Conceptions Of Intimacy
A dilemma for scholars who study intimacy is deciding on the best way to conceptualize it. Conceptions of intimacy usually address one (or more) of three phenomena: intimate interactions, intimate relationships, or intimate experiences. Intimate interactions are communicative exchanges between people. In line with the etymological origins of the word intimacy, most definitions of intimate interaction converge on a notion of sharing the personal (i.e., innermost, private) aspects of the self. Verbal sharing can involve self-disclosure of personal facts, opinions, and beliefs, and the verbalization of feeling and emotion. Nonverbal sharing can include a shared meaningful glance, affectionate touching, or shared expressions of emotion such as tears or laughter, and sexual encounter. Sharing the personal means sharing vulnerable aspects of the self.
Intimate relationships, in contrast, "impl[y] a series of interactions between two individuals known to each other . . ." (Hinde 1981, p. 2). Intimate experiences are the feelings and thoughts people have during, and as a result of, their intimate interactions. Intimate relationships are those in which partners know each other well and who maintain positive, loving feelings towards the partner who they know so well.