At New Transitions Counseling Center, we often work with couples and individuals with intimacy issues. Intimacy isn’t easy. It requires showing someone parts of yourself that you prefer to hide from the world, and for many people, due to past trauma or dysfunctional family dynamics, intimacy has always been something to be avoided. That being said, it is absolutely worth the effort to be intimate with your partner.

Why Intimacy is Important

Intimacy allows you to be truly seen by someone. When you are intimate with someone, you are able to relax and fully be yourself without hiding the parts you feel ashamed of, which allows for a new level of self-acceptance. Because you are freer to be yourself, it is easier to accept others for who they are, leading to greater compassion and empathy. Intimacy is also the foundation of a strong relationship. When you are intimate with your partner, you develop trust, learn to understand each other, and communicate your boundaries and expectations better.

What Does Intimacy Look Like?

Intimacy isn’t solely physical. While sex is an intimate act, it is only one thing on an extensive list of actions or situations that build intimacy. Intimacy can look like:

  • Sharing your emotions, from your joys to your struggles to your fears
  • Sharing your goals, thoughts, ideas, and future plans
  • Touching in a physical, but not sexual, way, such as holding hands, snuggling, or simply being in close proximity to another person
  • Sharing something that you are ashamed of, whether it is part of your past or your body
  • Letting someone into a private space or ritual, such as through prayer or playing an instrument you don’t play publicly
  • Sharing responsibility, whether for your pet, your child, your home, or through a project you both care about
  • Revealing your insecurities
  • Helping someone and asking for their help
  • Talking about your relationship in hopes to get closer, understand each other better, or fix problems in a relationship

Common Obstacles to Intimacy in Relationships

Intimacy isn’t automatic in a relationship. Sometimes, this can obstruct us from being intimate with another person. Some common obstacles to intimacy in a relationship include:

  • Lack of trust. Whether because the trust was previously violated in this relationship or a past relationship, if one or both partners doesn’t trust the other, true intimacy cannot be built.
  • Communication issues. Intimacy requires both parties to decide to open up and be vulnerable with each other. If one person is doing all of the sharing while the other isn’t reciprocating, or if neither partner is talking about how they truly feel, they can’t be intimate.
  • Lack of self-awareness. You cannot let someone get to know you if you don’t even know yourself. If you don’t have an intimate relationship with yourself, you cannot have one with another person.
  • Game-playing. If one person in the relationship is trying to “play it cool” or hide the less-desirable parts of themselves, it is impossible to deepen intimacy.
  • Lack of boundaries. Intimacy requires both people to feel comfortable and safe opening up. If one partner is pushing for intimacy by oversharing or trying to force their partner to open up, the lack of boundaries will make it difficult for that partner to trust enough to be intimate. If one partner doesn’t want to build intimacy, it won’t happen. Intimacy is healthy only when both parties consent to it.

Intimacy can be challenging to build in a relationship, particularly if you are having communication issues. If this is the case for you and your partner, you may benefit from couples therapy in Palatine. Contact New Transitions Counseling Center to set up an appointment with a skilled couples therapist.