How to Use the 6 Layers of Intimacy to Enhance Your Relationship

“The married are those who have taken the terrible risk of intimacy and having taken it, know life without intimacy to be impossible.”

Carolyn Heilbrun

What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is an act or familiar expression serving as a token of congeniality, affection, and love. Another is a close or detailed knowledge of a person.

One of the foundational principles of building and repairing a relationship is to understand the foundations of intimacy. It is not about technique, positions, or power but about getting to know someone deeply.

There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines, in our communities, often in our own families. It can make you wonder, Is an intimate relationship possible anymore? And if so, how do you get one?         

It’s no wonder people are cautious about opening their hearts to another person. They have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts—couples quickly moving from being fired up with romantic passion to wanting to fire each other like a bullying boss would an exhausted employee. Everybody talks about wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.

Marital intimacy is about seeing into your mate’s heart, soul, and mind and learning to connect with them on multiple levels.

Listen to the word intimacy slowly spoken. Intimacy. “Into-me-see.” Since true intimacy is learning to experience, you must learn to lean into your partner.

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need to understand both sides of an intimate connection and grow to a new level of purpose and passion. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a short-term view of a relationship, where romance is the primary goal, and a long-term view of marriage, where learning to connect through the realities of daily life joins alongside romance to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to creating long-term success in your marriage.

When we miss that long-term view, when we limit intimacy to the purely physical, we lose some of its critical components.     

Breakthrough research shows there are at least siv different areas of intimacy. Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, then ask your partner to do the same.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy involves candid, authentic sharing of thoughts and feelings. It consists of sharing your deepest fears, dreams, disappointments, and most complicated emotions, as well as feeling seen and understood when you do. Emotional intimacy means both you and your partner are learning to be safe and comfortable with this type of uninhibited expression around each other.

Examples of Emotional Intimacy:

  • A couple has a tender and profound conversation about where they are in their relationship and how they can improve their relationship.
  • A woman shares with her husband how disappointed she is with her body after having their second baby.
  • A man shares his frustration about work and reveals that he feels unsure of himself.

Intellectual intimacy

 On this level, couples can talk about current events, share ideas and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. In addition, they can jointly participate in the exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Examples of Intellectual Intimacy:

  • Spouses can have healthy debates on various topics.
  • Couples can have discussions about their thoughts on various topics.
  • Partners can read, listen and discuss books, podcasts, and articles.

Recreational intimacy

 This means there are some recreational activities a couple enjoys together. It does not mean they do everything together.

Recreational intimacy provides a couple opportunities to work together, face fun challenges as a couple and experience a shared sense of accomplishment.

Examples of Recreational Intimacy:

  • Exercising together.
  • Attending plays, movies, and concerts together.
  • Joining mutual friends in recreational activities.

Social intimacy

 After decades of marriage, we have learned the value of personal friendships and shared friendships. These shared friendships can be an added bonus to a relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback and accountability.

Examples of Social Intimacy?

  • Meeting in person with friends for various activities.
  • Doing community and church projects with others.
  • Sharing meals in your home.

Spiritual intimacy

On this level, a couple grows deeper together. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective due to the various religious backgrounds and practices, it is still a critical component. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important because a growing relationship is, at its core, spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also an essential factor if children become a part of the family.

Examples of spiritual intimacy:

  • Attending worship services.
  • Being part of a small group.
  • Reading and studying Scripture together.
  • Mutually enjoying the world God created.

Physical intimacy

 Sexual expression is part of our hard-wiring and should be exhilarating and stimulating for a couple in the proper context. However, in recent years, the primary focus has been physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy to a series of positions and practices based on applied physics rather than building relationships. There is a danger in making the focus on pleasure a means to an end which can be counterproductive.

If you choose to focus on developing a healthy, mutually satisfying, mutually desirable relationship, the physical intimacy will grow exponentially.

Examples of how to increase Physical Intimacy

  • Go slow.
  • Be romantic.
  • Never force, coerce, or leverage physical intimacy.
  • Touch the right way.
  • Take a shower.

Could it be one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is because we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run.

However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of intimacy, their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas, sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being known by them.

So how can you enhance intimacy in your life?

First, be mindful of the six levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are.

Second, pick one or two of the list and try them out this week.

Need some help?  I provide both in-person and virtual coaching and counseling.

No matter where you live in the U.S., you can reach out, and we can set up a free telephone consultation. My private office number is 505-343-2011. If I can’t answer, leave a message, and I will get back to you within 24 hours. You can also go to and contact me through the contact form or chat box (I check it daily).

Would you like a free copy of my ebook 21 Ways to Improve Your Marriage? If so, text 21ways to 33777.

Thanks, and God Bless.


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