Boulder Recovery Blog

Understanding the Meaning of Intimacy

Intimacy isn’t limited to the bedroom. The meaning of intimacy encompasses a variety of ways people connect, physically and emotionally.

Intimacy in relationships doesn’t come naturally for everyone. If you have a difficult time expressing intimacy in your relationships, it could be because of an intimacy disorder.

At Boulder Recovery, we work with men with intimacy issues. We help men who are addicted to sex or pornography understand the cause of their disorder and heal from it.

Understanding the meaning of intimacy and learning about the treatment options available for intimacy issues are the first steps in restoring authentic connections in your relationships.

The Difference Between Intimacy and Intensity

Men often confuse the intensity of a relationship with intimacy. Intensity is more of a quantitative measure. It tends to focus on frequency. If the frequency of dates or intercourse suddenly increases, men with intimacy issues often misread that as an increase in intimacy.

Intimacy is more about the quality of the connection between two people, not the frequency. In many cases, it’s natural for intimacy and intensity to increase at the same time. But, if you increase your relationship’s intensity and frequency but do not feel any closer to your partner, it could signal an intimacy issue.

The Meaning of Intimacy

So what’s the real meaning of intimacy? Intimacy is about the closeness of a connection between two people. It has four primary components:

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual
  3. Intellectual
  4. Emotional

1. Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy is about touch and being physically present and near each other. Yes, it includes sex, but that’s only one small part of physical intimacy.

Examples of physical intimacy include:

  • Sitting on the couch near each other
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Pats on the back
  • Holding hands

2. Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy is about a shared faith connection. At Boulder Recovery, we believe God designed us to live in community. Marriages, friendships, and small groups can experience spiritual intimacy.

Examples of activities involving spiritual intimacy include:

  • Shared worship experiences
  • Participating in sacred traditions such as baptism
  • Studying scripture together
A black man sits outside, he has a stocking cap on and seems to be praying


3. Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is about connecting with people beyond small talk. Can you bond with someone over a shared interest?

Examples of ways to foster intellectual intimacy include:

  • Taking a cooking class together
  • Working on a group project
  • Having a long conversation over a cup of coffee

4. Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is the foundation of a fruitful marriage. But it is often the most challenging form of intimacy for men to express. Discussing your feelings openly with your partner requires vulnerability.

In an emotionally intimate relationship, examples of things partners share include:

  • Fears and anxieties
  • Sense of self- worth or image
  • Things that make you uncomfortable

Sex and Intimacy

Intimacy is an essential part of a healthy sex life. But, men with intimacy issues often view sex and intimacy as a transactional experience. For example, if their wife expresses a need for more emotional or intellectual intimacy, the man might increase conversations with his wife and expect that to result in increased intercourse. But just because you’re talking more doesn’t mean you’re developing a deeper connection. You can’t develop deeper intimacy by just asking your partner about her feelings. You also have to be open to sharing your emotions.

A one-sided dynamic where only one partner discusses their feelings is just one sign a relationship lacks intimacy. Another sign is if most of your physical contact is sexual. For example, if you avoid other forms of physical affection, such as holding hands or snuggling, you may be avoiding intimacy.

Intimacy Disorders

If the meaning of intimacy seems odd to you, it could be a sign you have an intimacy disorder. An intimacy disorder is a mental health condition where you have problems developing, maintaining, and expressing appropriate intimacy.

Symptoms of an intimacy disorder include:

  • Acute shyness or awkwardness
  • Extreme fear of judgment
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism

How Boulder Recovery Can Help with Intimacy Disorders

At Boulder Recovery, we believe God desires for all people to have deep and intimate connections. God’s plan for intimacy is evident if you look at what the Bible says about sex.

But, expressing intimacy is hard for some people — especially for people with unresolved childhood trauma. Children learn about connections and intimacy through relationships with their parents. Emotional neglect, loss of a parent, or abuse can disrupt a child’s natural attachment to their parent. Attachment trauma experienced as a child can cause people to avoid intimacy as an adult. They fear getting hurt again.

Our 14-Day Men’s Intensive helps men with sex and pornography addictions resolve their trauma so they can experience intimacy again. Every aspect of the program is for the renewal of the mind, body, and spirit. We limit the number of participants in the program so the men can experience the power of healing in community. We want them to express vulnerability and intimacy with each other before returning to their everyday lives.

Community helps men process and heal in ways their past relationships cannot. We believe there is power available when men gather in community to seek God. As the Bible reads:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Contact us today to learn how our men’s intensive can help treat intimacy issues.

  • Category: Relationships
  • By Lawrence Buddoo
  • November 10, 2021

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