What is Intimacy, What are the Benefits, and How does one build Intimacy?
While the word intimacy is closely associated with sexual activity, it encompasses much more. Eric Erikson described intimate relationships as those characterized by closeness, honesty, and love. (1)
What Is Intimacy Really?
Romantic and sexual relationships are very important during our growth, but intimacy is more about having a close loving relationship with those you trust and care for. It includes romantic partners, but it can also encompass close enduring family members and friends. There's also no time limit on intimacy, whether you've known the person 10 years or 10 days, intimacy is a feeling, not a calculated risk.
As people leave adolescence and enter adulthood, these emotionally intimate relationships play a critical role in a person's emotional well-being, growth, social skills, and personal relationships. Intimacy requires being able to share parts of yourself with others, as well as the ability to listen to and support other people. These relationships are reciprocal—you are sharing parts of yourself, and others are sharing with you.
When this happens successfully, you gain the support, intimacy, and companionship of another person(s).
What are the Benefits of Intimacy
People who are successful in resolving the conflict of the intimacy versus isolation stage have (2):
Positive relationships with family and friends
Strong relationships with others and their community
Those who can navigate this time in their lives with success have found an important connection and role in creating supportive social relationships within their families, friends, and society. They are important for both physical and mental health throughout life.
How do you build Intimacy?
Learning to open up and share with others can be easy or a scary yet important part of intimacy. Some of the other important tasks that can play a role in succeeding or struggling at this point of development include:
Being intimate: This is more than just engaging in sex; it means forging emotional intimacy and closeness.
Caring: It is essential to be able to care about the needs of others. Relationships are reciprocal. Getting love is important at this stage, but so is giving it.
Making commitments: Part of being able to form strong relationships involves being able to commit to others for the long term.
Self-disclosure: This involves sharing part of the self with others, while still maintaining a strong sense of self-identity.
Word to the Wise
Healthy relationships are important for both your physical and emotional well-being. The sixth stage of Erikson's psychosocial theory of development focuses on how these critical relationships are forged. Those who are successful at this stage are able to forge deep relationships and social connections with other people. (3)
Written and adapted by: Craig Chacon SEC, SAVI, CIS, EMT-T
Board Certified Relationship, Intimacy, and Sex Coach