Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg came up with the triangular theory of love. Based on this theory, love is comprised of three components: intimacy, passion and commitment (Sternberg, 1986).

Let’s focus on the first (and sometimes the trickiest) facet of love: intimacy. According to Sternberg, “…the intimacy component refers to feelings of closeness, connectedness and bondedness in loving relationships” (Sternberg, 1986, p. 119). So, what does that mean for your relationship on a day-to-day basis?

Does Sex Equal Intimacy?

When people hear the word intimacy, they often associate it with sex. Sex, however, falls under the passion component of Sternberg’s theory. It is important to note that intimacy may lead to sexual relations, and vice versa, sexual relations may bring about a deeper level of intimacy. However, the two are not necessarily always tied together.

Intimacy is derived from emotional investment in a relationship. It is a part of all loving relationships, whether they are romantic or not. You can have intimate relationship with friends, parents, and/or siblings.

What Makes A Relationship Intimate?

In a romantic relationship, intimacy involves self-disclosure, or the process of letting your innermost thoughts and desires be known. It is about having a level of comfort with your partner and knowing that you can count on one another. Intimacy involves a great deal of emotional support, open communication and understanding.

It’s important to note that intimacy doesn’t develop overnight. It is something that builds over time, as it often requires people to be vulnerable with one another. In a romantic context, intimacy often unfolds slowly as the bond between two people is created and strengthened.

Building Intimacy

Being that intimacy is an important part of loving relationships, it’s important to look for ways to incorporate it whenever possible. Here are some suggestions for building intimacy with your partner.

  1. Communicate. Set aside some time to talk with your loved one. Too often, we get so caught up in our busy schedules that we forget to check in with one another at the end of the day. Delineate time to be used specifically to talk to your partner about his or her day. Spend time updating your partner about the events of your day and the feelings you have associated with each one. Be sure that each person has uninterrupted time to share. While your partner is talking, really listen to them. That will require you to minimize outside distractions like the TV, your phone and social media.
  2. Plan. Make plans to do something fun with your partner. Whether it’s going out on a date during a weekday evening or spending the day doing something interesting on the weekend, it’s important to have quality time together. Engaging in a joint activity that you both enjoy will bring you closer together.
  3. Share. Spend time sharing your thoughts with your partner. These need not be related to specific events that happened during your day. Instead, you should focus on sharing your dreams and desires. Find out what your partner’s wishes are as well. This will allow you to grow together and push each other to reach your goals.
  4. Teamwork. Work together to accomplish some of the chores that you have on your “to do” list. Sure, it may take more time to carry out each one together, rather than splitting the tasks; however, working together builds a sense of cohesiveness. In addition, you gain more quality time together.

Intimacy takes time to develop. It is important to not rush it, or else it will feel forced. Being more aware of your partner’s needs and sharing yours, is a great first step. Through open and honest communication you will be able to build that stronger sense of connection.

You may also be interested in How To Make The Most Of The Time You Spend With Your Partner



Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 119- 135.

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