Building Intimacy

Couple outside dancing closely together.

What thoughts do you have when you think of the word intimacy? Acts of intimacy vary with each person, but what if your thoughts of intimacy itself are: stale, repetitive, “intima-what”? 

Having an outlet for intimacy in our partner is one of the most pure forms of centering and releasing stress during all of life’s most hectic happenings. Intimacy is a person knowing you fully and loving who you are as well as in spite of it. 

What intimacy can do for you

In a study performed by the Department of Psychology at METU* in Turkey and later empirically tested by Rubin, H. and Campbell, L. in 2012, intimacy has direct ties to self-disclosure, communication of affection, perceived partner responsiveness, and positive attitudes towards your partner.

The more intimate we are with someone, the easier it is to open up to them about ourselves. Provide meaningful affection and you’ll have a more positive perception of your partner and their actions, thoughts, and feelings. The happier you are with your partner, the happier you will be overall.

How to build intimacy

Anything positive you do with your life partner will build intimacy. Cooking a meal, reading the same book, or getting lost in a thought together all serve to grow our intimacy. Let’s look a little more in depth at what you can do to build intimacy in your relationship. 

1. Strategize your vulnerability

We can spend an endless amount of time with someone and still not feel totally comfortable opening ourselves up about things. Some maintain the “all or nothing” mindset even with their own vulnerability. There’s nothing wrong with letting our guard down cautiously if that’s your preferred pace.

You don’t need to give all of yourself all at once to someone. Nurturing intimacy is just as effective when you isolate your vulnerabilities with your partner one at a time. Feel free to pick a thing to open up to your partner about and explore that. It can be one conversation or a discussion that spans for days. Maybe a sensitive time from your past, a work incident, or a feeling you’ve had that’s been hard to share. 

2. Express it

Not everyone can be an affection displaying machine nor should your partner expect you to be. Building intimacy is a beautiful, but growing process with a lot of give and take. As we build trust, we may feel more at ease with our own vulnerabilities. This will lead to a natural expansion of your own views of intimacy. Being comfortable enough with a person to express ourselves in new ways lets us grow into new fulfilling expressions.

Greeting your partner with open arms at the door, holding their hand during a tense moment, randomly turning a quick smooch into a long and passionate embrace before you leave for work are all sure to catch your partner by surprise in the best of ways. Even engaging your partner in the details of their day floods them with feelings of value and intimacy.

3. Relish the routine

After spending enough time with someone, things don’t feel unexpected as they did when first getting to know each other. This predictability may not seem so exciting from the outside, but as Dr. Robert J. Sternberg writes in Satisfaction in Close Relationships* there’s a plus side to this predictability: it leads to intimacy. “The partners are so connected with each other that the one doesn’t recognize the other is there, just as the air we breathe can be taken for granted, despite its necessity to life.” 

Forming your routines and becoming so in-sync with each other the activities of one won’t interfere with the other is a more subdued form of intimacy. However, anyone who’s experienced it knows how valuable that dynamic is to have. 

4. Engage your partner in “deep” conversations

Picking the brain of your partner through in-depth conversation naturally brings two people closer together. As time passes, individuals and couples alike grow and sometimes change. Fears, ambitions, perspective can change over time, but the shifts are rarely announced without having fulfilling conversations. Regular chats will keep you involved in each other’s evolving mindsets so that as you grow, you grow together. These are the times some can feel the most intimacy in their relationships.

Most are too busy with our lives to afford the time for these sorts of conversations with just anyone. Regularly having these types of discussions with your partner makes them feel like the most valuable person in your life. 

“One of my favorite bedrock things we would do together was review how our days went. Often, this was more than just at the end of the day. It did not matter if we were both working at home, traveling together, or if he was on the road. We would discuss our joys and triumphs, our fears and insecurities, and our concerns. Any obstacles life threw at us individually or as a couple were somehow surmountable because we had each other.”

– Susan Schneider Williams

5. Break up the routine

The more we “stick to the script” of our daily routine, the less emotion we experience through the routine. I’d wager that if you stopped doing something you normally do the majority of the days in your life, you’d suddenly feel something. 

Try generating something unexpected. One of you could go away alone or both of you could take a trip to somewhere new. This may seem extreme, but use these extreme actions to realize how much intimacy there actually is. Better to create minor interruptions to your routine than wait for a major one to wake you up.

A moped trip can take you pretty far.


6. Give credit

Giving credit to your partner when they accomplish something, no matter how minor, does a few things. You show your partner you care enough about what they do to notice. It shows you care enough about how they feel to acknowledge it. You also show that what they did was significant enough to you to warrant your flattery. Mostly, it gives your partner the coveted feeling of fulfillment as the love of their life praises them. 

There are few ways to more quickly open a moment of intimacy than to acknowledge the good in your partner and what they do.

* – study on relationship between intimacy change and passion – Bülent Aykutoğlu, Ahmet Uysal

** – Satisfaction in Close Relationships – edited by Robert J. Sternberg, Mahzad Hojjat

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