Types of Intimacy in Marriage

Being close in a marriage or any romantic relationship goes beyond just the physical or sexual. It's about connecting emotionally, intellectually, and through shared experiences to strengthen the bond between partners.

Intimacy often means being vulnerable. It's about opening up emotionally and being honest with your partner about your thoughts, feelings, and fears. In a marriage or any close relationship, being vulnerable is important for deepening the level of intimacy.

No need to fear intimacy, as there are many different types of intimacy.

Take down your walls and let your guard down so your partner can truly see and understand the real you. Being vulnerable creates a safe space for:

  • emotional connection,
  • trust, and
  • empathy

This helps partners develop a deeper and more meaningful bond.

Intimacy requires vulnerability. Without vulnerability, achieving true intimacy in a relationship can be hard. So here are some common types of intimacy that marriages often have.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy refers to the ability to share and connect with your partner on a deep emotional level. It involves being vulnerable, expressing feelings, and providing emotional support to each other. Emotional intimacy often involves active listening, empathy, and understanding each other's needs and emotions.

You can most easily respect and honor your partner's emotions when you aren't attacking, dismissing, or judging them. Couples build emotional trust over time by repeatedly respecting and valuing the sharing of feelings.

You can intensify this intimacy by:

  • encouraging personal development,
  • inviting them to explore their emotions more fully, and
  • being more emotionally regulated and resilient.

You can also do this by having:

  • daily check-ins,
  • sharing gratitude or appreciation, or
  • engaging in regular deep conversations about emotions, values, and aspirations.

Couples therapy helps couples share feelings, listen to each other, understand, and support each other. But it's not the only type of intimacy that is valuable.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy or sexual intimacy involves the physical expression of love, affection, and sexual connection between partners. Show affection through hugs, kisses, holding hands, or cuddling. Anything that promotes feeling safe and feeling close increases this type of intimacy. Physical intimacy helps foster a sense of closeness, passion, and connection in a marriage.

Physical touch is an important aspect of building intimacy. Physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and closeness. Find ways to express love and physical affection that resonate with both you and your partner.

Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy revolves around sharing thoughts, ideas, and intellectual pursuits with your partner. It involves engaging in meaningful conversations, discussing interests, and stimulating each other intellectually. Intellectual intimacy promotes mental connection and enhances the overall understanding and respect between partners. Here are some ways to do that:

Explore topics of mutual interest, current events, philosophy, science, or any other subject that engages your curiosity. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to your partner's perspective.

Discuss and share your individual intellectual pursuits. Start your own private reading group of books, articles, podcasts, or documentaries that you find thought-provoking. Recommend and exchange these resources with each other, creating opportunities for shared learning and deeper conversations.

Explore opportunities for joint learning experiences. Attend seminars, workshops, or lectures on topics that intrigue both of you. Take online courses or enroll in a class together to learn something new as a couple.

Encourage respectful debates and challenge each other's viewpoints in a constructive manner. This helps expand your intellectual horizons and promotes critical thinking. Embrace diverse perspectives and value the opportunity to learn from each other.

Discover and engage in hobbies that stimulate your intellectual curiosity. This could include activities like solving puzzles, playing strategy games, or engaging in creative endeavors like writing, painting, or music.

Attend cultural events together, such as art exhibitions, theater performances, or film screenings. Discuss your interpretations, emotions, and thoughts about the artistic expressions you encounter.

Couples who like reading can share books, suggest titles and join book clubs together. Reading and discussing books can spark intellectual conversations and expand shared interests.

Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy is the connection between partners on a spiritual or philosophical level. It involves sharing beliefs and values and exploring existential questions together. You can strengthen spiritual closeness by doing religious activities together, meditating, or doing things that give you a sense of purpose. Here's more:

Create your own rituals or ceremonies that hold personal significance. Simple acts can include lighting a candle, giving thanks before meals, or regularly reflecting and setting intentions. Rituals can help deepen your sense of spirituality and create a shared sacred space. Bill Doherty wrote an entire book on how to do this.

Explore and discuss spiritual texts, poetry, or philosophical teachings that resonate with you and your partner. Read and reflect upon passages together, sharing your interpretations and insights. This shared exploration can nurture intellectual and spiritual growth.

Gratitude Practice: Cultivate a gratitude practice as a couple. Take time each day to express gratitude for the blessings in your lives, both big and small.

Sharing what you are thankful for can help you feel connected to something greater. It can also help you appreciate the good things in your life. Thinking about what you are thankful for has the same effect.

Inner Reflection and Journaling: Set aside quiet moments for individual internal reflection or journaling. Encourage each other to explore and express your personal thoughts, insights, and spiritual experiences. Sharing these reflections with each other can deepen your understanding of each other's spiritual journeys.

Recreational Intimacy

Recreational intimacy refers to engaging in shared leisure activities and hobbies with your partner. It involves spending quality time together, participating in activities that both partners enjoy, and creating shared memories. Recreational intimacy strengthens the bond between partners and promotes enjoyment and relaxation in the relationship.

Married couples often share a wide range of common interests based on their individual preferences and shared values. Here are some common interests that many married couples enjoy:

Traveling: Many couples enjoy exploring new destinations, experiencing different cultures, and creating shared travel memories. Traveling allows couples to bond, try new things together, and strengthen their connection.

Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, biking, or gardening can be fun for couples who like being active in nature. These activities offer opportunities for shared experiences, adventure, and relaxation.

Cooking and Dining: Couples often find joy in cooking and sharing meals together. Trying new recipes, testing different cuisines, or taking cooking classes together can strengthen the relationship and establish shared customs.

Fitness and Exercise: Couples who prioritize health and fitness may enjoy working out together. Exercising together helps couples support each other and stay healthy. They can go to the gym, do yoga or dance classes, or go for runs or hikes.

Cultural Activities: Many couples find shared interests in cultural activities such as attending concerts, art exhibitions, theater performances, or film screenings. Appreciating and discussing different forms of art can stimulate intellectual conversations and enhance emotional connection.

Volunteering as a couple helps give back to the community and support causes that matter to them. Volunteering together provides a shared sense of purpose and strengthens the bond by working towards a common goal.

Playing sports, joining leagues, or playing games can be fun for couples who like friendly competition and teamwork.

Financial Intimacy

Financial intimacy in a marriage means having trust, openness, and collaboration with your partner regarding money matters. It involves sharing financial information, goals, and decisions and maintaining a healthy and supportive dialogue about money matters.

Economic equity

Financial intimacy is essential for a strong and harmonious partnership, as it promotes transparency, joint responsibility, and shared economic well-being.

Here are some key elements of financial intimacy in marriage:

Open communication: Partners openly discuss their financial situation including; income, expenses, debts, and financial goals. They share their concerns, dreams, and fears about money, fostering emotional safety and understanding.

Shared financial goals: Couples work together to establish common financial objectives. They align their individual aspirations and values to create a joint vision for their financial future. Shared goals make a sense of unity and encourage collaborative decision-making.

Joint budgeting: Couples create a budget together, considering both partners' incomes and expenses. They make collective decisions about spending, saving, and investing. Regularly reviewing and revising the budget as a team helps them stay on track and make adjustments as needed.

Trust and transparency: Both partners are honest and transparent about their financial actions. They share financial account information, debts, and other relevant details. You can nurture trust through open discussions, and there are no hidden economic activities or secrets.

Financial decision-making as a team: Major financial decisions are made jointly, with both partners having an equal say. They discuss and evaluate different options, weighing the potential impact on their overall economic well-being and long-term goals.

Accountability and responsibility: Each partner takes responsibility for their financial actions and commitments. They honor their financial agreements and follow through on shared obligations, such as bill payments or savings contributions.

Support and encouragement: Partners provide emotional support and encouragement during financial challenges or setbacks. They offer constructive feedback and assistance in achieving their shared financial goals. They celebrate milestones and successes together.

Continual learning and growth: Couples invest time in enhancing their financial literacy and skills together. They educate themselves about personal finance topics and make joint efforts to improve their financial knowledge. This ongoing learning process strengthens their economic partnership.

Financial intimacy fosters a strong bond between partners and promotes a healthy foundation for long-term financial well-being. It allows couples to navigate financial challenges together and build a solid future based on trust, communication, and shared goals.

Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy involves creating and sharing experiences with your partner. It includes going on adventures, traveling together, trying new things, and creating shared memories. Experiential intimacy strengthens the connection between partners and fosters a sense of adventure and joy in the relationship.

It's important to note that these types of intimacy are interconnected and influence each other. Building intimacy in marriage strengthens the partnership and creates a deep, lasting connection between partners.

In sum, intimacy involves many components, including:

  • open and honest communication,
  • spending quality time,
  • being physically affectionate,
  • sharing experiences, and
  • being emotionally supportive.

Sharing life's experiences includes all sorts of experiences, including:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • financial,
  • intellectual,
  • spiritual, and
  • experiential sharing.

Successful couples have all sorts of ways to engage both joint passions and give themselves time to follow individual pursuits. Finding a balance of passion and compassion allows the couple to remain both individuals and lovers.

Building intimacy is an ongoing process that requires effort, commitment, and mutual investment. Each relationship is unique, so adapt these suggestions to fit your specific dynamics and preferences as a couple.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Dr. Kathy McMahon


Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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