The Seven Levels of Intimacy

  • What is true intimacy?
  • What does it mean to be emotionally available or unavailable?
  • What is "relationship fast-forwarding"?
  • Why do some relationships last throughout all seasons of life while others do not?
  • How can two partners feel more fulfilled in their relationship?

Answers to such questions can be explored with Matthew Kelly's "Seven Levels of Intimacy". In his book he explains how relationships grow step by step, from the most superficial level to the deepest level of intimacy.

While some relationships are meant to remain at lower levels of intimacy (with the mail man or our boss for example), our relationship with our life partner will be most fulfilling if we can reach the seventh level of intimacy.

Without further ado, here are Kelly's Sevel Levels of Intimacy:

  • Level 1 - Clichés ("Nice weather, isn't it?", "How are you doing?")
  • Level 2 - Facts ("I was born in...", "Where are you from?")
  • Level 3 - Opinions ("I think that...", "What's your opinion about...?")
  • Level 4 - Hopes and dreams ("My hope for the future is...", "What do you dream of for your life?")
  • Level 5 - Feelings ("When... happens, I feel...", "I need your support", "How can I make you feel loved?")
  • Level 6 - Faults, fears, and failures ("I regret..., "My greatest fear is...", "What has been your most disappointing failure?", "How can I help you?")
  • Level 7 - Legitimate needs ("My physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs are...", "What are your needs?", "How can I help you become the best version of yourself?")

Even though a model can't explain all the nuances of a relationship, this way of looking at intimacy is extremely helpful because it clarifies complex situations. With this model, we can start answering the questions at the top of this post:

  • True intimacy is not just sex, companionship, and achieving common goals together. It's about exploring and helping each other fulfill legitimate needs (which include but are not limited to sex, companionship, and common goals).
  • Being emotionally available in a relationship means being able and willing to move past Level 4 and share feelings, fears, and failures with another person.
  • Relationship fast-forwarding is when a partner speaks and acts as if the relationship had already reached a deeper level of intimacy. A new relationship must go through each level one by one; levels can only be bypassed in imaginary relationships, not in real ones.
  • Although some relationships don't have the necessary compatibility to continue in the long-term, a lot of relationships fail because they get stuck at a low level of intimacy despite progressing on the external aspects of weddings, homes, kids, etc. Deepening the relationship past Level 4 is necessary for a relationship to last long-term and be fulfilling.
  • To find fulfillment, both partners need to clarify what would make their relationship great and stick to that purpose. Moving targets lead to the "Grass is Greener Syndrome". Aiming for Level 7 makes for a great relationship purpose because it brings the focus on helping one another fulfill legitimate needs rather than pursuing illigitimate wants.

How intimate do you and your partner feel? How could you nurture the level of intimacy that your relationship has reached? What could help deepen your relationship intimacy?