Maybe you find yourself surrounded by people you would consider ‘friends’ but when you stop to think about it, you feel as though these relationships exist more on the surface level. Perhaps you are wanting more closeness and depth in your friendships but are not exactly sure how to get there.
In this article, we will take a look at the importance of intimacy in friendship, steps for moving towards deeper connection with friends, and navigating any barriers to intimacy that may arise.
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Many people associate intimacy with sexual interactions, but this is only one aspect. At its core, intimacy refers to establishing mutual vulnerability and openness in a relationship. It is the experience of being seen and understood by another person.
There are various types of intimacy including emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, physical intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and experiential intimacy.
Developing intimacy is extremely important, not only in romantic relationships but in friendships as well. Intimacy is central to cultivating close, meaningful friendships. Research has shown that close friendships are correlated with higher levels of health and well-being. Connecting to others has been proven to be an effective way for regulating emotions in times of distress.
Building intimacy does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time and requires intentionality and commitment. If you are ready to put in the effort to deepen your friendships, here are several steps that can help you to get started.
1. Prioritize time for each other.
To create the space for growing closer, it is important to be intentional about carving out time to connect. Whether that is meeting for coffee every several weeks, planning regular Facetime sessions or phone calls, or engaging in an activity that you both enjoy, prioritizing this time will go a long way in growing your bond.
2. Keep learning about each other.
Particularly if you have been friends with someone for a while, you might assume you know all there is to know about them. However, people are constantly changing and growing. Don’t stop asking questions and sharing experiences. As you continue to put in the effort to get to know your friend on a deeper level, don’t forget to allow yourself to be known as well.
Share a personal challenge you are facing or a dream you have for the future; give your friend a chance to increase their understanding of who you are and what matters to you.
3. Allow others the chance to show up for us.
It can be difficult to let others in, especially if you are used to handling problems on your own. However, asking a friend for advice about a situation you’re facing, or expressing a need can facilitate deeper intimacy. Don’t be afraid to ask for support and give your friends the opportunity to show up for you in new ways that grow your connection.
4. Express appreciation.
Building a culture of gratitude and appreciation within your friendships is essential for growing closeness. Be specific about what you value about your friend and your time together. Tuning into friends’ love language can be beneficial in order to show love and appreciation in the way that they best receive it- whether through written or spoken words of affirmation, a gift, quality time together, etc.
Overcoming Barriers to Intimacy
For many individuals, the idea of opening up and becoming vulnerable can be scary. It requires a solid foundation of trust and emotional safety. Individuals who have experienced past abuse or negative experiences in relationships may develop a fear of intimacy.
Some people harbor an intense fear of abandonment or rejection and therefore keep a safe distance to avoid getting hurt by others. This can make it challenging to establish friendships with others that go beyond the surface. For more advice and information about intimacy issues, their causes and how to overcome them, visit BetterHelp.
If you find yourself experiencing intimacy issues that are causing distress and negatively affecting your relationships, you might consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can work with you in order to process what has contributed to your fear of intimacy and develop strategies for building the fulfilling connections you want in your life.
Intimacy is not only reserved for romantic relationships; it is central to developing deeper closeness in our friendships as well. There are many reasons why opening up and allowing yourself to be seen and known can be scary.
However, being intentional about cultivating close, intimate friendships in your life is so beneficial to your mental health and well-being. Consider what small step you might take in order to increase intimacy in your existing friendships, and watch as your connections go deeper and begin to thrive.
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About the Author
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.