The Five Areas of Intimacy: Physical


A few years ago I participated in a training with Terry Real, couples therapist and author of The New Rules of Marriage. Terry introduced me to the five areas of intimacy, which has become one of the early exercises I facilitate with couples.

Exploring the five areas of intimacy is a great way to determine the strengths of the relationship, and perhaps where there is opportunity for growth. It provides rich historical data about how the relationship has evolved over time; where each partner is dedicating her or her respective time and energy; what may be ignored; and insights into where they want to grow, together.

Couples often decide that one or more of the areas of intimacy are not important to either of them; that they can and should capitalize on the areas they agree are important. And sometimes couples discover relationship values of their partner they had not known or considered until now – and where did they come from? Wherever we go, it is engaging and productive – whether it is a couple experiencing distress, or a couple preparing for the next step in their commitment to one another.

The first area we explore is physical intimacy. How do you express physical intimacy? It is not uncommon to think bedroom and sex. But that is just one type of physical intimacy. Being physically intimate is anytime you are completely present to the other and that person is the center of your focus. It can be a hand on the knee in the car or locked eyes in a restaurant. 

So physical intimacy is less about what you do and more about how you do it. How do you play together? What do you build together? How do you bid farewell to each other on your way out the door and greet upon your return? Do you kiss? Or do you kiss? Do you share a favorite television series, or do you sneak off to separate rooms?

How would you assess your physical intimacy with your partner? What do you give? What do you receive?

Begin again,

“If the twentieth-century marriage was companionable, the new marriage is intimate.”  ~Terrance Real

{Image courtesy of Everton Vila.}