|Types of Intimacy
We have observed at our presentations that the first thing most people think
about when hearing the word intimacy is sex. That is no surprise. What is
surprising is the trouble many people have coming up with other types of
intimacies. Let’s look at some of the other ways humans are intimate with
each other beyond sex.
I have heard women make the comment that men can’t share their feelings. As
a man I would like to make an untested observation (that means it is a guess
– not a theory). It is said that women tend to handle physical pain better
than men. This makes sense to me as men are not designed to go through child
birth; however, scientific tests show mixed results on this issue. It is my
guess that women, being built differently from men, might have some ways of
dealing with pain that men don’t. This seems to be a reasonable biological
In hunter/gatherer groups the men are primarily the hunters and it is normally
the women who do the gathering. It would seem that when facing a dangerous
animal with a spear or other such weapon, that overcoming fear – a strong
emotion – might provide a selective advantage. If a member of the tribe was
killed in the hunt, going out on subsequent hunts would be quite difficult
were it not for the ability to overcome fear.
I bring up this idea only to provide a new perspective for discussion. Can
an innate survival trait fairly be labeled as a social deficit? It is my
contention, for what ever reason, that as women handle physical pain, men
handle emotional pain.
Note To Guys: You may not be too happy with the idea that women might handle
pain better than you, but that’s the fear talking. You try to pass a bowling
For the record I say that men can share emotionally intimate experiences. I
have seen men together watching sports on TV. That is an emotionally intimate
experience that can be as exhausting as sex. I’m not a racing fan, but closed
-track, stock car auto racing sure seems to have a large and emotional male
following. My basic point is that men have emotional relationships, but they
are usually not like women’s emotional relationships.
Return to top.
We are willing to bet that sometime in your academic history, from elementary
school to the present, you had at least one teacher with whom you clicked. One
who saw your interest and aptitude in a subject and encouraged you to go as
far as you wanted. A teacher that
pushed you and you didn’t care because you were both passionate about the
subject. That was an intellectually intimate relationship. It can also happen
between peers, people with similar knowledge levels that feed each other’s passions.
Two people that shared an intellectual intimacy were the Curies. Marie Skłodowska
Curie and her husband Pierre Curie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics.
Madam (Mrs.) Curie went on to win a second Nobel Prize for chemistry, becoming
the first person to win two Nobels and the first of only two people to win
Nobels in two different fields. The other winner was Linus Pauling for
chemistry and peace.
Return to top.
We are not going to define spirituality here because we don’t believe there
is a single definition. An amazing variety of organized spirituality exists
from large organizations to small groups (congregations, covens, monasteries
etc.) to single practitioners.
Major organized religious traditions (in reverse alphabetical order)
Zoroastrianism, Yazdânism, Wicca, Unitarian Universalism, Taoism, Sikhism,
Shinto, Samaritanism, Rastafari, Neo Paganism, Mithraism, Mazdakism, Manichaeism,
Mandaeans, Judaism, Jainism, Islam, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Falun Gong,
Din-i-Ilahi, Confucianism, Church of All Worlds, Christianity, Buddhism,
Bhakti, Bahá'í Faith, Bábism, Ayyavazhi etc.
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list. It does not include tribal
religions of Native Americans, African tribes or other tribes of any continent.
The above list is incomplete. The above list covers most population centers
around the world. The point is, spirituality is important to people. Asking
questions of the nature of our existence is cross cultural. Why are we here?
Where did it all come from? What does it all mean? How do I fit in? These
questions come up for most people. Many people look to organized religion for
answers. Others meditate, write poetry, practice yoga, or explore altered
states of mind using drugs. Some come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter
and just go about their lives.
People on similar spiritual paths can find comfort and understanding in each
others company. At best it can lead to a deep and loving relationship based
on compassion and shared discovery. We have to acknowledge that there is a
lot of “juice” in spirituality because it is so universal. It is not surprising
then, that people can become involved in a spiritual intimacy.
Return to top.
Our Guess and this is a guess…
We have discussed four types of intimacy:
Our guess is that in a stable line family, every member would share at least
two of the intimacies from the above list. It could be three intimacies, or
even all four. All four is probably a little unusual. A single shared intimacy
is problematic. We're looking for long term relationship potential. Here’s how
we break down single intimate connections:
All of these relationships are good, but we think it takes more to be a
line family member. But that’s just our guess.
- Sexual only is like the initial chemistry between people that causes
the initial excitement that eventually wears off.
- Emotional only could be a best friend.
- Intellectual only is a student/teacher relationship.
- Spiritual only is a relationship with a guru or preacher.
Return to top.