From Encyclopedia of Sex and Sexuality

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Many persons use the words “intimate” and “intimacy” in everyday parlance to refer only to the sexual act, as in the question “Were you intimate with him last night?” What they should really ask is whether the pair was “sexually intimate,” since the word intimacy used alone implies a very high degree of interpersonal closeness—and not necessarily the physical closeness of a sexual encounter. As one dictionary defines intimate: “it is not only marked by close acquaintanceship or familiarity with another person but also involves knowledge of the innermost being of another.” Therefore, when two people are intimate with each other, it does not have to involve sexual activity: it should, however, mean that they are able to express their most personal thoughts to each other as well as their experiences and feelings. Other characteristics of intimacy are caring for the well-being of the other person and the ability to communicate openly, without fear of judgment and reprisals. Intimacy should be present not only between lovers but also between best friends and between parents and children. Intimacy is something that develops over time in these relationships.

Perhaps the greatest value of intimacy is the sense of belonging that is engendered and the feeling of security this brings to the persons in an intimate relationship. Often, acts of intimacy convey to the recipient the feelings of being respected and loved. Intimacy, for some, helps them to deal with various anxieties in life, knowing that support will be forthcoming in times of need.

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