When we use the word intimacy or intimate relationship, most of us automatically think of sex. We’ve been culturally conditioned to link the two. Why? Sex is a huge way we connect and bond with a partner. But because it does bond us to another person in a profound way – couples counselors often referring to sex as “relationship super glue” – sex can actually become harmful to our emotional and mental well-being when used in a casual relationship. Sex without the deep commitment of marriage has the potential to rip us apart when that relationship ends.
So, outside of sex, how do you begin an intimate relationship with someone? How can you create long-lasting intimacy before you get married?
Get to Know His Circle
We’ve all been there. You meet, your stomach does that funny little flip every time you look at each other, emotions run high, and before you know it, you’re spending all your time together…alone. And being alone together creates intimacy, right?
Absolutely. But before you begin opening up and forging a deeper connection, make sure he’s someone you can see in your future long-term. It may seem like an unlikely first step, but spending time in groups and with each other’s friends is a great way to see if you are both compatible. It’s easy to put your best face on in the beginning of a relationship, but the who you spend the most time with says a lot about a person.
Learn Something New
Bonding through shared experiences is a powerful form of intimacy. When we try a new experience however, it also happens to be a great way to see how someone reacts when outside their comfort zone and gives you a better understanding of who they are.
Early in the relationship, go on a learning date – try a cooking class, go horseback riding, try an interesting new food, or learn a sport. Can’t think of anything new to you both? Ask him to teach you something and be prepared to go all in…even if it means you end up in an old pair of coveralls and grease streaked through your hair. 😊 Whatever you choose, at the end of the day, you’ll have a shared experience to look back on and smile.
Have Deep Conversations
Most dating relationships consist of surface-level conversations. That’s fine for the beginning but relationships that go the distance all have one thing in common: open, honest communication. Talk about your passions. Challenge each other intellectually. Understand what drives each other. Learn about what he believes in and what he stands for. Talk about your future plans. Share meaningful stories.
These conversations should be equally matched. If you are the only one opening up, that may be a sign he’s not interested in developing a real connection.
This may seem like an outdated notion but research shows it can forge a physiological bond with another person. Holding hands can sync brainwaves, ease pain, and release oxytocin - the “love” hormone. Oxytocin helps promote feelings of comfort and trust with a romantic partner. For women, studies show holding hands also can make them feel protected and valued.
And yes, maybe those last two are a little old-fashioned, but really, who wouldn’t love a modern-day knight? 😉
Learn Each Other’s Love Language
We all have a preferred way we feel loved and valued, but too often we only communicate love in the way we want to receive it. For building an intimate relationship that lasts, we highly recommend taking a Love Language test and talking to your partner about the unique ways you feel the most loved. If they love receiving gifts, learn what kind. Do they prefer sentimental, hand-made items, spontaneously planned adventures, or expensive, intentional gifts? Is it the thought behind the gift that counts? Whatever it may be, talk openly about what makes you feel loved and equally as important, what doesn’t. Be open, vulnerable, and honest and expect the same in return.
Don't settle for anything less than the relationship you want. Are you dating for fun? Do you want to get married? Is he or she the type of person you would marry? Figure out what you want and make a plan before you add the complications of sex to the equation.
If you're already dating someone (and it's a healthy relationship) but you want to slow things down, be vocal about it. Your partner should respect you enough to listen.