We all know that intimacy is the cornerstone of a healthy and successful marriage. But how do we get there? The amount of intimacy that you will have between you as husband and wife is largely dependent on how well you each take care of your own “worlds.” Ask yourself: how good am I at handling my feelings and at taking care of my emotional well-being, at making myself happy, at identifying and expressing my desires and needs, at speaking my perspective and beliefs about what matters to me? And how well do I relate to my partner’s world? Do I try to control his/her world, or do I respect it? The level of closeness and connection in our marriages can be changed and enhanced just by learning how to interact in a different way. 

That’s exactly what intimacy is – closeness and connection – and we achieve this when we, as two mature individuals, choose to share ourselves with one another while respecting one another’s autonomy. I’m my own world, and he’s his world, but we are choosing to share ourselves with each other; we are choosing to let ourselves be seen and known by another person. 

There are five dimensions of intimacy that are vital to reflect on when thinking about how we as a couple create closeness and connection in our relationship: 

Intellectual intimacy is the mutual sharing of ideas in a respectful and non-judgemental way. In other words, you respect each other’s thinking and approach differences of opinion with curiosity rather than judgment.

Emotional intimacy is the expression of your fears, joy, sadness, and anger, and the receiving of each other’s feelings with respect and compassion. In order to increase intimacy it is crucial not to disqualify; not to attack; not to withdraw. Vulnerability is a key component to emotional intimacy. Ask yourself: can I let my partner see my emotions, including when I’m really sad? Do I feel safe enough to show my anger? Vulnerability is necessary even in sharing our happiness about something.
Real emotional intimacy comes not only when we can share, but when we are open to accepting the emotions of the other. What happens when your spouse gets angry about something? Or is in a bad mood and ranting about something that happened at work? Are you able to be there, to be curious about why this event triggered strong emotions and allow the emotional experience to exist without shutting it down or trying to
make it better? That is a moment of real emotional intimacy.

Physical intimacy is achieved when we support each other’s desires and preferences in the physical world. We all care about our physical environment in different ways. Some of us have certain preferences about how the house looks and how food tastes, and others might not care as much about these things, or we might care in different ways. For example, one spouse likes the temperature of the house to be on the warmer side, and the other might prefer it to be cooler. One spouse can’t stand clutter, while the other doesn’t even notice laundry piling up in the corner. Whatever our preferences might be in the physical world, we need to be able to express them with our spouses. Not in a nagging or critical way, but in a manner that reveals what is true to you and enables you to express this fully to your spouse. Of course, this goes both ways – if your husband likes his meat well done but you think this is unpalatable, it’s still important to honor his preferences. If he likes the house in a certain order and this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s important to not attack or judge, but rather find a compromise that is mutually agreeable. We’re different people, but we want to share ourselves with each other. 

Sexual intimacy is being open to your own desires and being able to express them. Reflect on who you are as a sexual being: what do you like, what helps you get relaxed, what gives you pleasure, what makes you excited? All of these things are your sexual world. It is your responsibility to be familiar with your sexual world, to understand yourself in this arena, and then to share your desires with your partner. As a receiver, we want to be open to our spouse’s desires without  doing something that we might not feel comfortable doing. This is not about the end result: this is about sharing our inner worlds with our spouses. 

Spiritual intimacy is the mutual support of each other’s spiritual life, sense of purpose, and devotion to a higher power. This means being able to ask yourself how you define spiritual experience, what gives you vitality, joy, and purpose in your religious life, and being able to share that part of yourself with your spouse. Of course, this means we also have to give the same space to receive our spouse’s spiritual preferences. One of you might prefer a more intellectual relationship with your Yiddishkeit, while one of you might prefer a more emotional one. One of you might want to go to a shul with beautiful singing and a two-hour-long service that inspires and uplifts you, and the other might just want to daven quickly and move on with the day. We all connect with and relate to Hashem in our own way, so we need to be able to create safety in our relationships so that we can each share our spiritual preferences with each other and create spiritual intimacy. 

We need to make sure to address all of these five dimensions in order to successfully create intimacy. We have to take ownership of our own emotional world, be vulnerable, share with our partner and then be willing to hear and accept our partner’s world in all these different areas of my life. This is true intimacy. By understanding the need for both transmitting and receiving from one another in all these areas we create the deepest level of closeness and connection.