Do you ever feel lonely? For many women, a feeling that no-one really “sees” who we are is one that looms ever larger in our lives these days. And yet – we’re surrounded by people. Our colleagues, families, friends, partners… from the outside, you’d never guess how many of us feel isolated and alone.
So what’s going on?
Is it your partner (or lack of?)
One of our most common responses to feelings of loneliness is to look at our intimate relationship. If we have a partner, we wonder what’s gone wrong to leave them feeling like a stranger.
Or if we’re single, we often focus on the “missing person” in our life. If only we could find the perfect partner, we’d be held and fulfilled in every way. Sexually, emotionally, intellectually – the perfect man or woman will answer our needs and banish that feeling of loneliness once and for all.
Well, maybe it’s not so simple.
Intimacy and loneliness
One way we can define loneliness is as a lack of intimacy in our lives. But intimacy isn’t just one thing. And it’s very unlikely, for most of us, that it will be provided by just one person.
In fact, expecting one person (like a romantic partner) to meet all of your needs for intimacy can actually be counter-productive. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on that individual to meet your many and varied needs for intimacy. It also means if your relationship’s going through a rough patch – or that person’s going through a difficult time in their own life, and need some space or support – you’ve nowhere else to turn.
It’s putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
If we’re able to look at our need for connection as being more of a patchwork of different aspects, we can start to spread out how we get them met – building a stronger, more resilient web of relationships.
So, let’s dig into the different types of intimacy, so you can begin to understand a bit better what your different needs are and who might be there to meet them.
The 8 different types of intimacy
#1 Physical intimacy
Not to be confused with sexual intimacy, physical intimacy comes from anyone who’s in close contact with your body. Think about sport like rugby, wrestling, or acro-yoga – or bodywork practitioners like massage therapists or physios. Our need for physical intimacy might be met by long hugs with friends or snuggles with kids or pets.
#2 Sexual Intimacy
Hopefully, this needs no explanation! The surrender of sexual intimacy is one of the most profound connections we can experience. Remember you can be sexually intimate without necessarily having physical contact – in long-distance relationships, for example.
#3 Emotional Intimacy
Often, it’s this that’s missing from a partnership we feel has lost its spark. This is where we feel comfortable to share all of our feelings with someone: joy, ecstasy, rage, grief, frustration. Not every romantic relationship includes this aspect – you might enjoy sexual, intellectual and spiritual intimacy, but find your emotional needs are met elsewhere (by close friends, for example.)
#4 Spiritual intimacy
Who can you be spiritually intimate with – sharing the part of your life that’s connected to God, Source, the Universe, something bigger than you? It might be someone you pray or attend a place of worship with, or simply someone you can talk to openly about your beliefs.
#5 Intellectual intimacy
I think of this as “geek out” intimacy! It’s such a good feeling when you share a love of something intellectual with someone you can really get into the nuances of a topic with. It might be business; a really interesting, in-depth conversation with a colleague or a mentor; or perhaps someone who’s studied the same academic subject as you.
#6 Recreational intimacy
This describes a bond over a particular activity – someone who shares a hobby with you. Think of the people you connect to when you go rock climbing, or dancing, or hang out at your local pub, or who you volunteer with.
#7 Aesthetic intimacy
A feeling of intimacy over art, or beauty. You’re moved by the same connection to art or beauty, and you’re able to express that really openly to this person. For some people this is a really important aspect of themselves; others not. How important is it for you?
#8 Unconditional intimacy
This describes a relationship that combines all of the above, and you know what? It’s really rare! So if this isn’t present in your life, don’t fret. Most of us find our needs for intimacy are met at different times and in different ways by different people. Creating a beautiful, supportive network of deep and meaningful connection.
What to do if you’re lonely
Now, the first thing to say is – this isn’t a “tick box” exercise and there’s no right or wrong way to think about these different types of intimacy.
But if you’re curious, a fun place to start can be to simple write out this list of types of intimate relationship. Write next to each one who is meeting that need in your life at the moment, being as honest as you can.
Try not to judge yourself! Remember – all of us will have different needs for different kinds of intimacy.
Maybe you’ve got a few people meeting all these needs; maybe you can’t think of anyone at all.
The purpose of this exercise is to bring a bit more nuance to that blanket statement “I’m lonely”. We also want to open up some more possibilities for meeting your needs.
After all, it might feel more doable to book a massage, arrange a date with your art-loving mate or share your feelings with a trusted friend than expect your partner of twenty years to suddenly change their habits. Or keep waiting for the perfect person to pop up on a dating app, ready to move in…
Want to dive a bit deeper into what to do if you’re lonely?
If this topic is resonating with you and you’d like to dive a little deeper into the different forms of intimacy and how you can cultivate more meaningful relationships – join me for a free workshop on Saturday 28th May. We’ll be exploring practical ways you can transform the relationships in your life, and common blocks that prevent us from experiencing true intimacy with others.
The workshop is free and online – and we’ll share a recording with those who register, in case you can’t join us live.
Read all about it and book your free place here.
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