Emotional intimacy is a dimension of interpersonal intimacy that varies in degree and over time, much like physical intimacy. Affect, emotion and feeling may refer to different phenomena. Emotional intimacy may refer to any or all of those in both a lay or a professional context.
Emotional intimacy can be observed in terms of verbal and non-verbal communication. The degree of comfort, effectiveness and mutual experience of closeness might indicate emotional intimacy between individuals. Intimate communication is both expressed (e.g. talking) and implied (e.g. friends sitting close on a park bench in silence). Emotional intimacy depends primarily on trust, as well as the nature of the relationship and the culture in which it is observed. Depending on the background and conventions of the participants, emotional intimacy might involve disclosing thoughts, feelings and emotions in order to reach an understanding, offer mutual support or build a sense of community. Or it might involve sharing a duty, without commentary. Compare physical intimacy, sympathy, empathy.
The main forms of intimacy are emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. Intellectual intimacy, familiarity with a person's culture and interests, is common among friends. Members of religious or philosophic groups may also perceive a "spiritual intimacy" in their commonality. Some describe intimacy with the homonymous "into me see". Intimacy can also be identified as knowing someone in depth, knowing many different aspects of a person or knowing how they would respond in different situations, because of the many experiences you've shared with them.
Some lose themselves in the first flush of love. 'Falling in love' is a little different from intimacy per se. Some are engulfed by their families in a way that is not close or intimate even though it is described that way by those who are consumed by their family. The first flush of love can be like that too, but slowly the individual will assert themselves and this test the willingness of both to be intimate.
It is worth distinguishing intimate relationships from strategic relationships. Intimate behaviour occurs in the latter but it is governed by a higher order strategy, of which the other person may not be aware. For example getting close to someone in order to get something from them or give them something. That 'something' might not be offered so freely if it did not appear to be an intimate exchange and if the ultimate strategy had been visible at the outset.
Secrets are generally hostile to intimacy in a committed relationship, but not knowing of the existence of a secret, one can continue to believe there is intimacy. Maintaining the illusion of intimacy may be a strategic skill where there is an imbalance of power brought about by the existence of a secret. Knowledge is the currency of power. Betrayal of intimacy can be a traumatic experience. The person can feel cheated as well as humiliated.
This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Relationship Advice. The Official Guide to Relationship Advice is Brenda Shoshanna. A psychologist in practice for over 25 years, and long term Zen practitioner, Dr. Shoshanna helps you become calm, balanced and positive, no matter what is going on in your life. Her work combines East and West as she provides psychological, spiritual and practical guidance for building supportive, life giving relationships and becoming all you are meant to be.
Additonal Resources covering Relationship Advice can be found at:
Website Directory for Relationship Advice
Articles on Relationship Advice
Products on Relationship Advice
Brenda Shoshanna, The official Guide to Relationship Advice