What Is Intimacy? (And How to Cultivate It)

The magical combination of presence and vulnerability.

One of the greatest desires of couples is to experience more intimacy between them. That is understandable – intimacy is a fundamental human need that we love to fulfil in our relationships. Unfortunately, Hollywood portrays an often effortless connection and depth with “the right person,” while we are living in our realities of work, kids, friends, groceries, and making sure we get to that yoga class. The time and space for intimacy is often the last on our list. And yet, we carry this unfulfilled wish for a profound connection with our partner.

The good news is: You can create more intimacy between you. The not-so-good news: It takes a conscious decision to do so. It doesn’t happen automatically. And many people don’t actually know what this intangible thing of intimacy is. What does it mean? What are you talking about? But don’t worry, I’ve got you. Let’s dive into it!

Physical and Emotional Intimacy

Your first thought of intimacy might come from ‘intimate relations,’ meaning sex. But if we confine intimacy to the physical aspects of the bedroom, we are missing out. While physical intimacy is amazing, what most of us actually long for is emotional intimacy, a form of deep connection. In my work as a relationship coach, I see how emotional intimacy is a prerequisite for truly wonderful physical intimacy. So we’ve got to start with opening our hearts before we are ready to open our bodies.

And our exploration of emotional intimacy includes our bodies because every emotion lives in the body, and everyone has their own sense of their embodied feeling of intimacy. Maybe it’s the warmth and joy that comes from feeling seen, heard, and understood. Or it’s the relaxation that comes when you feel supported. Or it’s the sense of connection that comes from a meaningful conversation with your loved one. Or the feeling of love and care when you are truly understanding and supporting another person.

Maybe you have no idea what intimacy feels like, and all that comes up when hearing that term is tension, fear, or numbness. That is completely okay too. Intimacy is not something that we commonly learn about as we grow up. We are often left to figure all of this out on our own. Which makes relationships more difficult to navigate, as we have two people with their own unique understanding of what intimacy means and how to create it.

Red heart looking out from a meadow

How to Create More Emotional Intimacy

There are many practices and tools that can help you get closer to each other and feel that beautiful, heart-opening feeling of emotional intimacy. My personal favourites are using the methods from Authentic Relating and Nonviolent Communication, two wonderful modalities that focus on bringing us into depth with each other. 

But the beauty of intimacy is that it can happen at any moment, in any life situation – as long as we are creating the right conditions for it. And even more important than certain activities or practices, you have the power to create the conditions for intimacy to thrive. All it takes is for you to bring in two ingredients: presence and vulnerability.

The Key Ingredients for Intimacy

What opens up a space for intimacy is presence. Especially in today’s busy world, we are often more focused on our phone and our to-do list than on the other person. Presence means truly being with your partner in this moment, with your full attention. 

And the always insightful author and researcher Brené Brown calls vulnerability the key to unlocking intimacy. Only when we are brave enough to take off our armour, can we come into true contact with another person.

When we bring presence and vulnerability together, we naturally create intimacy in our lives. Because we are fully here, just as we are. And so is the other person. It’s that simple – but it’s not easy. So let’s examine these two components that make up this magical mix.

Couple looking into each other’s eyes while holding each other

Ingredient No. 1: Presence

Presence is being in the moment, being right here, with a soft focus. Your attention and energy are directed to this situation and not to what happened yesterday, what you want to do tomorrow or all the other things that are going on in your life. You bring yourself to the now. To this interaction with another human being. 

We all have experienced people who are half-listening. Who are distracted when we talk. Or who touch us absentmindedly or in a robotic way. Even though it might have a loving intention, it just feels empty. An absence of presence means the absence of an intimate connection.

To become present, take a deep breath. And another one. And become aware of your body. The easiest way into presence is to get out of the mind and into your physical experience. What do you notice in your muscles? Your posture? Your face? Your belly? We all have a body, and the more we practise being aware of it, the more we are in the here and now.

Many tools can help you to become more naturally present, such as meditation, conscious breathing, or loosening your body through stretching and shaking, but also sports and physical activity. Presence is a skill – even if your thoughts drift off again and again, don’t worry. Bring yourself back, and over time, it will become easier to be present with what is going on right here, right now.

Many of us have a habit of being more present with another person than with ourselves. We might be great at reading our husband’s body language or understanding our kids’ needs. But for intimacy to flow, you need to be present with yourself first. What is here for you? What are you feeling? What do you need? Only then are you able to be present with what is alive between the two of you?

Presence is also important because intimacy lives in the moment. It is created over and over again by two people who are engaged and present with each other. And even though intimacy builds over time, we only get to enjoy it fully when we are actually aware of this moment.

Woman holding hands over her heart

Ingredient No. 2: Vulnerability

The second ingredient of intimacy is vulnerability. Vulnerability literally means “making yourself available to be wounded.” In interactions, it comes with true openness, authenticity, honesty. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.”

It indeed takes a good amount of courage to make yourself vulnerable, because as you do, the mind knows that there is a chance of being hurt. And usually, we do our very best to avoid being hurt, we implement our survival strategies of being strong, being independent, being a caretaker, being funny, or also being careful and shy. Vulnerability means acknowledging our instinct to either hide ourselves or overplay what’s inside, and actually show ourselves, show our emotions, our bodily sensations, our thoughts.

You probably have had moments in your relationships (be it with your partner or parents or friends), when you suddenly had a deep conversation. Truth was spoken. Emotions were revealed. What had previously been hidden was finally brought to the light. As humans, we fear the truth, but we also love it. Because when we ourselves or other people are brave enough to name what is going on, we move to a deeper level of connection. It’s like we are bringing each other into our respective worlds.

You get to see who the other person actually is. And the beautiful thing is – all people are amazing. At their core, when people reveal themselves, we get to see their humanity, their longings, their fears, their trauma, their dreams. And that is the power of vulnerability. And how intimacy is created – by dropping into each other’s humanity.

Couple holding hands while walking on the beach

Practising Intimacy

Keep in mind that presence, vulnerability, courage, and the ability to connect are all fundamental human qualities. No matter how challenging it might seem right now, we can learn them. And that can be lots of fun! First of all, notice for yourself: Is it easier for you to be present in the here and now, or to vulnerably share what is going on inside? This shows you which of the two skills to focus on as you grow.

If all of that sounds great, but you’re still wondering what to do – here are some suggestions for how to bring presence and vulnerability into your day to day interactions: 

  • When you are at dinner or driving in the car, take a breath, become present to what is going on inside you right now, and share that with each other.
  • Take three minutes in the morning and before going to bed to purposefully be present with each other: Hold hands, look into each other’s eyes, and share how you are feeling and what you need right now.
  • Share your appreciations with each other. Pay attention to the small things that the other person does or says, and tell them how that makes you feel and why you love it (stick to the positive!).
  • Ask each other curious questions and really listen for the answer. You might ask about childhood memories, favourite places, friendships, work challenges and aspirations, as well as hopes, dreams, and wishes for the future.
  • Especially when you have a conflict: Take a moment to breathe, bring yourself into presence and then reveal how you are in this moment. And hear each other out with awareness.

And what about physical intimacy? The same applies! I invite you to try: 

  • Touch each other with full presence and your full attention. Be slow and intentional. See how it’s different from your usual.
  • Share openly with each other how that touch feels to you, and then honestly talk about what else you might love, and why.
  • Notice each other’s attempts to physically connect, bring your awareness to what you both want right now, and see if it’s a match – or what else you could do. 

Finally, don’t worry if it doesn’t immediately flow. All of these things take practice. If you were not raised to express yourself fully, and to open up to intimacy with another person, it will take some time. Be gentle with yourself and each other, and just keep on opening bit by bit, going at the pace of where you are at right now. Each small step will bring you closer together. 


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15 Tips On Harnessing Your Feminine Power

This International Women’s Day.

Throughout human history, women have played important roles in their communities as leaders, healers, educators, artists, and spiritual figures, even if their contributions have not always been acknowledged or valued equally. The history of feminine power is long and complex, spanning many different cultures and societies throughout human history. Read on to learn about key events and movements that have shaped the concept of feminine power as we known it today.

Feminine Power Through The Ages

Since the dawn of time, women’s roles and personal power have shifted and evolved:

  • In ancient societies, women played important roles as leaders, healers, and spiritual figures. For example, in ancient Egypt, women could serve as pharaohs, and the goddess Isis was widely revered.
  • In the Middle Ages, women often held positions of power within the church as nuns or abbesses. However, women were generally excluded from political power and were seen as subordinate to men.
  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the women’s suffrage movement fought for women’s right to vote and participate in political life. Women also began to enter the workforce in larger numbers, challenging traditional gender roles.
  • In the 1960s and 70s, the feminist movement emerged, advocating for gender equality and women’s rights. This movement helped to bring attention to issues like the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights.
  • In recent years, the #MeToo movement has brought attention to issues of sexual harassment and assault, empowering women to speak out against abuse and harassment.

Despite the challenges and setbacks, women have continued to assert their power and influence, from grassroots organizing to cultural expression. Today, there is a growing recognition of the importance of feminine leadership and the need for more diverse and inclusive representation in all areas of society. To honour the women before us, and International Women’s day, you can celebrate your feminine qualities and characteristics. Embracing your feminine power means celebrating your strengths and using them to create positive change.

Practices to Take Your Feminine Power Back

Here are some practical tips on how you can embrace and hold on to your feminine power:

  1. Practice self-love: Take time to nurture your mind, body, and soul through self-care practices such as meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature. To embrace your feminine power, first love and accept yourself as you are.
  2. Cultivate self-awareness: Spend time reflecting on your strengths and qualities that you appreciate about yourself as a woman. This will help you build self-confidence and feel more comfortable in your own skin.
  3. Embrace your intuition: Listen to your inner voice and trust your gut instincts. Women are naturally intuitive beings. Trusting and embracing your intuition is key to tapping into your feminine power.
  4. Embrace your emotions: Women are often encouraged to suppress their emotions, but embracing your emotions is a powerful way to tap into your feminine power. Feel your feelings, express them, and use them as a source of strength.
  5. Connect with other women: Connect with other women who inspire you and lift you up, and work together to create positive change in your community and the world. Connect with women by joining a women’s group. Women are often strongest when they work together.
  6. Challenge gender stereotypes: Stand up for yourself and other women when you encounter sexism or discrimination. Challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Embracing your feminine power means breaking down gender stereotypes and creating space for women to thrive.
  7. Embrace your creativity: Take time to explore your creative passions, whether it’s writing, painting, or dancing. Women are often natural creators, and embracing your creative side is a powerful way to tap into your feminine power.  
  8. Express yourself: Explore different ways of expressing your femininity, such as through fashion, makeup, or art. Find what feels authentic to you and go with it.
  9. Celebrate your femininity: Wear clothes that make you feel amazing and embrace the whole of you, curves, stretch marks and warts, and all! Own your femininity with pride.
  10. Learn to set boundaries: Learn to say “no” when necessary. This maintains your self-respect and establishes healthy relationships.

Mind-Body Tips to Increase Your Feminine Power

Being a Women’s Health and Wellness Coach, it would be wrong of me not to add some Mind/Body self-care tips:

  1. Prioritize your time: Make time for yourself every day, whether it’s a relaxing bath, meditation, reading a book, or engaging in a hobby you enjoy.
  2. Exercise regularly: Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and make it a part of your regular routine. Physical activity is crucial for overall health, and it can help boost confidence and improve self-esteem.
  3. Eat a balanced diet: Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your diet. Eating a healthy and balanced diet provides the nutrients your body needs to function properly and maintains a healthy weight.
  4. Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and establish a consistent sleep routine to promote better sleep quality.
  5. Practice stress-management techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi helps reduce chronic stress and improve overall well-being.

Remember, empowerment comes from within, and embracing your femininity is a personal journey and you can create positive change in your life and the world around you. It just requires self-reflection, self-care, and a willingness to be true to yourself.

Sharon James is a women’s health and well-being coach specialising in menopause wellness. Visit www.sharonjamescoaching.com for more information or connect with her via Instagram and Facebook. You can also get on the waitlist for her Menopause Mastery workshops here.


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