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  • Writer's pictureHumble Hearts Therapy

Physical versus Emotional Intimacy in Couples Therapy

I was watching a show the other day where a couple went to couple’s therapy, and the therapist suggested they improve their physical intimacy as a way to improve their marriage.

I cringed.

I acknowledge that physical intimacy is certainly an important part of a healthy relationship, however, it is not the only thing to address when a relationship is on the rocks.

couple kissing in the snow

There are two types of intimacy; physical and emotional, and both of these need to be met in order to establish and maintain a healthy relationship. If we paint with broad strokes here, men tend to prefer physical intimacy to be in tact in order for emotional intimacy to thrive, and women tend to prefer the reverse. Of course, this is a generalization, and may not be the case in every situation. If it is, you can see how this can create tension in a relationship.

Physical intimacy is the attraction, connection, chemistry and all varieties of physical touch in a relationship. This is especially important for those whose love language is physical touch. Physical touch feels good, we crave it, and it is one way we express our feelings for each other. It is often how we say hello, good bye and I’m sorry to name a few. It’s fun, it feels good, and satisfies our pleasure cravings!

Emotional intimacy is where there is safety, vulnerability and meets the human need of being seen, heard, and understood. It’s where good communication, honesty and trust live, where you can feel comfortable being completely and truly authentically you. You can share your thoughts, feelings and emotions freely, and feel like your partner is unconditionally supportive and accepting of you.

If one or both of these types of intimacy are negatively impacting your relationship, both need to be addressed, since one really can’t exist without the other. Couples therapy is a great place to be able to build the skills to enhance intimacy through communication. It’s important to be able to share honestly about what your needs are when it comes to intimacy, set the expectations of each other, and have both physical and emotional needs met.

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