Which Kind Of Intimate Relationship Are You In? Knowing The Difference Between Emotional, Sensual AND Sexual Intimacy

5 comments
October 5, 2012 ‐ By Nicole Akoukou Thompson

singleblackmale.org

intimacy: noun  \ˈin-tə-mə-sē\  in·ti·ma·cy

1. the state of being intimate : familiarity ; 2. something of a personal or private nature

The trouble with intimacy is that there doesn’t seem to be a true consensus of what it means, particularly between men and women. For many men, intimacy means sex, i.e. the act of becoming intimate; while many women see intimacy as closeness… the process of being in tune with another person because of genuine attraction and affection. Both notions are correct, but beyond those thoughts, and the dictionary’s description of what it is, intimacy is so much more. It’s as indefinable as the word love, itself. So, the best way to address intimacy…and understand how to become a stronger intimate partner is to approach intimacy at different fundamental levels: emotional intimacy (interpersonal relationships), physical intimacy (sensuality) and sexual intimacy (sex, of course), and consider how the failure to attain or maintain intimate relationships can negatively affect you as an individual.

Emotional intimacy drives intimate relationships, signifying that communication is a quintessential staple, helping to establish concrete connections and to break down conditioned human barriers. In terms of relationships, intimacy is what lays the groundwork for compassion, attachment and commitment because it’s based on a foundation of trust, truth and mutual respect. The desire to love and be loved promotes the legitimacy of occupying and intertwining feelings of devotion. Simply put, successful intimate relationships have a promise of security, which is why it’s ideal for people who are seeking long-term relationships. Romantic partners who are emotionally available/reliable make for far more desirable mates than someone who isn’t forthcoming with feelings.

Sensual/physical intimacy is the magnetic draw between two individuals …the desire for indulgence, but more than that, it is the individuals’ compatibility when it comes to any sort of physical closeness or attraction outside the realm of sex. This could mean kisses, hugs, and handholding. Aside from physicality, sensuality speaks to the subject of romance, pursuit and gender dynamics.  It’s the way you’re attracted and how you’re attracted, which for many people is how they determine whether their relationship is passionate or companionate, or if it works on several levels. Sensual intimacy is the prelude to being sexually involved and understanding of how well-suited a couple is concerning their physical relationship.

Sexual intimacy, beyond sex, is how two individuals read one another’s responses, and the sense of responsibility they have for their significant other’s pleasure. The notion is that successful sexual relationships act on each level of intimacy simultaneously, while providing the gratification earned by being an effective intimate partner –though  sexual intimacy can act independently of emotional intimacy. Sexual intimacy is driven by desire and lust, and is emphasized by a mutual understanding of eroticism, sexual behaviors and sexual interests. In layman’s terms, satisfying sexual relationships are ideal for intimacy because a fulfilling sex life can extend the life of any intimate pairing.

The inability to navigate intimate relationships leads to struggles with interpersonal connections. At its core, it’s fundamentally about understanding another person and being able to achieve a parallel idea of what a relationship is, and figuring out how that relationship will work. People who lack the understanding of what intimacy means, often get too close too soon, don’t know how to sustain partnerships, have fear of commitment, are unable to communicate effectively or they detach themselves when important issues arise.

Have you ever dated someone who lacked the understanding of what intimacy means?

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  • TRUTH IS

    Well written article. Understood every word and context used. A 4 yr old can differientate after reading. Great work!!

  • lola289

    Good Read and I can say totally true since Im in a emotionally intimate relationship.
    Good points…sad part is ALOT of people won’t want to put in the work.
    Friends ask, what we’re doing and all I say is, “Communication and Mutual Respect for one another”…Also don’t be afraid to say what you want. If he wants you then he will value you. PERIOD.

  • Na Na

    I am college educated and this article was way too much to read. I never understood why in journalism we are instructed to write at a 4th grade level but I understand now. This was like trying to read my grad school entrance essay. Good points but really hard to read.

    • Miss K

      I found the article right on point. It was a bit dense, but thorough and clear enough for me.

    • Is It 5:00 Yet?

      Yeah..in my AP English class we learned that articles for the general public are to be written in no higher than a 7th or 8th grade reading level….