Did you know there are actually 4 different kinds of intimacy?
Closeness can mean a lot of things depending on what sort of relationship you’re in. We asked psychologist Nancy Sokarno to break down the four different kinds of intimacy and how you can achieve them.
When you think of intimacy, you probably think of a scantily clad couple whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears.
While this is certainly one form of intimacy, there are in fact three others that form the basis of our closest connections. Don’t worry though, your relationship certainly doesn’t need all four to be considered successful.
What are the four different kinds of intimacy?
“Fostering a sense of closeness in any relationship (romantic or otherwise) requires a combination of all four types of intimacy: emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical,” agrees psychologist Nancy Sokarno.
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“[But] many people will have relationships where a type of intimacy might be missing – but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a successful relationship! For example, a platonic friendship may not be physical however they can still be very intimate with one another on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.”
Let’s break down each intimacy language.
“To be emotionally intimate in a relationship means generating a strong sense of closeness when it comes to personal feelings and expression,” explains Sokarno.
“It’s having the ability to be open and honest about your feelings to your partner and feeling safe in doing so.”
To achieve emotional intimacy there are a few non-negotiables: each person much trust, respect, support and accept the other, with an understanding of how each other communicates.
Being mentally intimate with someone is less about feelings and more about “a meeting of the minds”; like a shared ideals, morals, and ethics that you can unpack together in conversation.
“It doesn’t mean that you need to agree on everything, but that you are able to have satisfying, challenging, humorous and stimulating discussions and experiences together,” says Sokarno.
Try taking note of each other’s interests, talking about them, or book experiences where you can share these ideas together.
People who are spiritually intimate together don’t necessarily have to be religious, but they probably share a similar belief or connection to “something bigger than ourselves” or the search for the meaning of life.
“To achieve spiritual intimacy, each person must be willing to be open and honest with each other, while trusting and avoiding any judgement,” explains Sokarno.
“Being spiritual open can make a person feel vulnerable, so each person needs to feel supported and safe when doing so.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory, says Sokarno, but one thing to remember is that it doesn’t always have to be sexual. While couples might engage in cuddling, kissing, and sex, friends can hug and cuddle in a purely plutonic way and it’s just as meaningful.
“Each partner must express themselves in that way, however, also be mindful that our psychical sides are deeply connected to our emotional sides,” she explains.
“Therefore, if things aren’t right emotionally, your partner may not want to engage in the physical side of a relationship.”
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.