What is Your Capacity for Intimacy?

What is Your Capacity for Intimacy?

What is Your Capacity for Intimacy?

Intimacy is a reciprocal hunger to know and be known.

Intimacy is the degree of emotional closeness and depth of familiarity shared between persons. The degree to which we disclose ourselves, allowing others to know us deeply, could be understood as part of our capacity for intimacy. Intimacy is a reciprocal hunger to know and be known, understand and be understood, and love and be loved by others. Obviously, capacity varies greatly between and among persons, from relationship to relationship, and within phases of our lives.

At the heart of this capacity are two competing human needs held in tension with each other: A need for autonomy and a need for belonging.

Individual persons vary greatly along a continuum regarding how they manage and balance these two competing needs.

Two simple hand gestures could symbolize those competing needs:

Palm Forward: A need for autonomy – to not be hurt, controlled, harmed, threatened,
blamed, exploited, or intimidated. Autonomy seeks freedom for self.

Palm Beckoning: A need for belonging – to be accepted, nurtured, valued, cared for,
needed, touched, acknowledged, and loved. Belonging seeks companionship for self.

Infused with fear, autonomy becomes defensiveness while belonging becomes clinginess.

Howard J. Clinebell and Charlotte H. Clinebell wrote a fascinating book called The Intimate Marriage (1974), available at Amazon* where they discuss twelve types of intimacy, listed below. Think of intimacy as multi-faceted diamond. If there were but only one face, or facet, there would be limited sparkle. But when there are multiple faces and facets cut into the diamond, the light shines and reflects off the others and it sparkles. Likewise, when sexuality benefits from the closeness of commitment and emotional connection and playfulness, it is richer and deeper and more fulfilling.

Consider these twelve types of intimacy:

  • AESTHETIC (sharing experiences of beauty, art, and music)
  • COMMITMENT (mutually derived from common self-investment)
  • COMMUNICATION (listening & sharing, the basis of all types of true intimacy)
  • CONFLICT (facing, struggling, and resolving differences)
  • CREATIVE (finding creative solutions together such as in parenting)
  • CRISIS (closeness derived from sharing support for pain, illness, loss)
  • EMOTIONAL (being tuned to each other’s feelings and needs)
  • INTELLECTUAL (closeness derived from the sharing of ideas)
  • SEXUAL (erotic or orgasmic closeness, as well as all forms of touch)
  • SPIRITUAL (the we-ness of sharing the meaning of ultimate questions)
  • RECREATIONAL (relating in the experiences of fun and play)
  • WORK (the closeness from sharing common tasks, chores, and projects)


Are you getting your intimacy needs met in a healthy and balanced fashion?

All of these have potential to bring about a deeper capacity for closeness and familiarity. As you balance your needs for autonomy and belonging, are you getting your intimacy needs met in a healthy and balanced fashion?

© 2015 Dr. Daniel L. Baney

* Link to Amazon for purchase of The Intimate Marriage by Howard & Charlotte Clinebell

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