Do you know the difference between sex and intimacy? If you're like me, they probably go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other, right? Not at all. The difference between sex and intimacy is difficult to discern for most of us. Instead of focusing on sex, let's focus on intimacy instead.
Intimacy is a closeness between two people, a friendship that exists even between lovers. It's not the hot and heavy passion that rages out of control. Rather it is the comfortable silence, the slow and steady presence that reminds you that the relationship is just right without even a touch.
Before I met my soon-to-be-husband I often thought of intimacy in just sexual terms. It was a look, a kiss that was just a little different, an hour of unbridled passion behind closed doors. Time and again the raging fire went out and all that was left were the ashes. I couldn't understand why the people that I had so much chemistry with ended up as going nowhere relationships.
The first night we ever talked on the phone my then boyfriend and I spent hours just talking. We'd never met face to face so we'd never touched at all. I suddenly realized that the chemistry I felt was completely different. Obviously what I'd felt before wasn't chemistry at all. It was simply sexual attraction run amok.
In the time that has passed I have learned a lot about intimacy. It's often followed by lovemaking or other physical pleasure, but not always. The truly intimate moments are special to both of us and we readily acknowledge them. It was after one such moment that the idea for this article came to me. My lover and I felt completely connected, consumed not by physical passion, but a passion of the soul.
Hopefully I've helped shed some light on the differences between sex and intimacy. If I have, I'm sure you're wondering how to increase the intimate moments you and your partner share. In anticipating as much I've come up with the following list of ideas.
Communication. Above all else, you must communicate. It won't always be sunshine and roses conversation. Usually it's in the disagreements that the best conversations and ideas come to light. So don't be afraid to say how you feel, to convey your thoughts and feelings. If it's hard for you to do, ask your partner to lead. By the same token, if your lover finds it hard to open up and talk, lead the conversation. (Don't forget to use "I" messages when you communicate. Statements such as "I feel confused..." or "I enjoy it immensely when we..." often work better than making statements using "You always..."" or "You never...")
Common Interests. There are few things that my lover and I had in common when we first moved in together. Music and movies were the closest we could come to finding some sort of middle ground. From there we progressed quickly to things like trying new restaurants together and taking day trips to places of interest to both of us. Through these common interests we've also been able to work on our communication skills and both of us are convinced that these things have increased our level of intimacy.
Routines and rituals. For some people it's a date night once a week. For others it's a shared book, taking turns reading chapters aloud to one another. It can be as simple as a kiss good night and something like an hour each evening set aside to massage one another's feet. Find what works for the two of you, what feels right. Make a habit of it and don't allow anything short of a life or death emergency interfere with it.
Treat your lover like your best friend. That should be what they are. If you're sharing a home and a life, there probably isn't anything that you keep from one another. They know your secrets, your fears and you know theirs. This kind of openness and honesty happens before either of you ever realize it. Once it's there, keep it there. Make being open with one another a priority.
Respect one another. Though it's easy to get into bad habits such as name calling and gender bashing, try to avoid it. Not just with one another, but when you're out with your friends. For me, nothing reminds me of the wonderful relationship my partner and I share more than a night out with friends. I listen to them talk about their significant others, lamenting about the lack of affection and attention, then in the same sentence they call him some name that I wouldn't call my worst enemy! When all eyes are on me, wondering and searching for my additions to the conversation, I speak highly of my lover. I tell them of the movies we've seen or the restaurants we've tried, and then I tell them that I am truly the luckiest woman at the table because I have no complaints. He is the same with his peers as well. The mutual knowledge of this public and private respect makes a difference in our relationship.
While I've outlined some of the basics, I've not given specific activities that you can do to increase intimacy. Partially it's because I don't think there are any that are sure to increase it and it's also because I believe each couple should go it on their own. Until you try things and experience them for yourself, you won't know what makes you and your partner feel truly intimate. It can be a fun learning experience.
Don't be afraid to try different things to see what happens. Be open to the possibilities and you will be pleasantly surprised. Allow yourself to experience new things then think them through. Why did you like it or dislike it? How did the two of you manage it together? Did you feel closer after or more distant? Sometimes you'll feel closer immediately, the intimacy will overwhelm you. Embrace the feeling and rejoice!