On Intimacy

a sweet kiss on the cheek

Recently I attended a talk at a conference that was about a lot of things related to sex and one of them was intimacy. During the talk, the speaker discussed how difficult it is to define intimacy but that it tends to be true that you know when you have it… and also that you know when you don’t.

I teared up. At a research talk! In public. (Sigh. More than once, admittedly.) I’m such a sap for these things. What can one expect from a girl who loves all things hearts?

It’s true, though. You know in your heart when you connect with someone even when you don’t know why. Even when you can’t explain it. And you also know when connections are hard-won, when you struggle, and when your heart breaks as it yearns for more.

You know when you have it and you know when you don’t.

My thoughts on intimacy are still feeling a little fragmented because of course I want to give everyone a roadmap to find it and yet, it’s true that even in research it’s a very difficult concept to define or study. What I do know is that many people want it all – love, physical affection, emotional connection, companionship, intimacy, a best friend. And I think we can have something close to it all if we try. Not that it’s easy, mind you.

If you have intimate relationships in your own lives, whether with friends, a romantic partner, family members, or a pet who totally understands you from top to bottom (I had such a cat when I was growing up), then count yourself blessed. They often take courage to seek out or to sustain, to put yourself out there and risk hurt or rejection, to look into someone’s eyes and accept them for who they are. But I think it’s worth it. Then again, I’m a sentimental sap who tears up at research conferences.

To learn more about intimacy, check out pretty much any book by Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, one of my favorite relationship researchers and writers.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.