Intimacy in relationships

Intimacy is about loving trust and support.

What is intimacy?

Intimacy is about loving trust and support; accepting and sharing in your partner's feelings, being there when they want to let their defences down and knowing that your partner will be there for you.

Intimacy is words and actions, and sharing feelings and experiences - pain and sadness, as well as happiness and love, hard work and humour. Intimacy can be sexual though it's also a reassuring touch, really listening to your partner or allowing them to be vulnerable or to cry. You might value being independent, but at the same time you probably want to be close to someone, to do things together, to know that you are loved and accepted for who you are, despite your faults. You want to know that you matter deeply to someone else.

Creating intimacy

It's important to let your partner know they are loved and appreciated. Some ways to support intimacy include:

  • create opportunities to go out or be alone together (even if you don't really feel like doing that)
  • listen to your partner if they want to talk about something troubling and help them find a way through the problem, even if you think it’s not a big deal
  • if you’ve had an argument, think about what was behind the anger. Try to talk to your partner about what happened when you are both feeling calm enough to reflect.
  • without being asked, step in to help your partner when they look frazzled. Tune in and help out when your partner is struggling to keep up with life's demands.

Intimacy is showing care and love by opening the door to talking and sharing important dreams and hopes. If you can see areas where you fall short, taking little steps to make changes, and perhaps getting support from a counsellor can make a big difference.

Intimacy and sex

For many couples, the most intimate they feel is when they are making love. Sexual activity involves trust and the risk of being vulnerable with each other. Intimacy and sex are not the same thing, but they are closely connected.

Sex is only one part of intimacy. The closer the couple are in ways other than sex, the more rewarding their sex life often becomes. When you can share common experiences as well as feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, happiness and excitement, you are helping to create intimacy. Sharing emotions and feelings can be particularly difficult for some men who may have been brought up to believe that real men don’t show show their feelings.

Common problems in achieving intimacy:

Some couples find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationships. Others can find that after achieving intimacy it seems to slip away. There are many reasons for such difficulties, including:

  • poor communication. One partner or both simply don't know how to put their feelings into words
  • unresolved emotional differences. Anger, hurt or resentment, along with a lack of trust or a sense of being unappreciated can break intimacy
  • practical difficulties. Sometimes money worries, pressures at work, concern about children, or just being too busy or too tired to really connect can affect relationships
  • childhood experiences. A person who has experienced a great deal of hurt or abuse as a child may find it hard as an adult to trust their partner, however much they may be in love.

If some of these issues are a concern for you, these are the areas you need to start working on or consider professional help.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites

The views or opinions expressed in this information are general in nature and do not constitute professional advice. You may benefit from professional help to deal with individual and complex issues.