What is intellectual intimacy?

Sep 7, 2021

As you may have heard many others talk about, intellectual intimacy pertains to forming a connection with someone where you are free to share your thoughts and ideas on the world around you. When you speak, you are heard, and you are able to reciprocate in kind. What most people don’t talk about when it comes to such a form of intimacy is that it can absolutely exist outside of romantic relationships as well, and that it isn’t necessarily separable from emotional and spiritual forms, even if it is distinguishable.

That said, you can begin to see how it would form part of the core of a healthy and fulfilling relationship, as well. It is, after all, essential for your partner to be able to engage with you on a number of levels and for that engagement to not require life-draining amounts of effort just to get on the same page. And all of this does indeed factor back into how to be sexually intimate with a partner and to manifest more intimate sex with them. 

This is where intellectual intimacy comes into play. If you are familiar with how someone else’s mind works, how they rationalize ideas, how they respond to something initially, and how they may respond given a bit of time, and most importantly, how they articulate their thoughts, then there is a good chance you’ll be able to understand exactly what they mean, even if at times they are unable to offer sufficient explanation. The key to building intellectual intimacy then would be to familiarize yourself with how your partner uses language; what certain words, ideas, and concepts mean for them, and where they find meaning in life.

Why Intellectual Intimacy Matters

At this point you may be thinking, “Okay, but why does it matter whether or not I invest in intellectual intimacy? Maybe I don’t need to connect with my partner on an intellectual level, to be fulfilled, or maybe I don’t really care about having “intellectual” conversations with them.” And that’s fair, but only to a certain extent.

Forms of intimacy, as mentioned earlier, are not separable into neat little categories. In fact, most of our lives are filled with intersections or overlaps of categories we consider distinct, and the same is true for the different types of intimacy. To even begin to build emotional, experiential, or even physical intimacy, your thoughts need to align or at least be communicated to a certain extent to your partner. 

Whether you’ve just met someone or have been in a relationship for a while, the bedrock of building any kind of intimacy is understanding and communication, which are really a different set of words for the same thing. Intellectual intimacy is basically equivalent to practicing your communication skills but in the specific context of those near and dear to you. Situations that are emotionally or sexually charged and those that are platonic, so to speak, require a great degree of good communication to navigate. 

Think of times when you’ve wanted your partner to know how you feel about something, without you having to say it, or when you expected them to react to something you shared, but they didn’t, or even situations where you have been uncomfortable sharing something with them because you fear how they would respond. All of these scenarios require you and your partner to be able to set aside your emotion for the split second that it takes to start a conversation about it. As easy as that sounds, it is impossible without a degree of intellectual intimacy.  

intellectual intimacy

How to Build Intellectual Intimacy with your Partner

If you’re beginning to see why connecting on an intellectual level is so important for a healthy relationship, then you must also be wondering how one can go about “connecting.” Of course, this varies a great deal, depending on who you are, what your language of expression is, how much you reflect internally, and also on the world around you. 

Nevertheless, you can take the following suggestions as a generalized guideline on how to build intellectual intimacy:

  1. Don’t shy away from disagreement or discord. Ideas that you and your partner have differing views on are pretty much gold mines for unearthing your partner’s rationale. Speak to them about why they hold certain views and why yours may diverge. The point is not to try and convince them to join ranks with you but to understand where the divergence comes from.
  2. Reflect on how your mind works, how you draw conclusions or respond to certain events in life. If you are able to understand the flow of your own thought processes, you will be much better equipped to articulate them when the time comes, and you absolutely should.
  3. Be open to feedback from your partner; the more the better. There’s no need to immediately find agreement on ideas or rank them in a hierarchy. Just being receptive to what your significant others are saying and hearing them out is essential, even when you think you know what they’re saying or know that you disagree. You might find something more there or a differing perspective that you missed earlier.
  4. Read more about ideas that are important to you. You are not alone in anything that you think or feel in this world. Chances are, many others have felt the same, and many more may, but struggle to find words. The more you engage with ideas that you hold dear and have been written about by others, the more clarity you may gain on them for yourself. This clarity goes a long way when you’re trying to build intellectual intimacy with your partner.
Intellectual Intimacy

Examples of Intellectual Intimacy

Now that you’ve got an idea of what lines you need to be thinking along if you’re looking for intellectual intimacy, we can ground the discussion in more tangible terms, with a few examples:

  1. Knowing about your partner’s dreams and aspirations is a great place to start. Again, they don’t have to align with yours, but understanding the way your partner thinks of their future goes a long way in ensuring healthy communication.
  2. Finding out more about or even experiencing things they are interested in can help place you in their shoes. You may discover you’re into some things that you didn’t know before, or maybe you’re not. That doesn’t matter either way. The point is to know what piques your partner’s interest.
  3. Paying attention to your partner’s responses to the world around them is a great starting point for a strong intellectual connection. If you know how and why they respond to certain stimuli the way they do, you’re already beginning to venture into new forms of intimacy. If you don’t understand something, always ask sincerely.
  4. Being able to talk freely and allowing your partner to do the same is an indispensable part of intellectual intimacy. Even if you will never see eye to eye on the matter, there must always be a space to discuss it.
  5. Sharing your past experiences with them and learning more about theirs can go a long way in helping you understand why their mind functions a different way. Our experiences in life shape the way we think in more ways than we consciously realize. Trauma responses are one example of this. So knowing more about the life they’ve led is absolutely vital.

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