I would like to take this opportunity to focus on identifying the various types of intimacy and distinguishing between the defining characteristics of each one. Generally speaking, intimacy can be defined as a powerful feeling of closeness that exists between two people. An intimate relationship can develop between any two people in a variety of ways and does not necessarily have to be physical in nature. Although physical intimacy is what might most often come to mind when thinking about the kind of intimate relationships that develop between two people who are romantically involved, there are other, less physical types of intimacy that can help a new couple to establish a more genuine and lasting bond.
The reality is that people tend to choose their dating partners based, in large part, on the exhilarating rush of sexual attraction. The excitement and anticipation of imagining what it might be like to fulfill those sexual desires can be an emotionally intoxicating experience for most new lovers. However, couples who are just getting to know each other would be well advised to try and avoid the temptation of devoting too much energy toward building physical intimacy alone, at the expense of deeper, more enduring kinds of bonds such as those that are typically developed through emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy.
Emotional intimacy is, in my opinion, the most meaningful kind of intimacy that can exist between two individuals. Unfortunately, however, it is also usually the most difficult to achieve because it requires such a substantial investment of emotional risk that many people, whether consciously or not, simply arenít ready, willing, or able to make. Emotional intimacy should not be confused with physical intimacy since they are each defined in very different ways and it is quite possible to develop one without the other. As with most dating-related issues, the diverse levels of intimacy are not always easy to define in concrete ways but luckily, distinguishing between them is rather simple. I would like to propose a working definition of emotional intimacy as being the mutual sense of uninhibited trust, communication, respect and understanding that exists between two people.
Intellectual intimacy can be appropriately described as a feeling of closeness shared between two people who understand and accept each otherís personal philosophies. Donít be fooled by its name, however, because intellectual intimacy has very little to do with intellect itself. When there is intellectual intimacy between two individuals, those people typically feel comfortable enough with each other and know each other well enough to engage in meaningful conversations and exchange ideas or opinions without fear of being chastised or otherwise judged.
Physical intimacy is precisely as it sounds. It involves being physically close to another person through proximity and/or physical affection such as hugging, kissing, touching, or sexual contact.
Spiritual intimacy is difficult to achieve and also difficult to define in concrete terms. Despite the implications of its name, spiritual intimacy is not so much about religious beliefs as it is about shared morals, values, and ethics, which may or may not be related to any specific religious viewpoints.
It is important to remember that intimacy is a process that requires continuous attention and effort so that the bonds that it produces do not wither from neglect, as unfortunately tends to happen more often than not in many relationships. Luckily, however, the fruits of a well-maintained, intimate relationship are well worth the effort that they require.