We all long for intimacy. From the beginning of creation, we see the importance of intimate fellowship, for it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Loneliness was the first crisis in the newly created world--it was not good to be without intimate fellowship. God designed us in his image needing the love of one another.
God exists as three persons in one being. The very nature of his being is about fellowship. As image bearers of God we too are wired to need the companionship of one another. Intimacy is indeed about the closeness and vulnerability we offer one another in relationships, a kind of nakedness so to speak. Intimacy is much more than physical connection, it includes physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional aspects.
Physical intimacy is all forms of touching, from a handshake or hug to a kiss or sexual intercourse. Physical intimacy grows in a relationship as couples grow in their love for one another. Physical intimacy thrives within the boundaries of a committed relationship; too much touch beyond the scope of the relationship brings heartache. Relationships need boundaries around physical intimacy so that godly limits are observed. Physical intimacy is normally essential to a healthy marriage--too little touch and the relationship suffers. Without physical intimacy in marriage we become merely roommates instead of the lovers God intended married couples to be.
Intellectual intimacy is sharing thoughts, interests, and activities in common. We enjoy spending time with people with whom we can share ideas and projects. We choose to spend time with people who see the world as we do or share our same passions. We have a sense of solidarity with those who enjoy similar endeavors, vocations, and hobbies. Dating couples eagerly discover the interests that we share in common, and often try to learn to like new things. Doing interesting things together through the decades remains a key part of our marriages. As we share the life and discuss ideas with one another, we grow our intellectual intimacy.
Emotional intimacy is the intimacy that comes from being heard. When someone listens to the pain in our hearts, we develop a connectedness. Emotional intimacy grows when we feel that someone has taken the time to understand us. In our busy lives this can easily become neglected. Taking the time to listen to the hurt of someone else is a gift that deepens emotional intimacy. Our closest relationships are built on a foundation of having our emotions validated. We care about the feelings that our friends are experiencing.
Spiritual intimacy Is the intimacy that comes from sharing together in spiritual practices like prayer and worship. Our hearts become strongly knit together when we join together in prayer. Spiritual intimacy has been shown to be a powerful indicator of successful marriages. We develop a love for the people with whom we worship. A deeper bond is formed that shows that we are working together on the same team following Christ's leadership.
Most importantly, these aspects are all connected--they move and grow together. Neglecting one damages the others. Pursuing one pulls along the others. If you engage each other spiritually and emotionally, you are more likely to enhance your physical relationship, for example. Or conversely, failing to engage each other's interests or never touching one another is not likely to build much emotional connectedness, for example. They should rise together to a level appropriate for your relationship, whether that's dating, marriage, business colleagues, or friends. We have a responsibility to invest in opening and closing doors of intimacy in the right places with the right people.
You can build your relationships by getting intentional about developing all layers of intimacy together!