Emotional Intimacy vs Physical Intimacy: Why We Need Both

Emotional vs Physical Intimacy

When we talk about intimacy, we usually refer to sexual intimacy.  Indeed, there are many articles published about how to enhance your physical intimacy, how to bring it back when it starts fading, how to make it pop and sizzle.  But there is another very important connection to pay attention to in your relationship, and that is emotional intimacy. Less is written about this essential bond, which is unfortunate because the two types of intimacy work in tandem to keep a relationship vibrant, rich and meaningful.  Let’s look at each one and then see how, when combined, they create a symbiotic alchemy to keep your couple healthy and happy.

The need for physical intimacy

Physical, or sexual intimacy is an urge for a sexual connection.  It doesn’t necessarily require an emotional component for it to be performed or be satisfying.  We are programmed with an “urge to merge” sexually so that the species will perpetuate itself and reproduction takes place.  Not only do we yearn for physical intimacy, but we also enjoy, even without emotional intimacy, the touch and presence of another person as we give into all the sensuality that physical intimacy provides.  

Physical intimacy involves a certain degree of vulnerability and trust – for some more than others, and in some scenarios more than others.  It does not, however, require complete vulnerability and trust for it to take place. Have you ever had a one-night stand or a friends with benefits situation?  Those two types of physical relationships can be enjoyed without a deep sense of trust between the two participants. Adults understand that a good underpinning of emotional intimacy enhances the physical side of the relationship, which explains why fewer adults indulge in one-night stands or friends with benefits situations, or, if they do, they are typically immature and not self-actualized adults.  Sex alone does not make us closer to a person.

Emotional intimacy is also essential

Contrary to physical intimacy which can take place with little or no love-connection between the partners, emotional intimacy is a link that grows and deepens between two people who are in love.  A healthy, mature love relationship cannot exist without the presence of emotional intimacy. The couple needs to feel safe, to trust each other completely, to have the ability to reveal their vulnerabilities and their needs to each other all while being confident that their partner will always be there for them.  Emotional intimacy is the foundation for a rich and loving relationship, and should continually be tended to. A relationship cannot survive without emotional intimacy; it is what helps love to survive through the toughest of times, and makes us continue to want to love and be loved by our partners.

What is the recipe for emotional intimacy?

Communication.  Not just the daily check-ins and routine questions about work.  Emotional intimacy is deepened when you are your partner have a genuine discussion where you are both present (no cell phones buzzing or screens lit up) and truly seeing each other.

Exposure.  Emotional intimacy is enhanced when you share your moments of doubt, fear, sadness, and pain and you feel the arms of your partner around you and his voice telling you that he understands and that everything you are experiencing is normal and legitimate.

Trust.  There is a need for 100% trust and openness in order for the couple to experience emotional intimacy.

A relationship needs intimacy. It needs both physical and emotional intimacy to develop a relationship that is truly adult, healthy and satisfying for both partners.  

Physical and emotional intimacy, both are equally important

The truth is, you cannot have good physical intimacy without emotional intimacy, and you cannot experience emotional intimacy without the physical component as well.

Physical and emotional intimacy, both are equally important

Sometimes the balance is not perfect.  There will be times in a relationship where one person needs more of one type of intimacy than the other.  At the beginning, most couples want the physically-intimate part of this balance to weigh heavily. As they age together, a natural tilt will occur, favoring the emotional connection.  This is especially true as one moves through life’s stages of childbirth, childrearing, empty-nest-syndrome, menopause, illness and other events that can impact how often sex occurs.

If you are looking to construct a long-term relationship, you must have both types of intimacy.  Without them, the relationship is rather hollow and the couple will have a sense of insecurity. Together they serve to create a “glue” that will hold you together during tough times.  If one of these is missing, there is no foundation to rely on and the relationship will crumble.

Physical intimacy is often the “driving force” that first puts two people together.  But it is emotional intimacy that is the secret behind long-term relationships and mind-blowing sex.  It means that the couple communicates well, as they establish concrete connections of trust and openness.   In a love relationship, emotional intimacy is what lays the groundwork for compassion, passion, attachment and commitment because it’s based on a foundation of trust, truth and mutual respect, and the promise of security.   Romantic partners who are successful at expressing their emotions enjoy much-happier marriages and longer lives than those where one partner is uncomfortable or flat-out refuses to share his or her emotional temperature.

A guaranteed way to up your emotional intimacy level?  Go on a trip together!

Go on an adventure. Explore a new place with your partner, a place that neither of you have ever experienced. Not only will you create new, shared memories, but you will be putting yourselves in a new environment which ignites different conversations that you haven’t had before.  You are also taken out of your normal routine, which allows you to connect in a new way, especially sexually. So if you are seeking to deepen your physical and emotional connection, plan a weekend or trip to a new place today!

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