeling a close connection and regard for one another as friends.
- Humor Intimacy – Sharing through laughing together. Having jokes between the two of you that only you share. Making each other laugh. Enjoying the funny side of life.
- Intellectual Intimacy – Experiencing closeness through sharing ideas. Feeling mutual respect for each other’s intellectual capacities and viewpoints. Sharing mind-stretching experiences. Reading discussing, studying together.
- Parenting Intimacy – Sharing the responsibilities of raising children, including providing for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Includes working together in teaching and disciplining them as well as loving them and worrying about their welfare.
- Recreational Intimacy – Experiencing closeness and connection through fun and play. Helping each other rejuvenate through stress-relieving and enjoyable recreation together.
- Service Intimacy – Sharing in acts of service together. Growing closer as a couple as you experience the joy that comes from giving to others.
- Spiritual Intimacy – Discovering and sharing values, religious views, spiritual feelings, meaning in life, etc.
- Work Intimacy – Experiencing closeness through sharing common tasks, such as maintaining a house and yard, raising a family, earning a living, participating in community affairs, etc.
Types of Intimacy directly from: Fife, S.T., & Weeks, G.R. (2010). Barriers to recovering intimacy. In J. Carlson & L. Sperry (Eds.) Recovering intimacy in love relationships: A clinician’s guide (pp. 157-179). New York: Routledge.
Popovic, M. (2005). Intimacy and its relevance in human functioning. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20, 31-49.
Photo credit : Rebecca Krebbs http://www.flickr.com/photos/missturner/4565589703/
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