The Difference Between Sex and Intimacy

I was driving the other day, thinking about nothing in particular and somehow, this question came up. Why do people confuse sex and intimacy? I’m guessing something someone said on the radio prompted this thought, but I got so lost in it, I couldn’t tell you who or in what context. It’s Kirbie today with the difference between sex and intimacy.

The Difference Between Sex and Intimacy

We were intimate.” This phrase bugs me. You were not intimate, you had sex. Intimacy is built without sex. Many couples who choose not to have sex before marriage have built a tremendous amount of intimacy. By the same token, many couples who have a lot of sex together have no intimacy.

Intimacy is the emotional connection between you – the energy and passion. If you come home at the end of a really bad day, someone with whom you share intimacy will be right there to provide you the emotional support you need. He will pull you close, put his arms around you and make you feel suddenly protected from all of the evil which lurks outside.

How do You Build Intimacy if Not in the Bedroom?

Building intimacy happens in those little moments which almost go unnoticed. The late-night stroll in the park, hand in hand, where maybe you hardly say anything to one another. The support you provided to him when his childhood dog died – you were there, with a hug, to hold him as he grieved the loss.

Gregg calls this ‘pennies in the jar’ in some of his books. He talks about collecting great moments together to build up a defense against a break-up. Sitting up all night talking after an old boyfriend announces his engagement, or going out to choose a new puppy from the animal shelter are things which build intimacy.

I remember when my ex-husband and I were in high school – we were both 16. His sister had cystic fibrosis, and at 19, she was a case study doctors wrote about. In 1979, people with CF didn’t live as long as she had. After a final battle with her lungs, she asked to go home – she asked to die.  He came to my house that evening, in obvious and deep pain. Even though we were only 16, this was a very intimate experience for us. I held him in my arms while he cried and cried over his loss. I’ll never forget it.

Intimacy also happens in those moments where you know your partner so well, it scares you – and vice versa. He brings you your favorite latte on a Saturday morning, along with your favorite cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted just how you like it.

You recognize at lunchtime he’s having a really bad day, so you plan to take him out to dinner at his favorite place, or cook his favorite dinner at home. You go out of your way to play a fun evening for him and his friends when his team makes the playoffs – you get their favorite beer, order up some pizzas and head off with your girlfriends while they watch the game.

Another way in which you can build intimacy is to express your love in front of others. If this makes him uncomfortable, this might not be a good idea, but if he’s into public displays of affection, this goes a long way.

How to Kill Intimacy

I’ve also been in relationships where I’ve watched intimacy dwindle away. One sure-fire way to begin killing intimacy is to stop spending time together. If you live together, this could mean sleeping in separate bedrooms – or sleeping at the same time. While having sex won’t necessarily build intimacy, avoiding sex with each other is a sure-fire way to kill it.

Becoming a workaholic is another great way to kill intimacy. If all of your energy suddenly goes into your work, you will be too exhausted to devote any time or energy to your partner. You won’t be thinking about stopping on the way home to buy his favorite cut of steak or grabbing the Sunday Times because you know he likes to do the crossword.

Allow your confidence to take a nose dive, or watch his confidence tank. This is another intimacy-killer. If your confidence starts to dwindle, maybe because of a setback at work or some other event in your life, it can begin to put a wall between you – especially if you are one who doesn’t share those things well – someone who internalizes everything.

Building a Lasting Relationship

Whether you’re married or dating, you should always be building those intimate moments. It’s not all on you to do it, but it’s something to always keep in mind. When you see your partner start slipping in some of these activities, it’s a signal to you. If he starts sleeping at different times or working a lot, something needs to be addressed.

These ‘pennies in the jar’ keep your relationship solid. You can even think of them as one way to avoid the dreaded affair. Never stop accumulating them! You’ll be ‘rich’ beyond your wildest dreams – at least in terms of your relationship.

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