Intimacy Means Something Different to All of Us

by Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate

I asked men and women ages 25 and up “What is intimacy to you?”

“Intimacy is the feeling or moment you have that you share with [another] person.”

“I think intimacy is the soul. All your limitations [are] intimacy, shared history, ambitions, jokes, etc. It has very little to do with [the] physical.”

“Feeling deeply connected to someone both emotionally and physically.”

“Spending time and getting to know someone on a personal level mentally and physically.”

“Intimacy to me is the deep and close connection that two people share... it can be manifested or displayed by sexual relations or an emotional closeness... but it describes closeness.”

“Intimacy for me is having that person that knows you better than you know yourself. I always think of intimacy simplified as "In To Me See.” Meaning allowing that person full access to your mind, heart, and soul.”

According to, “The noun intimacy comes from the Latin word intimare, which means ‘impress,’ or ‘make familiar,’ which comes from the Latin intimus, meaning ‘inmost.’”

When I was in my late teenage years, I believed that intimacy could only be shown by way of a physical act such as sex and physical touch. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that intimacy is so much more. The above responses reveal that there are different ways to display intimacy, but all of the methods should ultimately lead to closeness. Intimacy is a way in which you show love to family, friends, and spouses.

What’s your type?

What’s your favorite form of intimacy?

“Hugging, cuddling, & kissing are my favorite forms…”

“My favorite forms of intimacy are probably the bond between a parent and child…”

“Letting down my wall and letting someone know my fears, anxieties, triumphs, achievements, and desires knowing that they won't use it to harm me later. Also sexual relations, which is sharing pleasure with someone…”

“Someone grabbing me from behind and wrapping their arms around me. It makes me feel protected. Sex with someone I think I love and sharing extremely personal secrets while [lying] in bed.”

“My favorite is getting mentally intimate.”

Have you ever heard of the “5 Love Languages”? It’s a concept coined by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., which he wrote about in the book of the same name, published in 1995. It continues to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. In this book, he states that there are five ways to communicate love and intimacy to a spouse, which include:

Words of affirmation: These are compliments or words of encouragement you give or receive from a spouse.

hysical touch:**** This doesn’t have to necessary be sex, although sex is an intimate encounter. Physically touch can be things mentioned above like hand holding, hugging, and caressing.

Quality time: The keyword is quality. The term quality time is different for everyone, what does quality time look like to you? For me it’s a time where my spouse is focused on me 100 percent. For others it could simple be that their spouse is in the same room.

Acts of service: This is a form of intimacy where people feel the most loved when you “do,” such as chores around the house or thoughtful gestures.

Gifts: These people love receiving gifts and feel most appreciated when they do.

There also is a quiz you can take to figure out what your love language. Years ago when I took the quiz, there was a tie between physical touch and quality time, both of which I absolutely love.

Can sex and intimacy exist without the other?

Do you think intimacy and sex are two different things? Why or why not?

“Yes. You can have sex and have ZERO intimacy. If the connection is nothing but physical, there's no intimacy. But at the same time, I don't see me having intimacy without sex. By that I mean, I've never felt intimacy with someone I also wasn't having sex with.”

“Yes and no. The ‘no’ part: Sex can be had without be having a close bond with someone or sharing your emotions, and you can have an intimate circle of friends that you don't have sex with. However, intimacy CAN be expressed through sex or as an expression of that bond/closeness that you share with someone...”

Sex and intimacy can definitely exist without one another just as individuals stated above. There is a science behind the closeness you feel after sex. Oxytocin is a hormone which can be found in the brain. According to a study published in The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health oxytocin, “travels from the brain to the heart and throughout the entire body, triggering, or modulating a full range of physiological functions and emotions: happiness, attraction, love, affection…” It’s mainly release during sex, birth, and nipple stimulation. It’s at its highest level when a person has sex for the first time. The levels of the hormone is three times higher in women than men, hence the reason why the stereotype exists that women get attached more quickly emotionally than men.

Don’t make this mistake

About a year ago, I was having a conversation with my male friend as to why he and his girlfriend had broken up. Although there were a variety of reasons, one in particular stuck out to me. He said that he would buy her gifts and take her places, but she complained that he didn’t say “I love you” enough. I could hear the confusion and confession in his voice as he said, “All I did for her and bought and it still wasn’t good enough…”

Here is what I told him: The truth is, if you are attempting a task for someone that they don’t identify as their love language, it doesn’t matter how much you do it, they won’t receive it as love. In the story above, it didn’t matter how many gifts he bought, it’s clear that her love language was “Words of affirmations.”

A lot of people have this concept of “do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” I like to look at things a bit different, I do unto others what they need, I don’t base it off of MY feelings or needs because theirs could be totally different. I used to operate in the sense of doing things for people that I would want them to do for me, but that’s a bit selfish. Quality time might be most important to me, but for someone else it might be gifts. The point is, intimacy is learning about how a person best receives love, and then doing those things if you truly care about them.

Alisha Bridges
Meet Our Writer
Alisha Bridges

Alisha Bridges has dealt with psoriasis since 7 years old after a bad case of chicken pox triggered her disease to spread on over 90% of her body. For years she hid in shame afraid of what people would think of such a visible disease. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks due to psoriasis. Years ago Alisha wrote a letter entitled “My Suicide Letter.” The letter was not about actually killing herself but killing parts of her like low self-esteem, fear, and shame so she could truly live to her fullest potential. This proclamation catapulted her into psoriasis and patient advocacy. Following this letter she created a blog entitled Being Me In My Own Skin where she gives intimate details of what it’s like to live with psoriasis. Alisha is a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has served her community in countless ways to help give a better understanding of what’s it’s like to live with psoriasis. Her life motto is the following: “My purpose is to change the hearts of people by creating empathy and compassion for those the least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and dermatology.” Alisha is also a Social Ambassador for the HealthCentral Skin Health Facebook page.