"Intimacy" means different things to different people. It can also mean several differing things to the very same person!
I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience.
I like the bucket system.
I believe our whole health picture is made of mind, body, heart, and soul.
- Mental health and well being.
- Physical health and well being.
- Emotional health and well being.
- Spiritual health and well being.
They are all interconnected to make up the "whole health picture" for me.
So "intimacy" to me corresponds in the buckets too.
- Mental intimacy -- the sharing of ideas, beliefs, concepts, communication, thoughts. There's a spectrum.
- Physical intimacy -- touch, gestures. From tickling, kissing, hugging, sex. Again -- a spectrum of possible activities that are physically intimate.
- Emotional intimacy -- the sharing of feelings, vulnerbale. The yummy feeling ones or the yucky feeling ones. More spectrum.
- Soul intimacy -- the baring of one's soul, dreams, desires, joie de vivre. What makes you feel ALIVE. Last spectrum.
There's a spectrum inside each bucket. Take physical intimacy for example -- that bucket can hold kisses of various types, handshakes, sex, tickling, stroking, massage, etc.
Depending on the relationship with the person in question what
and how much
I'm willing to share will vary.
I am willing to strip down near nekkid for strangers to touch me -- if those strangers are my doctor or massage therapist. I am not up for that physical intimacy with random strangers. I don't even like strangers standing to close to me!
I'm willing to hug my mom. I'm not going to have sex with her.
Body is an easy bucket because it is tangible.
Sometimes I see people trying to make body intimacy do the work of other kinds of intimacies.
Sometimes that is ok. Someone dies, someone else is mourning. Sometimes just holding their hand in the ministry of presence is enough. Sometimes it is not, and they need to be able to talk (mind intimacy) and cry (emotional intimacy) and bare their soul in some fashion.
I once had a BF who was not great at communication about his feelings and was not willing to grow the skills for better sharing of mind/heart intimacy. He'd try to solve it by showing me affection with hugs and kisses. Which are nice and show me he loves me, but didn't exactly let me in or shares his inner life with me. Touching is not meeting all the need for closeness in the mind and heart buckets. The body bucket being overfull with tons of hugging is not doing much about the empty heart/mind buckets, is it?
Rita Mae Brown put it nicely in "Bingo" when Regina and Nicole are talking... I abridge it here to help illustrate my spin:
"Maybe human relationships are like a clock. With most people the relationship is 15 minutes or 90 degrees on the dial. Sex would be part of the circle. Part of the 360 degrees. And what is so strange is, you could sleep with someone and not complete the circle. Sex isn't enough. It is necessary for full understanding, but not enough. Get it?
"I don't know. What are we?"
"We are 45 minutes. Three quarters of the clock. Close, but I don't know everything and neither do you."
"Are you 60 minutes, 360 degrees with Jack?"
"No. I don't know that any woman gets the whole circle with a man. Maybe. But I've got 45 minutes with Jack -- a different part of the circle though. He has what you miss. And you have what he misses. Ironic."
If there is such thing as an "intimacy clock" with 15 minute or 90 deg portions each representing mind intimacy, body intimacy, heart intimacy, and soul intimacy... I've experience different kinds of intimacies and different degrees in my relationships.
Even with the activity (ex: tickling). Even in the same person -- the intimacies shared could change over time. I've tickled my mother as a child, but not much since I was adult. I still hug and kiss her though.
I tickle, hug and kiss my kid a lot. I figure as she ages she won't be doing raspberries on my stomach much and having tickle fights on the couch. Get them in now then! I'm pretty sure I'll still hug and kiss her as an adult. I know I won't piggyback her as an adult! I've already stopped that. DH is lingering on the piggybacks but she's getting heavy even for him. Then end of that physical intimacy with the kid will one day come for him too.
But I don't share the physical intimacy of tickling with just anyone -- I don't tickle the bank teller. EVER! As a child or adult!
I would NOT share sex with my mother or my kid. I do with my spouse and if I took another lover, I would with them. Another slice even if within the same "physical intimacy" range portion of the clock.
At one time, my DH was my BF. I shared body intimacy with him as his lover. We shared a lot of mind intimacy and some heart intimacy in long conversations. I was not prepared to offer him a full 15 min on heart though -- I was getting over a break up and not up for diving deep too fast in that bucket with him though I certainly enjoyed him as a lover. He was in the same place at the time so it worked out. And I def. wasn't ready to offer clocking any soul intimacy time with him back then.
That heart & soul intimacy thing unfolded later on in the relationship. Some things are just earned in time.