Understanding the Four Types of Intimacy and How They Impact Your Health

It’s February, and around here that means celebrating Black History Month, Aquarius season, and (at least in this episode) very reluctantly love.

If you’ve been listening to Balanced Black Girl for a while, you know I loathe talking about modern dating and the way relationships are discussed online right now. However, we can’t talk about living a healthy lifestyle without talking about building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Join me in this safe container, free from discussions about who’s fixing whose plate, to explore the connections between relationships and our well-being.

LISTEN HERE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Play

Episode 175 Topics:

  • The hurtful marketing strategy that relationship content thrives on
  • Recognizing connection as a skill
  • Why relationships are so important to happy, healthy lives
  • Emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, mental intimacy, and spiritual intimacy
  • The value in not being defensive to questioning

Episode 175 Resources:

Episode 175 Sponsors:

  • Zocdoc | Find and book a top-rated doctor in your area today with Zocdoc. Visit zocdoc.com/balanced to download the app for free.
  • Open | Move, meditate, and breathe in community with Open. Get 30 days free when you go to go.o-p-e-n.com/balancedles.

Episode 175 Transcript

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My name is Les, I'm your host, and I really appreciate you tuning in and sharing space with me. So how we do things around here is we have monthly themes that are a central topic that we explore,

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each week on the podcast from different angles. Last month, we were reframing our habits with the reframing the reset series, which so many of you loved, makes me so happy. We've done that series

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two years in a row now, and it continues to be one of our most popular and something that listeners love coming back to you again and again. So if you haven't yet checked out the episodes from last

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month, I highly recommend you do. Although it's New Year's themed, it's never a bad time to reset your habits and get re-centered. In that series, I had an episode on habits, digital self-care,

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fitness motivation, alcohol consumption, and focus. So really building blocks to your wellness journey. This week, it's a new month. Happy February. If you happen to be listening to this episode the week it's coming out. We got Black History Month, it's Aquarius season, at least,

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until we move into Pisces season. We got Valentine's Day coming up. And this month, our theme is intimacy and connection. And we're going to be exploring intimacy from all angles. We have an

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episode on platonic intimacy and friendship, intimacy with self and sexual intimacy in the coming weeks. And we have some incredible guests coming on to educate us about these topics.

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Now, I also have to shout out our amazing community on Geneva called Club Balanced, which is the official Balanced Black Girl group chat. You can connect with other listeners. You

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can chat with me. We have monthly wellness challenges. And this month we are having a romanticize your life, self-love themed challenge. We also have a monthly book club. We have workout

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inspo. We have recipe inspo. It's just such a kind, inviting community. So we have a link in the show notes where you can join us there if you want to continue talking about these episodes after they

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go off of air. If you want to join the Romanticize Your Life Challenge where each week we'll just be giving you suggestions of little things you can do to show yourself some love. And it's also a great way to connect with other listeners in your area.

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So I'm going to be kicking off this series with a solo episode to talk to you more about why I feel like intimacy is such an important topic to explore on the podcast and the role intimacy and connection play in our overall health. Now for a little background, I loathe relationship,

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content. Specifically conversations about romantic relationships and the way romantic relationships and dating have been talked about online for the past few years has been really disheartening.

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My observation is that a lot of, not all, not speaking absolutes, but a lot of relationship coaches and creators use their platforms as a means to either project or to create a space

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for people to project or to capitalize on the insecurities of others or honestly a lot of both.

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And frankly, I think a lot of the ways that people talk about relationships online is damaging. I think it's unproductive. And I'm honestly kind of bored of it. If I can just be all the way real,

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which I can because it's my show. And that's because I truly believe that there are people for everyone, whether that is romantic, platonic family, chosen family. There's so much nuance in and how we connect to one another,

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but I really do believe that we can all find ways,

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to build meaningful connection.

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Unfortunately, positivity is not what gets the clicks, it's not what gets the views, it's not what always goes viral.

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And as I mentioned in the digital self-care episode, making inflammatory remarks designed to hurt and outrage people is a really effective marketing strategy that I think the relationship niche has mastered.

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I also think that a lot of relationship content is kind of mean.

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It's all about scolding people if they don't get a certain outcome or play a game in a certain way or have friendships that are in a certain image.

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When it comes to how we talk about relationships online, we as a collective are really mean to one another.

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And then we wonder why we can't connect. And the reality is we're all humans being human, figuring this all out as we go. There's so much nuance. There's no one way to do things.

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We just have experiences that we can learn from. I think at their core, relationships of all kind, whether that's family, friends, chosen family, or romantic are all about safety. And a lot of the

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ways that we engage with each other online about various topics, but especially about relationships.

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Are frankly not safe. Anybody can become the talk of the timeline and get dragged up one app and down the other, especially when talking about relationships or maybe elements of the relationships

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that they're struggling with. And it's just not always a safe space for honest conversation and to give people space to learn. Now, because I feel that way, I have shied away from talking about a a lot of these topics on the podcast.

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But when talking about health and wellbeing, we really can't leave relationships out of the equation.

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We can't be well without one another.

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Our relationships and how connected we feel is one of the most influential factors of our health outcomes.

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Our sense of belonging and how we relate to one another has greater impact on our health than what we eat, how much we exercise, whether or not we smoke, And we can't have conversations about health without talking about relationships.

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So with this month's series, I want to create a container that feels a bit safer to explore these topics.

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Now, I promise you, you will not be hearing conversations about 50-50, who sits in the front seat, whose plate gets fixed first, who's paying for the birthday dinner or whatever in this series.

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If you do, please alert my emergency contacts because I'm being held against my will and I need help.

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I'm just kidding. But that's because none of these topics are things that are inherently good or bad.

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If you enjoy fixing somebody's plate and that's the dynamic of your relationship, great.

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And if you don't and you don't wanna do that, then don't, right?

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If your friend group is big balling and somebody, one person wants to pay for the birthday dinner, great. And if everybody's like, we're all going Dutch and that's what works for your friend group, great.

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Because again, it depends on what works for your connection. So we're not gonna be speaking in absolutes, but we're just gonna be giving tools and resources and suggestions to help you strengthen,

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how you connect with people in your life.

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We're going to look at what it means to have connection and intimacy in our lives to support our well-being. And we're going to do this without judgment. Everybody experiences challenges with

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connection at some point, and that is because connection is a skill. It has nothing to do with our worth or attractiveness or being the life of the party or how well you play games, or if you're

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a high value woman or whose plate you're willing to fix, the ability to connect is a skill. And And it is a skill that we need to constantly be cultivating and working towards because we're all learning,

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and evolving and some of the ways that we were maybe taught to connect earlier in life may not resonate with the types of connections we're trying to establish,

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later in our life.

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And so it's okay to be a student understanding the skill of connection. We're all learning, we're all evolving and these conversations are really designed to be a neutral space where we can all build that skill of connection together.

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So I wanna talk a bit about why relationships are so important.

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So let's get into some of the benefits of healthy social connections. First and foremost is healthy relationships help lower your stress levels.

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Healthy bonds are correlated to lower cortisol levels and cortisol is our main stress hormone.

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When we feel a sense of connection to those around us, we're more likely to have lower cortisol levels.

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And this is because historically we survived in community. Centuries ago, if you were just vibing out on your own, you were less likely to have the food you need,

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the shelter you need, the warmth you need, were likely to be less protected from run-ins with other creatures.

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So our brains genuinely associate being connected with a sense of calm and safety.

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In modern society, we don't have those same threats. You can absolutely vibe out on your own and still have a lot of what you need, but our brains don't necessarily know that.

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Now, the way we live now, this is some new-ish compared to the way humans have been living for thousands of years. So our brains are still wired to find that sense of safety in community.

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And we all know how much stress impacts our health. We know how much it really wears down our bodies and weathers us.

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Now, relationships can be stressful too if you're in the wrong ones or if it's a really chaotic time. So it really is about striking a balance and prioritizing healthy bonds that are beneficial for everybody involved.

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Next, we also tend to live longer when we're connected, whether that's through bonds with friends, family, community members, people tend to live longer when they stay connected with other people.

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Strong social ties are correlated with lower levels of cognitive decline as we age. Harvard reported a study that found that those who don't have strong relationships or social

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ties actually had a 50% chance of increased death from all causes, which is comparable to the risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

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So just going to sum that up one more time. a lack of healthy connection with others can have a similar impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,

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which is a really sobering piece of information.

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And that's why I'm like, when I see us arguing about whose plate gets fixed first, I'm like, we are talking about the wrong thing. How do we connect with one another so that we can be calm and happy and healthy and live, right?

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As I mentioned, our connections with others also has a higher impact on our overall health outcomes more than physical activity. And this is a theme that we will be coming back to again and again in the series.

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Yes, while we are a month into the new year.

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So we just reviewed why relationships are so important for our health. Now we're going to talk about how to improve our relationships by understanding the four different types of intimacy.

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We're going to review what they are, why they're important for our health, and I will say none of these types of intimacy are exclusive to romantic partners.

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All of these can apply to any type of relationship or connection with other people you have, whether that is a partner, friends, family members, chosen family, coworkers, anyone who you can establish a connection with, there are themes of these different types of intimacy.

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So the first type of intimacy we're going to cover is physical intimacy. Physical intimacy involves physical contact or even just a sense of body closeness. This can be kissing, cuddling,

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hugging, touching a hand, being in proximity to. According to a 2020 study, there is a distinct correlation between the absence of physical intimacy and perceived feelings of loneliness.

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In this study, participants who were exposed to repeated physical contact reported feeling less lonely and neglected. They also had a lower heart rate, which is an important indicator of well-being.

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Researchers believe that physical contact has this impact on us because, as I mentioned earlier, humans re-evolved to associate closeness as a means to survival, but it's also important for

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building bonds and just feeling emotionally connected. There have been multiple studies looking at the positive health impacts of hugging in particular. Hugs have been shown to reduce

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stress in those giving and receiving the hug as a means of support. There's also evidence that hugs can reduce your likelihood of getting sick, or if you do get sick, can reduce the severity of your,

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symptoms. Another study suggested that hugs and affection lowered both heart rate and blood pressure which supports our heart health. And another study suggested that light touching,

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such as hugging, actually reduced pain in fibromyalgia patients specifically. Although this could correlate to other types of pain as well, but that was just specifically what that

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study was measuring. There is a famous therapist, Virginia Satur has stated that as humans, we need four daily hugs for survival, eight daily hugs for maintenance, and 12 daily hugs for growth. Now,

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I don't know if there is research to support quantifying how many hugs or how much physical contact we need to survive, but the moral of the story is welcomed physical touch.

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Can be soothing and it can really calm us down, which has positive health implications.

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Another aspect of physical intimacy outside of touch is simply closeness and proximity. When we're physically near people we feel a sense of connection to,

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it can really put us at ease. In so many ways, just in modern society and especially stemming from the pandemic, a lot of our interactions with one another have been virtual. And because of that

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lack of actual proximity, it does impact our perceived feelings of closeness. That's where Zoom fatigue comes from? Like our brains even still this many years in.

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Have a very hard time processing other people's faces on screens, and it does not register the same as actually being physically near somebody. So because our brains are having to work so much harder to kind of process what people on a screen are saying to us, we tend to feel more exhausted.

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We don't get that same feeling of calm that we do when people are in proximity.

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Now, I don't think that means that we need to throw all caution to the wind. The pandemic is is still very real is definitely not over, despite what a lot of people think. And we

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also can't go around hugging random people without consent. Consent is absolutely mandatory for physical intimacy and all types of intimacy. Any contact without consent is the opposite

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of intimacy and harms closeness. We obviously need to be respectful and honor each other's boundaries and uphold our own. But I do think it's good to be informed and to understand how our bodies respond to closeness and why it's so important for our well-being.

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So when we have the opportunity for closeness, we can really understand why we need it and really savor the benefits of it.

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Next is emotional intimacy, which involves experiences where people connect over sharing their thoughts, feelings, fears, and just ultimately feel safe and understood after sharing their emotions.

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That's why we tend to feel closer to people after we share information about ourselves or let people in so that they can learn a little bit more about our experiences.

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The biggest thing that we can do to improve our sense of emotional intimacy is to listen to one another.

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Truly listen to help one another feel heard instead of immediately jumping to a solution or brushing off how someone else may feel even if it brings up uncomfortable feelings.

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Asking questions and having a sense of curiosity with one another instead of judgment when we share emotionally vulnerable details with one another is an important part of this skill set that builds.

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Connection. Building emotional intimacy can be challenging if one or both people are emotionally unavailable. And that's why emotional intimacy often starts with the self. Being able to understand your own feelings and experiences or working with a therapist to help identify.

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Your feelings and how different experiences you had in your life have shaped how you appear and how you view things. And then sharing with people you trust so that they can understand you better.

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But it's really hard to do that if you haven't done that within yourself first. It's important that we don't mistake this though for trauma bonding and emotional dumping.

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Similar to physical intimacy, there is a level of consent that needs to happen here. What can seem like emotional intimacy on the surface can actually be a form of manipulation.

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I say that not to shame or judge, but truly for awareness and understanding so that we're able to to really recognize if we are potentially being manipulated or if we are potentially doing the manipulating.

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So both or all people involved need to have some agency and need to be able to buy in to the bond.

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And there needs to be a level of reciprocity. It doesn't mean that every conversation needs to have an exact 50-50 split of vulnerable sharing,

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but it does mean that kind of the net nature of the bond needs to have some reciprocity.

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If a relationship solely consists of one person just unloading all of the time, then that's probably not actually building a strong mutual connection. And if the other person is just

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sitting there doing all the listening and just taking it in all of the time, they probably don't feel that sense of perceived closeness. So we want to make sure that everyone in the connection feels involved, to feel a sense of emotional safety,

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with one another.

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And again, this is not exclusive to romantic partners. This is important for family and friends to that baseline of emotional safety.

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The next kind of intimacy we're going to discuss is mental intimacy, which is also commonly referred to as intellectual intimacy. So when we talked about emotional intimacy, we talked about finding safety in sharing our feelings with one another.

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Mental intimacy is about finding safety and sharing your ideas, your opinions, and your dreams.

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It's also about feeling comfortable being able to push back a bit and ask questions and maybe challenge the ideas of others in your life, as well as being open to being challenged and exploring new ways of doing things.

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This form of intimacy is kind of tricky because I think a lot of us were raised to kind of do the exact opposite as children.

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I grew up in a time where kids were not necessarily encouraged to ask questions or push back on things that they didn't understand. Children were expected to accept and respect any and everything that came out of any and every adult's mouth.

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Now I do see this changing because I think millennials and Gen Zs are raising our kids pretty differently, but for us, we may need a little work and support to help us build

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the skill of mental intimacy because if you go your whole life not pushing back or feeling like you can't speak up or it's disrespectful to ask questions or you feel maybe a little bit scared to share your ideas for fear of judgment.

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You go your whole life that way, it's hard to just flip a switch and magically start doing that, you know, in your 20s or in your 30s. That's why it's a skill that we need to build.

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And that skill involves not seeing disagreement as an attack. We may need help seeing questions as a form of connection and deepening bonds and understanding as opposed to seeing questions as a

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challenge to our character or a challenge to our worth if people don't necessarily take what we say at face value. Creating safety in our relationships where we can be curious, ask questions, poke holes in things a little bit, and leave space for evolving and maybe doing things,

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differently if how we were previously doing things wasn't working for us is a huge part of mental and intellectual intimacy. That doesn't mean turn every little thing into a debate,

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because honestly, that's kind of annoying. But it means that we're making the effort to understand.

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At people in our lives as they grow and evolve and that they are doing the same for us.

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If these conversations are coming from a place of respect and seeking to understand, then mental intimacy can be a really strong connection point.

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And the last form of intimacy we're gonna talk about is spiritual intimacy. And that involves feeling comfortable, being able to show up and share your beliefs with the people in your life without judgment, even if they have differing beliefs.

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It's when we alongside our beliefs are fully and wholly accepted and when we fully and wholly accept the people in our lives along with their beliefs.

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It's actually why such strong bonds and relationships and communities come from churches and places of faith because having that shared sense of belief is a really strong connection point.

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I would even say one of the things that I think churches and places of faith do best is build community because it is such a strong way to bond.

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Currently, a lot of the research on spiritual intimacy is centered on married couples, which makes sense because the nature of marriage often requires a deeper sense of spiritual intimacy. But again, these points can support any connection.

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A study by Bowling Green State University found that in relationships where there was greater spiritual intimacy, they reported better functioning relationships, more warmth, humor, and feeling loved, as well as less negativity and hostility.

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Overall greater satisfaction.

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That is pretty significant. Elements that help researchers understand and measure spiritual intimacy include feeling comfortable, being honest, and disclosing what their spiritual beliefs are,

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and feeling heard by the other person, not being judgmental when the other person discloses what their spiritual beliefs are, and feeling like your spiritual beliefs are not being judged, as well as giving and receiving support when someone in the connection discloses a spiritual,

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struggle that they're going through. Now, according to researchers, spiritual intimacy can still be attained when people have different beliefs. While having the same beliefs can help,

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for simplicity's sake, it truly is all about that sense of safety and showing up as your full self.

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Including your beliefs in the equation. Now, I want to point out that we don't necessarily need all types of intimacy to be at equilibrium all the time. They should all be present to an extent,

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in all of our relationships, but how much will depend on the nature of the relationship and also where the relationship is at in that given point in time. So in friendships, emotional intimacy

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may be a really high priority for people. In work relationships, mental intimacy may be most important so that you feel comfortable brainstorming and sharing new ideas or you feel safe challenging the ideas of your coworkers.

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Now for marriage, I kind of think you probably need all of them. I think you probably need all of them to be a priority.

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But then again, I think it'll depend on what you and your partner's needs are.

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If you have a relationship rooted in faith, then it probably makes sense for spiritual intimacy to be like the top priority, but it might depend.

00:25:47.848 --> 00:25:59.147
If you just had a baby, maybe physical intimacy when building a bond with your baby is going to be really important because that baby needs skin to skin, they need to be fed, they feel comforted when they're held.

00:25:59.508 --> 00:26:10.454
For them to develop a secure attachment style, they need a sense of proximity and close proximity and to understand that you or others in their lives are going to be there for them. So that often requires being close by.

00:26:10.760 --> 00:26:18.488
But then as your child grows up, that changes. And as they're learning and growing, then maybe mental and emotional intimacy become more important.

00:26:18.488 --> 00:26:27.168
So you can kind of gauge where the relationships are in your life with what type of intimacy should be the focus.

00:26:27.168 --> 00:26:34.832
Again, I think all of them will matter for most relationships, but the priority will kind of depend on the nature of the relationship.

00:26:35.128 --> 00:26:50.676
Having strong connections kind of looks like being able to read the room a bit and read your relationships and co-create the level of intimacy that's most needed in that moment to strengthen and maintain that bond.

00:26:50.888 --> 00:26:56.483
So that is a big part of navigating relationships and connections.

00:26:56.933 --> 00:27:06.223
Thank you for tuning into this week's episode of Balance Black Girl. That is what I have for you today because we're really going to dive in, in the rest of this series. This was just going to

00:27:06.223 --> 00:27:14.943
be kind of an introduction to the world of intimacy and the different types of intimacy we're going to explore. But I cannot wait for you to hear the rest of the episodes in this series

00:27:14.943 --> 00:27:28.711
because we have an incredible lineup of guests who are going to help us really strengthen our bonds with ourselves and one another. Head to the show notes for links to the works cited in in today's episode as well as information about today's sponsors.

00:27:28.823 --> 00:27:38.208
Make sure you check out our sponsors, use the discount codes, they're really hooking us up and offering some incredible goodies and support from our sponsors is what keeps this show going.

00:27:38.463 --> 00:27:50.784
And also don't forget to join us in our Geneva Community Club Balanced. This month in the club, we are focusing on self-love with the Romanticize Your Life Challenge. So you can head to the show notes to join us in the group chat.

00:27:51.298 --> 00:27:57.343
We're also reading the book, By the Book by Jasmine Guillory, which is just a cute retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

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It's like a light little romance, not too smutty because we wanna try to keep things appropriate.

00:28:02.583 --> 00:28:09.968
But if you are, if you're ever looking for some smut, I'm happy to provide recommendations. Just send me a DM and I can recommend if you're looking for something a little spicier.

00:28:10.183 --> 00:28:14.748
But make sure you join us in Club Balanced for the Romanticize Your Life Challenge and for this month's book club.

00:28:14.823 --> 00:28:19.808
It's totally free and it is an amazing space to connect with other balanced black girl listeners.

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Next week, we are talking about platonic intimacy, how to make friends as an adult, and how we can be better friends to one another.

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Very important stuff. So I will see you back here next Tuesday. and make sure you're subscribed so you don't miss it.

00:28:36.400 --> 00:28:45.526



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