Does intimacy means just being physical?

· 4 min read
Does intimacy means just being physical?


Our souls crave intimacy” — Erwin Raphael McManus.

It is a prolific thought process when one starts evaluating the depth of the word “intimacy”. Are intimacy and passion interchangeable terms? Why are references in pop culture so subliminal when talking about intimate situations between characters?  Is being physically intimate different from general intimacy? Can you have sex without intimacy?

Rather than going down a tangent of absorbing this word, it is much easier to learn about the actual insinuations of this word and decide for yourself what intimacy means to you. The dictionary defines intimacy as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.

Studies have shown that just the simple act of sharing some private information with a stranger for over half an hour and looking into their eyes for over four minutes can make someone fall in love. But is this an indication that you’re becoming intimate with that person?

Being intimate with someone can indicate a multitude of things, but the crux of it is mingling with someone, sharing experiences, and connecting on an emotional level. Humans have evolved to socialise and connect as a community.

So, What Exactly is Intimacy?

Some people consider intimacy as sexual activity with someone, while others think it is falling in love with someone. Let’s consider both of these situations.

Sex can be one of the most affectionate and soul-empowering expressions of love, but it can also just be a pleasurable activity one does. Many men and women perform sexual acts to prove their love for each other. On the other hand, love is the embodiment of connecting emotionally and spiritually with someone, and people often long for physical contact when in love to dull their pain or fear of being alone.

Intimacy consists of both of these situations, and much more. In a nutshell, intimacy comprises emotional, physical, spiritual, and familiar components of one’s feelings with someone else’s, and it is reciprocated from their end as well. It is indeed a two-way street.

Intimacy is More Than Just Sex

In a loving relationship, love is the physical embodiment of intimacy. It comes from a place of affection, deep caring, and showing it physically to be satisfied. In a casual relationship or one night stands, sex can be a mere physical activity people perform to achieve sexual satisfaction, with no intimacy involved.

Let’s take a classic Indian example for this. Arun and Lata have an arranged marriage. They didn’t get a chance to connect or fall in love before getting married emotionally. Their wedding was a grand affair, after which, they went on a honeymoon immediately after. They did open up to each other during the course of their honeymoon and established a connection with each other before having sex. When they did perform the deed, they were mildly intimate with each other. However, over time, they got to know each other in their married relationship and connected on an emotional and spiritual level. Now they were truly intimate on the bed, as they were dependent on each other while also being their true selves with each other freely. But that wasn’t the extent of their intimacy. It also was prevalent when they were away from each other, or when they just shared their life experiences, or when they felt happy or sad for each other based on their achievements or losses.

Can You Be Intimate Without Being Physical?

Being physical can have a lot of meanings. It can mean having sexual intercourse, hugging, cuddling, snuggling, holding hands, etc. Intimacy can be considered a larger than life term, and it can exist in all of these situations. However, all of these situations would be considered as being physically intimate with someone.

Intimacy doesn’t require any physical acts in a broader aspect. Being open and vulnerable with someone you care about, feeling their presence around yourself when they are away, and just normally interacting with them to keep them and yourself happy are all acts of intimacy as well.

Let’s take an example most of us would be aware of knowing the relationship between Lord Krishna and Radha. Their relationship was rooted in their love for each other, yet, when Krishna left and settled on his throne, Radha and Krishna still kept their relationship intact and kept loving each other. There was no physical connection between them, yet they both displayed intimacy that has now become a folklore legend of true love and intimacy.

What are the Necessary Prerequisites for Being Intimate?

To truly be yourself around someone and experience intimacy, you should feel safe and secure enough to open up and be vulnerable. Genuine openness comes from having the courage to be aware of your inner experience at the moment and sharing it. Here are the essential ingredients required to make the meal of intimacy:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Trust
  3. Safety
  4. Mutuality
  5. Courage
  6. Autonomy
  7. Self-esteem
  8. Emotional Availability
  9. Liberty
  10. Sharing

All of these components come together to holistically build true intimacy. However, having just one or two of these components with someone can also generate intimate moments, which also includes being physical with someone.


It is very easy to get stuck in a thought process and overthink the meaning of intimacy. It is an umbrella term that comprises many factors, all of which are equally relevant. Intimacy doesn’t just mean being physical; however, it is also a form of intimacy.

So, now that you have a holistic overview of this eminent term, it is time to self-evaluate what type of intimacy you want in this moment of your life. Identifying the kind of intimacy you require at any moment is a very healthy way to maintain good mental health. And if it is sexual, well, go for it!