Understand Intimacy

It is often believed that intimacy means sex. Sex is not necessarily intimacy. A description of intimacy is, “You know me and you still like me.” It’s feeling safe with another person. The safer and more comfortable you both are, the more intimate the relationship. It’s not necessarily sexual. Sex can be very impersonal. When you say, “I want a more intimate relationship with my friend or my partner,” what do you mean?

MORE INTIMACY. It means you feel safe enough to let your guard down. You can be vulnerable. You are yourself without worry of rejection. You are accepted for yourself. No excuses, no fears and no need to be on guard and protective. Intimacy is safely laying your emotions and thoughts bare before another person. More intimacy lets you talk about deeper and deeper wants, needs, desires, thoughts, fears or any subject and discuss it safely and comfortably. This is where you want to go if you want a more intimate relationship.

 “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”―  Dorothy Thompson

GETTING THERE. A commonly accepted way is to test the person. Say something that appears to make you vulnerable, but is something in which you have little emotion invested. Watch the reaction of the other person. If that person accepts you without judgment, move to a more vulnerable area. This tests whether the person can be trusted with your deepest feelings. As you make yourself more vulnerable, your partner will see that action as giving him or her permission to do the same. This way you both move closer to the relationship you want.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

―  Marianne Williamson


Look at the relationship. Ask yourself if this person:

  • Enriches your life.
  • Shows honesty, warmth and appreciation toward you.
  • Brings you joy.
  • Makes you feel like the two of you are connecting.
  • Shares your hopes, dreams, and aspirations, or at least encourages you to pursue them.
  • Encourages a relaxed atmosphere around you.
  • Speaks openly and honestly to you.

If the answer is yes, you may need to work on some areas, but you have the potential for an intimate relationship. If the answer is no or I don’t know, it’s possible that the two of you are not in the relationship for the same reasons and are not a comfortable match. Discuss each of your goals for the relationship. Compare the differences. Are they differences you can tolerate?

WHAT IF … this person does not want a more intimate relationship? What if this person does not accept what you say and his or her reaction shows that proceeding further is not possible? There is nothing you can do.

Ask yourself if your partner: 

  • Seems angry with and or critical of you.
  • Keeps deep personal feelings hidden from you.
  • Seems to distrust you.
  • Argues against your thoughts, ideas, feelings or experiences.
  • Makes you feel confused by his or her reactions to your words, thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
  • Argues for no apparent reason. Does this happen only with you, or with everyone?
  • Ignores you when you are enthusiastic about something.
  • Responds in a way that is confusing to you. Do you sometimes feel off-balance after a discussion with your partner? Do you keep wondering if the two of you are talking about the same thing?

If you answer yes, and you see any of these patterns on a consistent basis, this person is not ready for an intimate relationship with you. This behavior may be emotionally abusive. In this situation an intimate relationship is difficult if not impossible. If you make yourself vulnerable, you give this person more information to use against you. Trust your judgment, especially when it contradicts the other person’s words.

The comments this person may say include, “I was only joking. Can’t you take a joke?” Or, “You always make a big deal over things.”

Do not try to understand the words. Stop the behavior when you recognize that frequent comments showing a lack of responsibility or verbal attacks are abusive. See Characteristics of an Abusive Personality, Appendix A, page 133. This is not your fault. Address the comment or behavior for what it is. “I don’t find your words funny. This is not a joke. You’re twisting my words. Don’t walk away from me when I’m trying to talk to you. Don’t shout at me.” See Understand Your Human Rights, page 35.

Intimacy is possible when two people care for and respect themselves and each other. Go slowly and develop a trusting relationship. It can happen. It will happen when you both work toward that end. An intimate relationship is well worth the effort.


  • Have you discussed your personal goals for the relationship?
  • Do you both agree on the goals?
  • How will you resolve differences?
  • Do you now have an intimate relationship?
  • Do you want a more intimate relationship or are you satisfied with it as it is?
  • Does your partner want a more intimate relationship?
  • If not, is your partner not able to have one, just can’t let his or her guard down?
  • Can you live with this and not expect more?
  • If you cannot live with it as it is, what can you do?

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