What does it mean to be intimate? Too many people don’t know how to be intimate, or even what the concept really means. Technically, intimacy is simply defined as being close to someone – but knowing its clinical definition doesn’t give a lot of clues as to how to be intimate.
Intimacy in a relationship can be an extremely profound and fulfilling experience. It can also be very challenging, since opening yourself to intimacy means opening yourself to being more deeply affected by another person.
The 4 Steps to Intimacy
Building intimacy can either be a slow process, or a steep and fast deep dive into connection. Each of the steps present varying levels of difficulty for different people. For example, some people are very non-judgmental and accepting, but find it extremely difficult to trust. Others might find it easy to trust, but cannot accept when a person they are intimate with changes in some way.
The first step in learning how to be intimate is opening yourself up to trust. Depending on your life experiences, trusting another person can be more or less challenging. If, for example, you have trustworthy parents who attended to you, a good friendship network, and a safe environment, trust might be easy to attain for you.
If, on the other hand, your childhood was full of uncertainty, with parents who were abusive, neglectful or left you alone a lot, you may feel a lot of mistrust and have a harder time taking the first step towards intimacy. If you were bullied at school, or lived in a very unsafe surrounding or neighborhood, it may also be hard for you to relax into trust. Finally, if you trusted someone deeply and then felt this trust betrayed with broken promises or lies, you may be very hesitant to open yourself up to trust.
Regardless whether your trust factor is high or low – realize that taking the trust leap comes with risk, but also with the intense reward of a deeper, more fulfilling connection. It’s also important to remember that some people may not be capable of engaging in intimacy the way you might need them to. They may not be able to be consistent when making an agreement, or use self-protective strategies like lying that can do great damage to trust.
But if you are ready to bravely trust, you can take the next step towards intimacy.
2. Listening and Communicating Vulnerably
To be intimate, you need to get to know someone on more than a superficial level.
When you meet someone randomly at a party, or go on a first blind date, you often begin getting to know each other based on superficial aspects. You may be attracted to them because of their looks or charm. You might also be projecting some of your ideas or fantasies onto them about how you would like them to be.
A first conversation generally begins by sharing information about birthplace, siblings, travel, work and other foundational information. If you want to deepen intimacy however, one of you will have to open up about deeper parts of yourself. This can happen on a very first date or may take months, depending on the level of trust each person has. Other aspect that come into play are cultural expectancy, and how good each person is at expressing themselves more vulnerably.
As you deepen your emotional connection, you may begin to share parts of yourself that are more tender and private. You are opening yourself up to being truly known, loved, and accepted by someone – the very reason people move towards ever deeper and deeper levels of intimacy. You are also exposing yourself up to being judged, rejected, and misunderstood – a scary proposition even under the best of initial circumstances.
But as you begin to share your hopes and dreams for your life, as well as your fears or insecurities, you often find common ground and bond over that. You might share your desires about what kind of relationship you want, or the challenges you’ve had in relationships in the past.
3. Creating And Sharing A Safe Space
You may even begin to show or verbally share some of the feelings you harbor towards the other person. You might tell them how much they mean to you, or that you love them. You might tell them about hopes you have for a future together. Also, just by interacting at this deeper levels of intimacy, feelings may arise and be witnessed by your intimate connection you cannot hide. For example, if they do something you find hurtful, you might cry or get angry. Seeing all of the different sides of one another is a deepening of intimacy.
As you share these parts of yourself, it’s most helpful to building intimacy if you offer them a safe place they can share vulnerably about who they are, what they hope for, and what they feel. The way to create safety is to cultivate an accepting, non-judgmental attitude towards whatever information they have decided to share with you.
While you may not like all of it, or you may not even want to continue to deepen intimacy with someone based on the things they have laid bare – realize this is about your preferences instead of them being wrong. With that knowledge, you will be much more likely to maintain and deepen intimacy.
4. Sharing Physical and Sexual Intimacy
Of course the most devoted way how to be intimate is through physical intimacy. This can consist of a simple hug, holding hands, kissing, or having sex with each other. Physical touch is a very bonding part of intimacy that significantly deepens your connection to another person.
Being truly present matters too. The more present and aware you are of one another when you are touching, the deeper the shared intimacy can grow. Letting yourself feel truly connected to your desire for them, paying attention to how you are touching them, and how their skin feels while looking into their eyes, can trigger a great deepening of intimacy. Conversely, absentmindedly touching someone’s body in a repetitive or needy way might make the other person feel irritated and less intimate.
In addition to the physical aspect of sexual intimacy, each person has their own version of the kind of sexual intimacy that is most psychologically arousing to them. Because sexual desires are so personal, vulnerable, and often shamed, letting another person see this part of you can feel very intense and scary. But when you feel accepted in your sexual desires, you can relax and let yourself bond more deeply.
How Can A Relationship or Intimacy Coach Help You Resolve Intimacy Issues?
When intimacy coaches teach people how to be intimate, they generally focus on:
- Become more self-aware about desires, boundaries, feelings, and capacity.
- Learn to communicate desires, boundaries, feelings, and capacity.
- Practice fighting fairly.
- Learn how to accept your partner for who they are.
- Connect sexually with your partner through mutual acceptance and by learning each other’s desires.
While this is great advice, some people learn through touch rather than cerebral. If you need help with intimacy, the most effective approach is to work with an experiential expert, such as a Somatica® Coach, who will practice how to be intimate with you. You learn how to deepen your connections, and get feedback about whether or not you are allowing yourself into intimacy.