By: Alex Shea
Finally finding someone you connect with after an endless cycle of dating interviews is a magical feeling. You’re excited, possibly a little overwhelmed at the thought of this budding relationship.
Out of all the dull dates and almost relationships, you found someone that gives you butterflies. And with any new relationship, you have to nourish it in order for it to grow. You have to figure each other out — learn about each other on progressively deeper levels, building intimacy every step of the way.
This is when the idea of finding someone you want to wake up next to starts to sound a lot more doable than pacing intimacy in a new relationship. It’s all so very new so what exactly are the rules for building intimacy within a relationship?
We like to approach intimacy as both a mind and body experience. Intimacy is about the closeness you feel with someone else. As you weave different strands of intimacy into the relationship, your relationship flourishes. And with every strand, you have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to feel close to your partner.
With that being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when starting a new relationship we’d like to share with you. 1
Your Relationship With Yourself Comes First
According to Dr. Jill Weber, you’re likely to “enter romantic relationships from an emotionally dependent place” unless you take the time to get to know your sexual and emotional needs first. Getting to know who you are outside of a relationship can help you understand what you like and dislike, and then confidently communicate that to your partner.
Bringing your partner into the fold about your sexual and emotional needs can ease some of the pressure and awkwardness that new relationships can experience. Solo-pleasure can be a valuable tool to understand your needs before you communicate those needs to your partner.
Healthy communication is the lifeline to building intimacy with your partner. And even when you get the communication part down, it can still be hard to openly talk about certain aspects of your mind, body, or soul with someone new.
Your Fear of Vulnerability Is Natural
Sharing pieces of yourself with anyone isn’t an easy feat. If it were, people wouldn’t be so afraid of getting their heart broken or being betrayed by best friends. No matter how much of yourself you share with someone else, being vulnerable is scary. And that fear of vulnerability is natural.
Your fear of vulnerability may stem from past hurt or a fear of rejection. Either way, it can be the one thing holding you in place as your new relationship starts to flourish. Before you know it, you may be stuck, not growing as the petals of your relationship start to wilt.
If you’re unsure about sharing parts of yourself with your partner, but you want to learn how to share those parts, here are a few tips to help you practice vulnerability.
Answer questions honestly. Instead of answering someone’s question about how you’re feeling with an “I’m fine,” consider answering with how you actually feel versus what you think you should feel.
Validate before solving. It’s natural to want to fix your partner’s problems but consider how you’d want your partner to react to your vulnerability. By acknowledging what they’re feeling, you can make space for their feelings now so they can make space for yours whenever you’re in a vulnerable state.
Express your wants (and needs). What you feel is real and deserves to be acknowledged. Rather than closing yourself off to avoid confrontation or fixating on what’s wrong, you can strengthen your relationship by telling your partner what you want or need from them at any given time. 3
Move At Your Own Pace
Pacing intimacy in a new relationship can seem as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. It's as if everything you've learned from previous relationships, movies, or friends disappears. And here you are… at square one.
Square one can be a comfortable place to be, and it can look like a million things to a million people. Maybe your square one is not kissing on the first date. You may not remember why you feel that way but it’s a powerful feeling so you stick with it. Or maybe your square one is holding hands until both of your palms get sweaty. Whatever your square one is — it’s where you’re meant to be.
Intimacy is the intertwining of two people through acts, words, and silence. Zoe Hicks, MA and LMFT says that there are five stages of intimacy in any relationship: infatuation, landing, burying, resurfacing, and true love.
The first stage is infatuation, more commonly known as the honeymoon stage. You meet someone and can’t believe you have so much in common. You think about them all of the time, check your text messages 20 times a day, and almost always feel nauseous. Your “love hormones soar” and then fall, and then rise again. The infatuation stage is the peak and valleys of falling in love.
The landing stage feels a lot like turbulence during a flight back home after cutting your vacation short. It kind of hits you all at once and you wonder if you made the right decision flying back so soon. It’s the moment we start to look at our new partner without the love shades. Reality sets in and daily life presses on as usual, except now there’s an entire person you’re in a relationship with.
Right in the middle is the burying stage, when we may move in with our partner and start putting finances together. Everything in life becomes very real, very fast, and your relationship stops being the number one thing on your mind when you wake up. Burying isn’t a bad sign at all; it means that the relationship is becoming a part of your everyday routine. And sometimes it’s necessary to unplug from real life and rekindle those sweet feelings from the early days.
Resurfacing is when you come up for air out of the burying stage. It happens when you recognize how incredible your partner is— warts and all, and you accept your life with them in it. This stage can surface after you and your partner make it through an event that rocks your world, like the birth of a baby or a death in the family.
The final stage of intimacy is true love. It generally appears later on in the relationship once we realize that the person sitting across from us picking their nose is the person we can’t imagine a day without. This is the final stage but not the destination. As Hicks points out, the stages of love and intimacy continue to ebb and flow “for as long as the relationship lasts.”
Considering the gentle flow of intimacy, we’d say you have plenty of time to go slow and build intimacy with your partner at whatever pace your relationship calls for. 4
Intimacy Isn’t All About Sex
Sex is about more than P-in-V intercourse. And intimacy is about more than sex. Sex is only one layer within the layers of intimacy you should strive to include in any new relationship.
Physical intimacy is a great way to show affection if touch is your love language and the way you illustrate how much you care about someone. But physical intimacy and sex don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can create an opportunity for intimacy by giving your partner a massage with oils without the massage leading to sex. We recommend Lover’s Oil by Province Apothecary because it combines 10 sensual essential oils and a moisturizing base to heighten your senses during the massage experience.
When you separate sex from physical intimacy, it can remove any pressure you feel to rush into activities you aren't comfortable with. It also allows you to explore each other in new and exciting ways that you may ordinarily skip over if you're just focused on sex. There is so much intimacy to be experienced in a light touch, tracing the inside of their thigh or whispering sexy things in their ear.
They’re Thinking About It, Too!
As you wonder about your new relationship and how to move forward, there's a good chance your partner is, too. They may not know how fast they're supposed to move or which acts of intimacy are appropriate.
Practice communicating with your partner about what's going on for them. You both may be thinking the same thing so why not just ask? Ultimately this will bring you closer as you create a safe space for open dialogue and vulnerability.
As you work on building intimacy in your new relationship, keep these insights in mind. The beginning of a relationship can be intoxicating. Remember to come up for air every once in a while. Think of ways to build onto your relationship’s foundation of intimacy and encourage growth.