Emotional intimacy v/s sexual intimacy

Intimacy is something we crave and fear at the same time. Here's how to let the guard down in any relationship.

It's a common refrain among partners - old or newly met: 'We don't connect' or 'something is missing'. The ingredient they are reaching for and not getting enough of is intimacy. There isn't much of it going around these days because it involves making yourself vulnerable, which is not always easy.

On the other hand, you can be intimate without being romantic. There is that great connection you share with a best friend and sexual intimacy can take place with or without emotional intimacy. As psychologist Malini Shah says, "Emotional intimacy is a feeling of close personal association and belonging. It's a familiar connect formed through shared knowledge of each other and experience."

What's that feeling?
The fear of intimacy mars many relationships; it makes us push away people. This is because we are afraid of being vulnerable and don't trust easily. It could also have to do with our upbringing. Physical intimacy is a way of showing another person that you care. Sheena Kapoor (name changed) reveals, "I was brought up to demonstrate affection by hugging and cuddling. Even after marriage, when I meet my closest friend, who is a man, we hug. My in-laws are not so demonstrative and there is a different set of rules there." At its core, in whichever form, intimacy involves being aware of each other's fears, hopes, and dreams. This is where the problem begins. Malini says, "We lack the ability to verbalize our true emotional wants and needs. It might be difficult to find the right words to communicate our feelings accurately. In fact, it might even be difficult to formulate our wants and needs to our own selves." Malini adds, "Intimacy is not possible when one is closed. In our culture, we hold ourselves back and are inhibited."

People also fear exposing their true self and weaknesses for the fear of ridicule or rejection. Spiritual guru Osho, in his book 'Intimacy - trusting oneself and the other' - writes that the word intimacy comes from the Latin root intimum which means your innermost core. He writes, 'Unless you have something there, you can't be intimate with anybody.

You cannot allow intimacy, because they will see the hole, the wound, the pus oozing out of it. Friendship is only a word now; it has disappeared. And the reason? There is nothing to share. Who wants to show inner poverty? One wants to pretend, "I am rich, I have arrived, I know what I am doing, I know where I am going."

The types of intimacy
- Intellectual intimacy is where two people exchange thoughts, share ideas and enjoy similarities and differences between their opinions.
- Experiential intimacy emerges when people actively involve in mutual activities. It could be people joined together by a traumatic or elating situation.
- Emotional intimacy is where two persons can comfortably share feelings or when they empathise with the feelings of the other person, really trying to understand and trying to be aware of the other person's state of mind.
- Sexual intimacy includes a broad range of sensuous activity and is probably why friends-withbenefits is a popular arrangement.

Getting intimate
When a relationship lacks intimacy, it strains. So working at it is a rewarding chore. It begins when one begins to feel understood, accepted by another person. A positive response boosts one's selfesteem. Besides being relaxed, an environment must be created to encourage intimacy. "Talk without holding back," advises Malini. Here are other ways to boost intimacy:

- Spend time together each day. Create time to connect.
- Make yourself vulnerable in a trusting, loving relationship.
- Accept that you have a special, unique and distinct bond.
- Identify things that give you a sense of sense of closeness and proximity, oneness and unity. It could be just be cooking together.

- Share secrets and private thoughts. This is easy in a nonabusive, non-punitive and nonmanipulative environment. Inspect your relationship. Does it give you a sense of security and acceptance? If not, change it.
- Recognise the need to be a sexual being. Share fantasies.

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