Don’t confuse sex and intimacy: sometimes the two never meet!

by Rod Smith

Finding Intimate Relationships

Different people can give words very different meanings. For some, intimacy means physical sex. Intimacy is about much more than sex. It is about much more than what people can do with their bodies.

Here are some points about intimacy for consideration:

1. It is the ability to see another’s worlds as his or her world really is without bringing pressure to change what is seen in that world. It is the ability to accept another person’s reality even if it is not what we want it to be.

2. It is the recognition that physical sex is not automatically intimate. People who are very “far apart” can join their bodies for sex. Physical sexual activity can feel close without being at all intimate. Sex can be very misleading and is often a way to avoid intimacy and love.

3. Intimacy is sharing life and keeping what is shared within the framework of that relationship. It is possible, and not “dangerous,” as I have heard promulgated in some quarters, to have many intimate relationships (nothing to do with sex) at varying levels with different people.

4. In an ideal world, intimacy is first intellectual, then spiritual, then emotional and, when appropriate, sexual. It is easier to perform an impersonal sex act than it is to have an intimate relationship that is also sexually intimate. It is unlikely that a relationship that begins with sexual activity will be able to grow into a truly intimate relationship, sexual or otherwise. (Unlikely: not impossible.)

5. The person, with whom we are sexually intimate, will share with us the deepest intimacies of all. The relationship will penetrate deeper into all facets of our lives than all the other relationships we have. (This might help people understand why breaking up is hard to do).

6. It is so very seldom understood and appreciated that intimacy is an individual pursuit and is not dependent on the cooperation of another. One person can be very intimate with another when that other person might be choosing not to be intimate at all.

7. Casual sex, by definition, cannot be intimate. Casual sex is an act of the avoidance of intimacy.

Copyright 1998, Rod Smith, MSMFT

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