The following text is an excerpt from the book “The 5 Kinds of Intimacy: How to Keep Your Love Alive” by Beth Darling, which explores the importance of love, language, and intimacy in relationships and introduces the concept of the five kinds of intimacy as crucial elements for a happy and lasting partnership.
It was obvious to all that George and Liz loved each other very much.
They were kind, supportive, and warm with each other; no one could doubt they enjoyed being together. Most importantly, they both described their twenty-eight-year marriage as happy, which isn’t all that common these days. Given this, you might be surprised to learn that they both felt something was lacking.
When prompted, they admitted that the sparks had been gone for a while; they each had a feeling that while things certainly weren’t bad, they weren’t as close as they’d like to be. So, being the proactive, ambitious people they are (in love as well as in life), they decided to make some changes.
Implementing The 5 Love Languages®
Toward that goal, they decided to read The 5 Love Languages®, Gary Chapman’s bestselling book that’s been a fan favorite—and recommended by therapists everywhere—for the past thirty years. When they finished it, George and Liz committed themselves to ninety days of sharing love with their partner in the way their partner wanted to receive it.
Words of Affirmation
Since Liz liked words of affirmation, George gave her sincere compliments every day. He would tell her how attractive she was and how much he enjoyed her cooking. Whenever he left the house to play a few rounds of golf, he would make sure to tell her how much he appreciated her taking care of the kids so he could spend time with his friends.
Acts of Service
In return, Liz provided George with acts of service every day. She cooked him delicious meals, picked up his dry cleaning, and kept his favorite snacks stocked in the pantry—where their kids couldn’t find them. Their two love languages flowed naturally between them; it was easy for George to verbally acknowledge (words of affirmation) Liz’s thoughtful acts (acts of service).
But at the end of the ninety days, even though Liz and George agreed it had been a pleasant experience, they didn’t feel anything significant had really changed or improved between them. They had been a bit nicer and more attentive to each other for three months, but they weren’t any more passionate or excited to be together. Liz and George didn’t feel any more “in love.”
They wondered if this meant they were not meant to be together after all.
Understanding the Need for Intimacy
I was so glad George and Liz came to me after this experiment rather than throwing in the towel on what was clearly a loving relationship. It was obvious to me that they had some great tools (love languages), but they weren’t using them effectively enough. They weren’t yet using those tools to create what their relationship truly needed: intimacy.
For the past ninety days, they’d been using love languages to express their love for each other, which was great! But they didn’t realize that as wonderful as love is, on its own, it lacks the substance—the intimacy— needed to make a relationship truly fulfilling.
I wish you could have seen the shock on their faces when the truth became obvious: they’d been loving each other throughout their entire marriage but were still “hungry” because they hadn’t been focusing on intimacy!
You Aren’t Building a Table, You're Building Love, Language, and Intimacy
Don’t get me wrong; The 5 Love Languages is a fabulous resource. It has given millions of couples insight into how they enjoy giving and receiving love. Chapman gave the world a powerful tool kit. It’s no wonder we all got so excited; we never stopped to question what to build with all the love we finally knew how to express!
It’s as if we got new woodworking tools. Can you imagine spending years sawing wood into pieces, which you’d then hammer full of nails, only to throw them into a pile in the corner? Sure, that may be a fun activity when you’re learning to use a new tool, but it doesn’t take long before aimlessly hammering away becomes pretty boring.
If, on the other hand, you focus on using your skills to create something substantive, like a bench to place under your favorite shade tree, you’ll probably experience a burst of pride every time someone uses it. In turn, that feeling of success will likely motivate you to build something else.
Love, Language, and Intimacy
What it boils down to is this: Love is an emotion. Love languages are tools we can use to express or receive that emotion, but that’s not the end of the story. I see lots of loving marriages where each spouse is fluent in the other’s love language, but far too many of these relationships are still suffering from a lack of intimacy. How do I know this? Think of all the married couples who live like roommates and/or operate like collegial business partners.
In happy, lasting romantic relationships, love languages are used to create mutually fulfilling intimacy between loving partners. This not only sustains their existing love; it also spurs more intimacy, which, in turn, grows even more love.
In other words, love languages are great tools we can use to create, build, and affirm intimacy. When both partners are receptive, a perpetual intimacy cycle results, which keeps their love alive. Love languages are great tools we can use to create, build, and affirm intimacy. When both partners are receptive, a perpetual intimacy cycle results, which keeps their love alive.
Learning How to Create Intimacy
Now, I get it; talk is cheap. It’s easy to say, “Yay, let’s build intimacy!” just like it’s easy to say, “Let’s build a table.” But when push comes to shove, at least we all know what a table is. While we may not know the exact steps involved in building one, we know what a table looks like and what it does: A table has legs that support a surface upon which we can place other items.
When it comes to intimacy, on the other hand, we’re pretty much clueless.
We’re not sure what it looks like, what it’s made of, or what its purpose is. We’ve never learned a clear-cut, concise, workable definition of intimacy. Nor have we ever had a specific understanding of the role intimacy plays in our relationships. No wonder we’ve been frustrated! No wonder so many people have “settled.”
Personally, I found the circular, illogical uses of the term intimacy so unhelpful that I had to unravel it before I drove myself nuts! I have no sense of direction but going in circles isn’t fun for anyone.
Thankfully, I have a mind skilled in getting to the root of an issue and love logic problems, so the geeky part of me enjoyed the challenge. I figured understanding intimacy had to be easier than taking two different state bar exams, and I was right! My logical lawyer brain kicked into action as I searched desperately for a good working model of intimacy, and when I didn’t find it, I created it.
The 5 Kinds of Intimacy to Keep Falling in Love
The 5 Kinds of Intimacy are simple (though not obvious), easy to understand, fun to implement and allow for insightful analysis. While they are all equally important and non-linear, I think of them in this order: physical, emotional, sexual, romantic, and spiritual.
After working with thousands of couples, I have found that these 5 intimacies are the fundamental building blocks of a happy, lasting relationship, whether romantic or platonic. They are to a marriage like the food groups are to a body: Each one is necessary and none can substitute for another.
Together these 5 intimacies create love, passion, commitment, empathy, and compassion.
What You’ll Get Out of the Book
In this book, I’ll teach you how to create a healthy diet that includes each kind of intimacy. You’ll learn what part each plays in a healthy partnership so you’ll understand the benefits, as well as notice the signs of a deficit.
Next, I’ll give you a straightforward worksheet to assess what’s working—or not working— in your relationship. Lastly, you’ll find 17 simple, fun practices to easily create more intimacy. The best part is these aren’t “one-and-done” practices; you’ll enjoy using them for years to come.
Beth Darling (aka: Beth Liebling) is a former divorce lawyer who flipped and is now an internationally recognized Love and Life Coach, Author, Radio Host and Speaker. She offers private coaching for individuals & couples, as well as private and public workshops.
Beth authored the award winning/Amazon Best Selling book, Love and Laughter: Sexy (meaningful) Fun for Everyone and her latest book, The 5 Kinds of Intimacy: How to Keep Your Love Alive is now available on Amazon. A former ESPN Houston radio host, Beth Darling currently hosts Come With Us Podcast.
Learn more and check out her video on-demand classes at BethDarling.com. For speaking engagements or 1:1 coaching opportunities, email her directly: Beth@Darlingway.com