This article is dedicated to someone who has helped me understand myself and what I want out of life. That has given me the ability to understand closeness and a bond in ways I had not seen before. You have slowly started to bring out the best in me and for that I cannot thank you enough, I only know that I am thankful for what you have brought into my life. I only wish to give back to you what you have given unto me. Thank you.
When people hear the word intimacy, they often equate it with sex. While sex is definitely an intimate act, but you can be intimate without the physical connection. Intimacy involves a deep connection with a person and stems from trust, sharing, acceptance, and caring. Sometimes, sitting down with a person, looking them in the eye as you share a deep conversation that involves sharing personal truths, previous experiences, and accepting them is the hardest thing you may do with them. Sex does not necessarily involve those things, after all that is what a booty call is for. Its sex plain and simple.
Before we go further, I am not saying that sex is bad or that it should have a deeper meaning to people. Sex is sex and in its core is an amazing act that two people can share. I ran a sex blog for two and a half years, before it ended. I talked about solo sex, couples and group sex, toys, lube, fetishes, emotional aspects, and the joys of sharing physical intimacy. I started it because I felt that, as gay men, we were not always taught about sex in the way that would be important to us. Sex ed in high school is binary in its teaching, outdated it the way it even expresses that. We are left to figure out the aspects of how to properly lube before sex, that practice for anal is a definite must, and any physical problems that may arise from a sexual encounter. It was a great place for information about sex and feeling good about being sexual. I feel that blog served its purpose, but I was always left feeling that there was something missing, something deeper and more connected.
Like most young gay men, after I officially came out, sex became a focus. Sex without intimacy seemed the best possible option and then I met Shawn. While we dated, everything seemed good, our sex life was awesome, and the thrill of the relationship kept things fresh. Over a couple of years, I started wanting to experience more and slept around, again sex without intimacy. It always felt good but like eating a potato chip, you always wanted another. It was easy to balance with the intimacy I was sharing with Shawn, but I also knew I was cheating him out of a part of my life. The sad part is that it took me a long time to realize that what I enjoyed most about sex with Shawn was the intimate parts and when he died it was the same intimate parts I missed the most. Sixteen years later, I have finally learned that having an intimate connection first makes any sex that may happen much more intense, but I have also learned that just sharing the darkness we all carry around with someone is more intimate and satisfying as just having sex.
Sex has changed for me, over the years. I have grown to want to be more open and freer with the person I am with, becoming someone who wants to please my partner as much as be pleased. To do this requires a lot more intimacy than just meeting on an app and dropping pants. A current relationship has taught me the importance of intimacy. We have spent months talking about our pasts, old relationships, what drives us, what we dislike, and even what our sexual likes/dislikes are in a relationship. This moved to becoming more physically intimate, touching, caressing, holding, and kissing while still being fully open about where we are and continuing to share. This has created a bond that has been more important to me than just a sexual encounter. This intimate sharing has started a change in my personality, it has relaxed me in many ways, I have someone to talk with who accepts me for what I am, and there is a two-way trust between us. Everydayhealth.com has come up with five benefits of an intimate relationship to your health and well-being.
Intimacy helps reduce stress: “When you are in a constant state of fight-or-flight, you use up a lot of necessary nutrients needed to maintain health. Intimacy helps reduce the stress and panic so that your body can replenish itself and maintain a good immune system,” says Barbara D. Bartlik, MD, psychiatrist and sex therapist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Intimacy Counters Loneliness, Reduces Risk of Morality: “If you feel complimented, loved, and appreciated, that all contributes to good health. If you feel alone, isolated, stressed, abused, or taken advantage of, that has a negative effect on your health,” explains Dr. Bartlik, who is also coauthor of Integrative Sexual Health.
Intimacy Fuels a Better Sex Life: Your experience of sex will improve because you will be unafraid to express (and receive) what you desire and are willing and open to hear your partner’s needs as well. The trust will allow both of you to grow and try new things that might enhance your relationship.
Intimacy helps reduce feelings of anxiety and depression: “Studies show that men who are deprived of intimacy get angry and women get depressed. Your hormone levels, especially oxytocin, actually change when you touch or are touched by someone, or share an intimate act such as decision-making,” says Dr. Krychman, who is also the coauthor of The Sexual Spark.
Intimacy and emotional support strengthens you: “When you feel supported, you can begin to overcome a certain amount of pain and heal. Close friends regularly share confidences and grow from the experience. Similarly, if you encounter a lack of empathy or humiliation from someone you trust, it can exacerbate your pain and re-traumatize you. You may then withdraw or avoid intimate relationships, which can make depression or anxiety worse,” says Bartlik.
Many times, we do not know the wounds we may be carrying around, until we start to share and be more intimate with someone. Intimacy can offer growth and healing and at the same time offer a deeper connection that other relationship types can be built off of. This closeness becomes the springboard for new dynamics with people and allows us to look differently at our relationships. While sex is very intimate in nature, it is not indicative of intimacy. Intimacy doesn’t not always mean sexual activity, but the intensity of it can lead to a much more fulfilling interaction.