What Is Intimacy, Anyway?

Since I’m a big proponent of casual and NSA sex, I hear all the time that with casual sex you can’t achieve intimacy. I hear this in person, via email, and when reading blog posts. This got me to thinking, what is intimacy, anyway? And, why do we want it?

BTW, just recently, two of my blogging friends published posts where they talk about intimacy, see here and here.

Let’s just jump right in. I’ll attempt to define intimacy and what it does for me, and I want to invite all of our readers to attempt their own definitions, too.

When I think of intimacy, I think of that squishy, cuddly area of a relationship when couples talk about Deep Life Things, share secrets, and generally get to know each other on a super personal level. An intimate level. This often means sharing and talking post-coital, but is certainly not limited to that time period. Intimacy for me also means spending moments with a partner, talking about life and relationship issues, and sometimes coming up with epiphanies. Usually these epiphanies occur on an emotional level, or in an emotional context. For me, intimacy is basically talking about your feelings.

I took the liberty of googling the question, what is intimacy? and according to this article, intimacy can be achieved in the areas of physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. Additionally, all five are meant to occur in harmony. So, I think when most people talk about intimacy, they’re either talking about physical intimacy (sex) or emotional intimacy. For me, deep emotional intimacy is generally reserved for LTR’s, whereas you can achieve intellectual intimacy with friends, too. Spiritual intimacy appears to be for peeps with strong religious beliefs, as in sharing how god is making you feel. I’ve never heard of social intimacy before. Does social intimacy mean couples socializing together and talking about their feelings afterwards?

BTW, the article I referenced above has a few interesting things to say, but it goes on a crazy tangent about how God’s love is the answer and sex should be reserved for marriage. Yuck. More abstinence lit.

What Does Wikipedia Have to Say?

Wikipedia has a pretty reasonable article/essay on intimacy, which can be found here. Here’s a quote:

Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy requires identity development. You have to know yourself and your inner self in order to share your self with another. Knowing yourself makes it possible to stand for yourself in an intimate relationship without taking over the other or losing yourself to the other. This ability to be separate and together in an intimate relationship and being okay with that is called self-differentiation. Lacking the ability to differentiate one self from the other is a form of symbiosis. This too is different from intimacy though to some that kind of dependent closeness may feel the same.

I like what the essay has to say about self-differentiation and symbiosis. Obviously, if you recklessly try to become intimate with someone, you risk co-dependency, a loss of identity, or taking over someone’s identity. Huge problems. This is what PUA lit addresses when we talk about “inner game” and not being needy, although we talk about it in the context of attraction only and not relationships.

Which begs the question, how do you get to that self-differentiation level? My solution is relationship experience and a high volume of dating.

Definition of Intimacy from an Aussie Site

I thought this essay on Relationships Australia did a good job of breaking it down. Quote:

Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner, about being able to let your guard down, and let him or her know how you really feel. Intimacy is also about being able to accept and share in your partner’s feelings, about being there when he/she wants to let their defences down. We all have an `inner world’ of feelings and experiences, the world of our day dreams, hopes, fears, hurts and memories, the world of our ‘inner-most’ thoughts. To be able to share our ‘inner-world’ with a partner we love, and to be able to share our partner’s experiences, is one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship.

So, intimacy is about being emotionally close and sharing your inner world with your partner. Cool, I’m down with that.

Caveat: sharing secrets and talking about our inner lives sounds dangerously close to the unloading of baggage, and that other person probably doesn’t want your baggage. I have a lot of secrets, I suppose, but IMO most of them are not worth sharing. Does my girlfriend need to know about every sex partner and every relationship mistake I’ve made? I don’t think so. Why would she? I think it’s far more important to experience new things with your current partner and write your story together, now, and in the future, rather than relive and re-experience the past.

Do We Need Intimacy?

Is intimacy the goal of any good, healthy relationship? Do we NEED to have intimacy in order to be fulfilled as human beings, or can we achieve an elite level of personal, inner development and still consider ourselves self-actualized human beings? Can you have a real relationship and not have intimacy?? Can you have intimacy in a relationship and NOT have sex, and is that worth it? Questions worth exploring…

For me, intimacy is the icing on the relationship cake, but not my current priority, although it may soon become one since I have a girlfriend now. Depending on your life stage, I think it’s perfectly fine to say that you want to date only and not have emotional intimacy with the person(s) you’re dating. Just like I think it’s perfectly fine to say you just want to have sex and no other connection. Whatever is right for you, just keep it real and tell your partner what you’re on about.

Lastly, why is intimacy so gooey and gay un-masculine?? Just writing this post made me want to watch football and drink a sixer of the Beast just to get back in balance. Yesh.

Dad’s House talked about the difference between physical intimacy and emotional intimacy, and Single Mom Seeking waded in with her own thoughts on sex and intimacy, be sure to check them out!

If this post made you want to get intimate with Lance, you may also enjoy these:

  • graham

    Since I am currently going through a divorce, I myself prefer the intimacy with sex. I have been with the same woman since I was 16. I can’t imagine having a ONS with someone I just met. I am sure I will one day but I am one of those guys who likes to “get close” to a woman before I get close to her.

    Let’s see if I have the same attitude after a couple of months without sex…

  • http://tsquest.blogspot.com T

    Lance, I love this post! What a wonderful idea to look further into our definition and help us truly define what it is we’re looking for.

    I actually prefer intimacy that leads to sex… that’s just me. I am a feeling person and though sex may be wonderful to simply DO, I have to FEEL in order to truly enjoy it.

    I am going to read some of the articles you linked to. I think they will be helpful.

    Oh and I agree about focusing on a future with a partner rather than digging up the past. However, sometimes it is helpful to understand why we do the things that we do. And sometimes its because of something that happened in a previous relationship. Awareness helps, even if you choose not to share the reason with your partner.

    T´s last blog post…Fork in the Blog

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    Great post Lance! I think a lot of people throw the word intimacy around without really knowing what it is or how it applies to them in their lives. Your post gives us lots to ponder.

    lisaq´s last blog post…How to Know if You’re Suffering From Dating Burnout

  • lilez0521

    Great post Lance. This really makes me wonder about what intimacy actually really is. I think with intimacy it’s one of those things that can’t be put into a definite category. There’s an infinite number of ways to experience intimacy with your partner besides sex, although sex is probably one of default routes we choose in expressing feelings of intimacy and love.

  • http://blogs.marinij.com/katwilder Kat Wilder

    Hey Lance,
    Very nicely written.
    I agree that we often don’t understand what intimacy is, although we say we want “it,” the undefined it.

    Sex can bring intimacy (it is an intimate act, after all), but that probably isn’t the intimacy that’s the right “it,” thus so many (women, mostly) who say you can’t have great sex with a booty call and without love blah, blah, blah. You can, but that’s not the intimacy in the way we say we want it.

    Intimacy, to me, is going to that deeper, raw emotional side with someone, and that can include friends, not just lovers. When you place yourself before another and say, “this is me, warts and all” and the other person does the same. And you’re each OK with it, ya know?

    Kat Wilder´s last blog post…Shrinkage; it’s not just for men

  • http://blogs.marinij.com/katwilder Kat Wilder

    And more more thing (now that I’ve had my second cup o’ joe …!); I don’t think you can ever have true intimacy with someone unless we ourselves can accept and love and embrace our naked, raw selves. That’s why in the book Dad’s House references, the author goes from one hookup to another, searching for what’s missing inside — love, respect, etc.

    It’s such a stupid cliche and I know that, coming from California, it can easily be made fun of, but really, we need to love ourselves first.

    Kat Wilder´s last blog post…Shrinkage; it’s not just for men

  • http://dadshouseblog.com dadshouse

    Physical intimacy rocks! And it can be achieved without emotional intimacy. That’s where lovers come in. You are right that emotional intimacy can lead to unloading baggage and a co-dependent relationship. Those things suck. Spiritual intimacy makes me think of tantric sex…

    Great post. I’ll think more on this and see what my intimate self-loving casual self can come up with.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Where Did My Mojo Go?

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    You’re absolutely right about having a strong inner self to be able to become properly intimate. I think many marriages fail because folks aren’t self-loving enough, secure enough, or even have a concept of what strong, mature inner game should be.

  • http://www.awakeningfromthedream.blogspot.com Erika

    hey guys,

    ever heard of non-violent communication? It has tons to offer for intimate relationships — and also for creating intimacy instantly with strangers. I’ve written a lot about it on my blog, for example: http://awakeningfromthedream.blogspot.com/2008/10/compassion-bring-it-everywhere-you-go.html

    among others, I recommend Kelly Bryson’s book Don’t be Nice Be Real, which is based in NVC practice.


    Erika´s last blog post…Wow, this is cool. Thanks Rori :-)

  • http://blogs.marinij.com/katwilder Kat Wilder

    So, I was sort of revisiting this intimacy post (on a Saturday night; go figure!) and googled “intimacy” (cause I google everything), and came upon this Web site: http://www.completelynaked.co.uk/intimacy7.htm#, in which artists were asked to send in “photographic images representing intimacy” as “part of our research for ‘INTIMACY (human people)” Needless to say, a lot of nudity and a lot of sexual shots (which is what many people think of when it comes to intimacy, evidently), but the picture on that page of gallery thirty two actually captures an odd slice of intimacy moment. I have no idea what’s going on, but it is incredibly real. And intimate.

  • Nat

    Married 43 years and We haven’t been intimate for over 25 years. No intimacy,lovin or any sex. We live in the same house and she lives on the first floor and I on the lower level. We probably have two of everything. I just finished a small kitchen in the lower level. Now my level is complete, don’t have to drink instant coffee any more ah!!! life is good. I’m a stay at home guy don’t go out except to the store or to drive my corvette. Friends are non-existant but I’m fine with that. Don’t need that !! Wife on the other hand enjoys going out
    with friends she has! I’m positive they are male and female friends. But that is none of my business. Our paths rarely cross, except when I do my laundry some times.

  • terri

    Kinda sounds like a bunch of gibberish to me, but, as shown elsewhere, I’m not exactly predisposed to tolerating lance’s meandering spew.

    Lance, you posed two questions (“What is intimacy?” “Why do we want it?”). You “answered” the former tepidly (consult your dictionary) and the latter not at all (other than to raise the question again in a different guise). The more important point is that you posed the second question in the way that you did. “Why do we want it?” (the implication being “yes, we do”). And then you go on to cut your feet out from under your legs with your me-first insistence and faux macho bravado (and, honestly, your strikethrough of “gay” is a wee bit disturbing…yeah, I know it was a joke. But…really not very funny).

    This, for me, sums it up:

    “Caveat: sharing secrets and talking about our inner lives sounds dangerously close to the unloading of baggage, and that other person probably doesn’t want your baggage.”

    First, why preface this as a caveat? A caution against what? I’m going to get slammed for picking on your rhetoric (again), but, really, lance, use words you understand, k? There’s a good boy.

    Second, are you fucking insane? i love it (ironically) when men my age say they’re
    “baggage-free”. Yeah, right. You’re either a bore, a liar, or you’ve been lobotomized. I know, you’re not supposed to rag on your ex, you shouldn’t detail the offenses, it’s not first date chum….but, come _on_, if you’ve been through serious relationships (and imprudent marriages) and have come out on the other side with an “it’s all good” attitude…you’re way too zen for me…if you want a woman to know who you are, then you sure as hell better tell her how the “others” lacked. Not necessarily in a mean way…but honestly, tenderly, in a way that’s calibrating and appreciative.

    I think what lance is saying is that “baggage” is a stumbling block. It’s a dick-van-dyke ottoman on the way to the bedroom. “Fuck that noise, bitch, bend over and let me do you!”

    Oh, and, yeah, now you’re getting all gushy because you think you have a “heather” in your life. Have you told her about how you “nailed” a chick that isn’t her?

    “So, intimacy is about being emotionally close and sharing your inner world with your partner. Cool, I’m down with that.”

    The fuck you are.

    If she doesn’t get it, then go find your next NSA thrill.

  • Jax


    This post/thread is two years old.

    Digging into Lances emotional maturity or his evolution into adult life can be a big draw to come read the site. I was certainly alarmed by the fact that he doesn’t consider ‘banging’ others a form of cheating on his present girlfriend. Having this post from two years ago and his recent actions shows he hasn’t matured in the area of knowing what ‘intimacy’ is. He does appear to be afraid to speak what’s really in his mind and seems to need to be accepted by someone he views as better than himself, Heather. If he didn’t think she was ‘better’ he would have no reason to lie to her, or omit information or compartmentalize his sexual needs or bend to fit an image HE believes she wants to see in a man. 😉

    That said, it is his forum, it’s his place, it’s his life… I won’t fault his writing style, critic his thought flow, correct his grammar, what’s the point in that?

    Your thoughts and writing style are interesting, thoughtful and add an abundance of thought provoking input. Even when I think you are coming off as a condescending bitch(if you are a woman), I enjoy reading your posts and even when Lance comes off as a wanna be young stud womanizer, I enjoy reading his.

    (“So, intimacy is about being emotionally close and sharing your inner world with your partner. Cool, I’m down with that.”

    The fuck you are.) In complete agreement, even after two years Lance hasn’t a clue what intimacy means- he isn’t down with or cool with it, he manipulates it to make it fit his needs and be able to feel CLEANSED.

    (“baggage-free”. Yeah, right. You’re either a bore, a liar, or you’ve been lobotomized.)
    Again, in complete agreement. I don’t even continue speaking with a man that says they have no baggage. They tend to be regimented, calculated, live in a constant state of judgment of others and have a false sense of better than thou.

    Lance, you have a public journal to look back on your own self awareness, LUCKY YOU!! lol

  • Honey

    If Terri is a woman, I think Lance should invite her to be the new Honey, now that I’m not posting anymore :-)

  • Jax

    You just posted though. And they would have to consummate the deal, are you going to sign off?

  • Honey

    I mean blog posts, not comments, Jax. I’ve been out of the game for at least 2 months, now.

  • Jax

    More action on the site would be good. Lance mentioned a guest blog to me once, I wasn’t sure what that would entail. I am back into dating, it’s an interesting flip side to be the one that doesn’t want a commitment and have the men want one from me.

    I had a conversation the other day with a 50 y/o man, I was actually going to have sex with his friend, we had dated a few times and I thought ‘why not sleep with him, find out what he is likes in bed’ and I thought also he would be safe as I didn’t think he would want strings either and maybe with could come to some disclosure arrangement if either of us does sleep with anyone else… as we were setting that up he mentioned he had a friend that lives near me, SO I asked if his friend was single. HA! Now I am dating his friend and didn’t in fact end up sleeping with him. New date, David and I were out biking and he said that it didn’t sound like I really like his friend, Steve, so why would I ‘give it up’ to him. I explained I wasn’t giving anything up, it would be more of a mutual using. Interesting conversation. I AM STILL NOT GETTING ANY THOUGH!!!lol As I think David is leaning towards wanting a committed type relationship. I can’t win, now I have lost the chance at having a sex friend with no complications as I have a boundary about not dating (having sex) within the same circle. I have dated David too many times to return to dating Steve, ew… you know?

    Your idea for Lance to invite Terri is a good one, I suspect she is a he though. A phone call would be a certain amount of gender proof…

  • http://honeyandlance.com Lance

    Jax, I would be interested in a guest post from you, let me email you…

  • terri

    Ok, I’m trying to parse Jax’s date trail. And this is where I get to complain, as an aside, that, yes, syntax is important. Re-read your david/steve story, jax, as a member of the audience. Try to fit the pronouns to the actors. It’s not easy. And I’m not slapping you down out of spite. I read through literally and counted _seven_ men that you’re involved with. I assume you mean there are only two. But it’s impossible to tell which is which, and to whom you said what…

    The interesting point is the relationship algebra that Jax brings up. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this: Jax was dating a guy (Steve) that she considered casual sex material. But then Steve introduced her to David whom Jax started dating. Good-bye Steve, hello David. Jax still wants a casual sex relationship, but now David is getting pushy and wants a relationship. Now Jax is thinking: Hmm..maybe it was Steve that would scratch this itch without getting all mushy and slurpy.

    But…she can’t go back to Steve because she’s “dated” David “too many times”. Without sex, we presume, because she’s “STILL NOT GETTING ANY”.

    Jax can’t return to steve because she has “a boundary about not dating (having sex) within the same circle.”

    Unless I’m misreading this, you haven’t had sex with either of them. And you’re already dating within the same circle. So what’s the problem? Where’s that boundary again?

    Are Steve and David still friends? They sound like real keepers.