Sex and intimacy can be connected, but they are not the same. Generally speaking, sex pertains to a physical act. Intimacy is all about emotions — lots and lots of emotions. In our culture, sex has never been more on display. Hook-up culture gives everyone permission to have sex with whomever they choose. At the same time, intimacy is on the wane.
Between the rise of the digital age and the isolation of the Covid era, people today have fewer opportunities for true intimacy. We’re divided and polarized — and often, quite scared. The first big step in challenging these realities might be to give yourself permission to be intimate.
The answers to this question are varied. For starters, it depends if you’re talking about emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or sexual intimacy. What all of those have in common, however, is:
- Mutual respect
- Mutual trust
- Comfort in being vulnerable
- Healthy communication
- Shared interests
- Interdependence (as opposed to codependence)
In other words, intimacy is a shared experience in which everyone involved is truly invested. Regardless of the specifics, intimacy is highlighted by the ability to feel safe while being authentic. As you don’t need anyone to tell you, this is easier said than done.
How to Give Yourself Permission to Be Intimate
1. Give Voice to What You Want
Get yourself a journal and write down your thoughts on intimacy. Why is it important to you? Why is it missing in your life right now? Get comfortable with accepting that you want to be intimate and you want to do so in a specific way. Recognize that this is not a selfish desire. Intimacy is something that can enrich everyone’s life. Thus, it is self-loving to acknowledge what you need. Only you can define that.
2. Identify Your Limits
Is it something internal or external that is keeping you from enjoying the intimacy you crave? Perhaps it’s a little of both. Dig deep into your patterns, habits, beliefs, and assumptions to unearth what needs to be explored. Ask yourself if you’re settling for less intimacy than you want or need. How about the people in your life? If you’re in a relationship and that is where you feel the strong pull for more intimacy, then talk to your partner. Express your needs and initiate open communication on the topic.
3. Trust Yourself
You don’t need the approval of others. Sure, people will judge, but it’s entirely up to you not to let that shape your journey. Run your own race. Set your own pace. Everyone’s idea of intimacy — what it is, how much is needed, etc. — is uniquely their own. You do not have to explain, apologize, or justify.
If intimacy is lacking, the only person who needs to give you permission is yourself. On a deep level — soul, spirit, heart, or gut — you know what is best for you. Trust that inner instinct and begin the process of making it happen.
4. Take Your Time
Intimacy is not satisfying if it feels rushed or pressured. You may desire profound conversations. You may crave intense, mutual sexual satisfaction. Whatever form your idea of intimacy takes, it cannot happen without surrendering to the moment. Resist the urge to force things and talk to anyone else involved to be certain that you’re both on the same page about this.
Get Back in Touch With Yourself
As tempting as today’s tech variations are, intimacy is not found in pornography, Alexa, or artificial intelligence. We need to peel away the barriers that have been formed and reconnect to our humanity. From there, we position ourselves to grasp what it is we need most.