Is Intimacy Always Romantic?

What is love? Love is a broad collection of behaviors and emotions characterized by emotional intimacy, emotional passion, commitment, and caring. It typically involves closeness, caring, devotion, attraction, care, and trust. In its most basic form, love is an emotional bond that develops between two people based on their shared attributes. However, love can vary significantly over time and may depend on several factors such as age and personality.


Based on one study, people are attracted to others based on the similarities they find in their personalities and traits. In turn, the brains of these individuals use similar “cue words” in order to determine the type of partner they would prefer. For instance, when it comes to choosing a romantic partner, some of the same areas of the brain are activated as when we search for common characteristics like facial features, age, educational background, occupation, income, or religion. In addition, the same areas of the brain are activated when we look at photos of people we consider to be our friends. It seems that the same areas of the brain are activated even when watching romance movies.

Another study revealed that when viewing romantic love stories, the right side of the brain (right frontal lobe) is focused on the subject, compared to when viewing non-romantic love stories. Another area of the brain called the amygdala is more active during romantic love viewing than when viewing non-romantic love stories. The left side of the brain is more focused on the object of your affections, while the right side is more preoccupied with feelings such as desire and motivation. These studies reveal that your feelings about a person have much more impact on how you will behave and will also cause you to develop different kinds of psychological and personality traits. Basically, your brain starts to make up your personality before you’ve met.

Not surprisingly, some researchers find that you are most passionate about what you are doing if you have a companionate love life. People who are really into their careers and pursuing professional goals often exhibit more passionate love. However, when a couple is just starting out, passionate love may actually be the exception rather than the rule. So then, does having a companionate relationship predispose you for romantic love?

One reason why intimacy can make you fall in love faster is that it satisfies an intimate need. When you have feelings for another person, you naturally become attracted to that person romantically. Since you know this person very well, the urge to be intimate with that person is stronger, resulting in feelings of lust. Lust only gets translated into physical attractions when your thoughts become obsessed with another person. However, once your thoughts change to loving another person romantically, you will begin to experience a new kind of intimacy.

It seems that some parts of your brain have different representation of your intimate needs and these need to be satisfied in order for you to fall in love with another person. If you think back on your childhood, you probably had very strong feelings for another person and often felt compelled to spend time with them. This often involved being intimate with each other in order to satisfy those feelings. This is the way that your brain has always been wired. If your brain starts to substitute other thoughts (romantic or not) for intimate feelings, then you may become less likely to fall in love with someone and become more inclined to stick with your current romantic relationship.