To start by defining terms - identify what sex is… is complicated.
It is so nuanced as strictly speaking sex is purely physical. Overall the most succinct definition is that “sex involves the arousal of physical desire and physical response to a stimulus.” (PsychCentral)
While intimacy, is more so an overarching umbrella that can have the branches of emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, and sexual intimacy. “True intimacy involves a level of emotional connection and trust that brings people closer.” (PsychCentral)
When they are written that way it is pretty apparent they are in different playing fields - so how does our society seem to continually confuse the two?
As a therapist when someone says they are having “intimacy issues” two questions come to mind for me:
- Is there an issue with your physical response to your partner?
- Is there an issue with your feelings of trust and connectedness to your partner?
Typically that helps me narrow the field of where we should focus our discussion time but, it could be that both are the issue.
Relationships exist in all types of forms. You can have sex without intimacy just as such that you can have intimacy without sex. Should you be having problems, roadblocks, or issues with either expressions of those, I recommend you speak to a licensed therapist. We are trained to help you navigate these confusing types of scenarios and hopefully come to the other side with a better understanding of yourself.