Intimacy involves feelings of emotional closeness and connectedness with another person. Intimate relationships are often characterized by attitudes of mutual trust, caring, and acceptance.

A part of our sexuality might include intimacy: the ability to love, trust, and care for others in both sexual and other types of relationships. We learn about intimacy from those relationships around us, particularly within our families.

Our sexual activities can take place with others where there can be varying degrees of intimacy. We may be sexual with an intimate partner, a casual partner, an anonymous partner, a friend, etc.

Often intimacy with others involves taking emotional risks where people might share personal details and stories. Emotional intimacy doesn’t automatically occur with sexual intimacy, as people who are sexually involved may not choose to share their innermost thoughts and feelings or the sexual relationship might be one where there is not a high degree of emotional intimacy.

Four key factors

There are four key factors in building an emotionally intimate relationship:

1. Knowing and liking yourself

  • Some social scientists suggest that the initial step toward intimacy with others is getting to know and like yourself. By coming to know and value yourself, you identify your innermost feelings and needs and develop the security to share them with others.

2. Trusting and caring

  • Two of the most important components of an intimate relationship are trust and caring. When trust exists, partners feel secure that disclosing intimate feelings will not lead to ridicule, rejection, or other harm. Research shows that trust builds gradually as people come to see the other person has made a sincere investment in the relationship.
  • Caring is an emotional bond that allows intimacy to develop. When people care about each other, they seek to fulfill each other’s needs and interests.

3. Honesty

  • Honesty is also a feature of intimacy. When we are sexual with others, it might be helpful to consider what information we need to be honest about to help our sexual partners make informed choices and what information we would like our sexual partners to be honest about with us. Try to provide important information in a way that is concise and respectful to your partner(s) and yourself.

4. Clear communication

  • Communication is a two-way street that embraces sending and receiving messages. The clear communicator must, therefore, learn to also be a good listener.
  • It is important when communicating with someone to listen not only to their words but also to their non-verbal cues. Nonverbal communication provides valuable clues to feelings. The tone of voice, gestures, body posture, and facial expressions not only accentuate the spoken word but can also express emotion directly.

Clear communication can take the guesswork out of relationships, avert misunderstanding, relieve resentments and frustrations, and increase general (and sexual) satisfaction within the relationship.

Violence in relationships:

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence in a relationship, there are resources that can help. Our Sex Sense team is able to provide resources to organizations and information to support someone experiencing violence or abuse. Here are some excellent resources for those experiencing violence in relationships.

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