Intimacy in Romantic Relationships

In our last blog post on Boundaries in Romantic Relationships, we explored how unmet needs and mismatched boundaries can impact the strength of our intimate relationships. In this blog post, Edmonton-based therapist Selena Arcovio, looks at the role of intimacy, affection, and connection in our relationships. This is the fifth blog post in our series, All About Boundaries. Check out the first four posts here.

Registered Provisional Psychologist, Selena Arcovio, works with people in monogamous or polyamorous relationships, while they navigate the ups and downs of intimacy. She is trained in the Gottman Method for Couples/Partner Therapy. Many of our therapists work with partners looking to navigate challenges in their relationship. Get to know our therapists and find the right counsellor for you, here


Being vulnerable with your partner(s) can help to build intimacy in your relationship. Being vulnerable means opening up to your partner and letting them see you for who you are. This often involves creating some flexibility in some of our rigid boundaries. Giving your partner(s) access to some of your authentic thoughts, feelings, needs, worries, and challenges can be scary, but with the right partner(s), it can be incredibly rewarding.

What is Intimacy?

It is important to note that intimacy is not just about sex. Intimacy is the level of “closeness” you feel with another person. It involves mutual vulnerability, openness, trust, and safety. Intimacy is not just reserved for romantic relationships. Certain types of intimacy can exist within friendships or family relationships.

There are different types of intimacy (similar to the different types of boundaries):

  1. Emotional Intimacy: this happens when people feel safe sharing their feelings with each other. This is not just about sharing the happy and easy feelings, but emotional intimacy involves sharing hard emotions, such as fear, hurt, and shame.
  2. Intellectual Intimacy: this is when people share their ideas and opinions with each other, even if they disagree. Being able to honor someone else’s ideas requires trust and respect.
  3. Sexual Intimacy: when we think about “intimacy” we typically think about sex or sensual intimacy. However you can have sex without intimacy if it is limited to sexual gratification and/or lacks emotional connection, mutual trust, openness, or safety.

Intimacy in relationships tends to build over time. It forms as each partner provides access to more authentic parts of themselves and their partner responds to their disclosures with respect, kindness, and support. Building intimacy is easier when we intentionally reflect on our needs and boundaries and have open conversations about them.

Reflecting on our desire for intimacy and our need for boundaries are not just important for the big issues that come up in relationships. It is important to be mindful of these things during the everyday moments in a relationship. If your partner(s) turn towards you in the small, everyday moments, it is more likely that they will turn towards you during times of conflict and stress.

Let’s say you are sitting on the couch with your partner. You are scrolling on instagram and you come across a video that you want to show your partner. When you go to show your partner the video, do they:

a. Watch the video (turning towards)
b. Tell you that they will watch it later (turning away)
c. Ignore you (turning away)
d. Tell you to leave them alone (turning against)

How partners respond in situations like this can be a significant predictor of the future success of a relationship. Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned relationship researcher who has been studying couples for over 40 years, conducted a longitudinal study on newlyweds and then followed up with them 6 years later. Dr. Gottman found that the couples that remained together turned towards their partner around 86% of the time. The couples that ended up divorced after 6 years turned towards their partner only 33% of the time.

You can’t expect your partner(s) to meet your emotional needs all of the time, but it is okay to expect your partner(s) to respect your need for emotional intimacy and to turn towards you most of the time when you make a bid for their attention or affection. In a healthy relationship, you can share the things that peak your interest or make you smile and know that most of the time, your partner will share that moment with you. 


Many people wait to seek out couples/relationship counselling when the level of intimacy in a relationship has fallen and their flexible boundaries have turned rigid or porous in an effort to protect themselves from hurt or rejection. Partner counselling is most effective when it is used as a preventative measure, however even the most distant and closed off partners can still find their way back to each other as long as all partners are committed to each other, dedicated to the process of therapy, and are ready to make a change.

At Holistic Healing Counselling, our trained therapists can work with you to identify your unmet needs in romantic relationships and help you gain the skills and confidence to maintain healthy and flexible boundaries within your romantic relationships. Our trained therapists can also help you navigate the fear of being vulnerable in intimate relationships and help you cope with and process any residual hurt from previous relationships that might be getting in the way of your current relationships. Reach out to one of our Edmonton-based registered therapists today and start your healing journey.




Meet our certified therapists, Adam, Selena, Danielle, and Shaheen. No matter what you want to work on, we have a therapist to help. Our Counsellors focus on helping you feel at ease by allowing you to feel heard and understood. By using a holistic, or whole picture approach, our trained Counsellors can help their patients live a happier, more authentic life. Our therapists offer adult counselling, couples counselling, and adolescent/teen counselling. Interested in learning more? Need to book a session? Contact Us here.


Counselling doesn’t just have to be for those who have reached a crisis situation. If you want to live a happier life by discussing the issues that are causing you stress, anxiety, or fear, contact Holistic Healing today to book your free initial consultation.