How do you distinguish between sexual and emotional intimacy?

Oftentimes sex gets confused with intimacy. Confusion is evident when words like, "We were intimate," "We made love," are used to describe what was actually a sexual encounter.

A common misconception is that emotional intimacy naturally accompanies or will follow sex. Even great sex in no way guarantees emotional intimacy or a great relationship. The two are separate entities and there is no correlation between them. Physical nakedness/sex is not the same as emotional nakedness or vulnerability or intimacy.

One explanation for this confusion is that when we're physically naked it might appear as if we're intimate and vulnerable, while on an emotional level we're not. Emotional openness and sharing are considerably harder to achieve, which makes sex the preferred mode of interaction of choice simply because it's easier and pleasurable.

It's also possible that seeing ourselves as strictly physical or sexy beings may be too demoralizing a notion. Most people would prefer to see themselves as not being ruled by purely libidinous desire, since in our culture mature adults are not supposed to act that way.

As a result, at those times when we are primarily interested in sex - not necessarily intimacy - we can't admit to ourselves that it is sex we're after, let alone talk about it. This conflict gets resolved by making more of sex than it is and making more of the relationship, and end up painfully disillusioned when discovering that it was nothing more than sex.

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  • Ayaka


    27th Sep 2014

    Hi,Good on you for reaching out. Fear of inmtiacy is very normal, especially for adolescent girls. My suggestion would be to tell your boyfriend that you want to go slow and are feeling insecure about inmtiacy. It will make it possible for you and your boyfriend to connect on different levels too.I would also suggest you not push yourself by thinking you have to be intimate with him, slow is good! If you do want to and don't feel pressured by him or anybody else, but it's just your fear, try to just touch each other and exploring each other's bodies by touching. If this scares you, try doing some deep breathing exercises.If this is bothering you so much that you think it's taking over your daily life and your relationships, you might want to have a chat with a counsellor or a psychologist. They deal with this a lot and will be able to give you some suggestions to overcome your fear.Good luck

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About Daniel Linder, MFT

Daniel Linder

Relationships. I was born with a keen sense about relationships, was always assessing how close and intimate people are with each other. I had a knack for relationships. The importance of relationships cuts to the core of who I am. The combination of clinical training, 25 years of professional experience treating dysfunctional, non-intimate couples and families, as well as rigorous self analysis has given me a lot to work with. I put what seemed to come naturally to me under a microscope in an effort to break the process of building healthy relationships down to concrete essentials: Understanding of Basic Principles, Communication Skills, Self-realization and Intimacy.

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