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Updated on May 9, 2016


Intimacy is derived from the Latin word “Intimus”, meaning to have a personal knowledge or to reach into the inmost parts of a person. Intimacy is a contact which explores deeply the very core of a person resulting in extra-ordinary closeness and understanding.

Intimacy is of two types, physical intimacy and emotional intimacy, which is our focus here. it is better to establish emotional intimacy before the physical will be meaningful. In a relationship it’s far easier to de-nude yourself physically than emotionally. And physical intimacy doesn’t necessarily give birth to emotional intimacy, to achieve this, you have to work at it.

Emotional intimacy involves being confident enough to share yourself, your heart, your fears, your aspirations and desires with your partner, that is, a complete sharing and caring without reservation or hindrance. It also means an unconditional and unrestrained giving of your-self, heart, body and soul to another.

However, emotional intimacy exposes you, makes you transparent, defenseless and vulnerable before another. It is for these reasons that getting real intimate is a difficult and painful ordeal for most people, they find it very hard and uneasy to let go their core belief, they are afraid to expose the very center of their being to another.

At the beginning of a relationship, it is usually better to give a little of yourself per time, it’s a budding romance and like a blooming bud you have to unfold your layers gradually. Getting involved in a relationship is like travelling on an unknown territory, you have to put your foot forward one at a time because you’re unsure of the ground you’re treading upon.

At the onset of a relationship, there is that tendency to please, to give and to care for each other because each is trying to put up a good front, each is trying hard to make the other feel wanted and accepted, but that’s not intimacy yet, you’re still test driving the union, by the time you’re on full motion, the struggle to achieve real intimacy begins.

The one reason we don’t always realize real emotional intimacy in relationships is FEAR. We are being captivated, dominated, subjugated and intimidated by fear, and what is fear? False-Evidence-Against-Reality, a psychological state of the mind, a situation in which your mind holds court and put up evidences, that are more imagined than real; it tells you a thousand and one reasons why you should not take that bold step and surrender yourself completely to your partner.

Fear imprisoned us and makes us less committed in our relationships, fear makes us put up facades and hold ourselves in check. What are these fears?


At the beginning of a relationship people strive for acceptance, so the fear of rejection will make a person hide his/her true self, especially the part they consider to be the negative side of them or a defect in their personality.

This is because of the feeling that if you reveal yourself, if you allow your partner to know you intimately too soon, it will diminish their love for you. Which is better, to face rejection at the beginning of a relationship or to struggle with it at the middle of it? It’s your take.


If it’s not rejection you’re afraid of, then its criticism, maybe if he/she knows the truth about you, then the person may be critical of what you have or have not. Some of us are not really good at taking criticism, especially from someone we love so much, but is it not those who love and care for us that will give us honest and unbiased critique about ourselves? If we are confident enough to open up to the person, however, we prefer not to risk the person’s disapproval, so we hide our thoughts and actions from the person, thereby making achieving emotional intimacy an arduous task.


Again we keep our feelings and words in check because we are afraid to be misunderstood. Fear of misunderstanding makes us, at times to keep our opinion and thoughts to ourselves when we need to voice it out. We do this with the assumption that the person may not understand or appreciate the significance of what we will say.

It is better to say it and give the person the benefit of doubt, being misunderstood isn’t the end of the world or a heinous offence, rather it will also give you inkling into your partner’s reasoning ability. A healthy debt or argument draws out each person’s inner thought and strength of personality and also throws light on the person’s mental capabilities. If you didn’t say it out, you will never know how the other person will react.


It is believed that if the other person doesn’t understand and appreciate your words or action, then you will look foolish and stupid before them. We are afraid to be ridiculed, which is humiliating, so because of fear of being humiliated, we are always conscious of our words and actions and tend to guide against complete openness about our feelings.


Most people see emotional intimacy as a threat to their self-identity and a complete loss of individuality. People want breathing space, so to say; they want to retain part of whom and what they believe they are. So because of fear of suffocation, of being taking over by another person, they cling to themselves by being aloof as a kind of psychological defense.

They don’t want to be dominated, they don’t want to feel sequestered in the relationship, they feel it’s threatening to allow someone else take over your heart your thoughts and your emotions. Emotional intimacy calls for a complete surrender and not partial involvement.

It only takes a mature mind to understand this sacrifice and not abuse it. More often it is the abuse that holds people back.


It is assumed that if you let your defense down, if you’re completely honest and open with your partner, then you will be at the mercy of that person because he/she might use what they know about you as a weapon to hurt, to control, humiliate or even suppress you. Yes, fear of vulnerability makes people cringe from real intimacy. Vulnerability is susceptible to emotional manipulation.

All these fears make intimacy a very expensive venture. To have a good and lasting relationship, you really have to let go, and apply the 4 Building Blocks of a Lasting Relationship.

It is a long time process that is arrived at gradually but not without some emotional battle and fire-works. Achieving emotional intimacy is a struggle, a battle between you and yourself, your emotion and being, and also between you and your partner. This is because, emotional intimacy calls for humility, honesty, trust and commitment towards one another.

Before emotional intimacy could be achieved there is always a power tussle, or war of supremacy, which should be nothing more than a testing of your emotional love boat to find sound anchorage. Mostly, the war is not always verbal but a silent acting out of emotions, in which both are trying to find out things like, does she/he really love and care for me? Can I trust him/her with my life? Can I depend on his/her love, understanding and acceptance of who I am?

It is only when these fears are assuaged; it is only when trust and understanding are established that there will be a little give and take. Complete surrender is achieved when you accept your relationship as a precious union, something worth compromising over, something that requires you back down and surrender your desires and emotions. But as said, it is not instant, it is a journey, and the distance depends on the individuals involved.


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    • Ngozi Ebubedike profile imageAUTHOR

      Ngozi Ebubedike Ahumibe 

      2 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

      Very interesting observation and comment. Thank you for lending your voice and opinion to this issue.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      2 years ago

      Very interesting article.

      What you said about #5

      "Most people see emotional intimacy as a threat to their self-identity and a complete loss of individuality."

      I believe this something (women) worry about more than men. However it's been my observation that in marriage it's usually the men who end up spending more time with their wife's family.

      Giving of yourself is not the same as "losing yourself".

      If either person has to "change their core being" to make a relationship work it means they have chosen the wrong mate for themselves.

      Very few if any people are walking around with one hand raised in the air screaming: "I'm looking for someone to change me!"

      Most people want to be loved and appreciated for who (they) are.


      I truly believe that's the main reason why people seek to avoid emotional intimacy. Most people want to be "loved" in ways that (they) are unwilling to love others.

      This is especially true if they themselves have been hurt in the past. Essentially a lot of folks subscribe the philosophy of finding someone who will adore them more than finding someone they adore.

      It takes (courage) to be vulnerable and give oneself to another because it puts one in a position to be taken advantage of when people knows our strengths, insecurities, motivations, hopes, and dreams.

      And yet it's impossible to reach the highest level of love/intimacy if one insists upon holding back by emotionally keeping one foot (outside) of the relationship. Not long ago I came across the following quote:

      "Since she did not know which ones would leave or stay she pushed them (all) away."

      Ultimately it means she didn't trust (herself) to choose the "right mate".

      If you don't trust yourself it's impossible to trust anyone else.


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