in: Dating & Relationships

Intimacy, Passion & Sex: A Recipe for Lasting Love

When cultivating a relationship, balance is key—even for the more obscure elements of a partnership; let’s break down this trifecta of lasting love.

Intimacy. Passion. Sex.

These three concepts go hand in hand, yes; this is meant to address a common misconception within society: that these elements are one in the same or that one cannot exist without the other.   

But I am here to be the bearer of bad news, they certainly are not one in the same, and many struggle with experiencing all of them during any given single sexual encounter. 

When these three elements exist simultaneously, therein lies the true enlightened experience of intimate, ultimate sex, tantric pleasure, true love and the true joining of two souls. It can be done… but not without work. 

As a clinical sexologist, I help couples and individuals define and find ways of accomplishing this. We can open the floodgates of sexual expression and exploration in an effort to obtain sexual freedom—that freedom ultimately leads to complete enlightenment. This sexual freedom is a gateway to a higher level of consciousness, acceptance and unconditional love. 

But, lets not attempt to establish world peace just yet. First, we start with basic “sex” and “love” education. 

How do we define intimacy, passion, and sex? How do they differ? And most importantly, how in the world is it love without those present all the time?


Most people I encounter take the word “intimacy” and replace it for “sex.” This may have happened in an effort to avoid politically incorrect words like “sex” or the “f” word when speaking—not to mention the word “coitus” just sounds ridiculous. 

mindful sex, intimacy, connectionThe term “intimacy” refers to an affectionate or close interpersonal relationship or act thereof. I can see how this became intertwined with the physical act of sex; but to clarify, there are many, many ways to reach intimacy without sex.

Intimacy is facilitated through closeness between two or more people at any given time. This could be achieved by touching someone’s face or hand, through reading a book together or even playing a board game. A one-way street to intimacy is through quality time. Whatever that entails is up to you. Quality time is not sitting next to each other watching television or playing on your phones.

Intimacy is attained through a more genuine exchange that occurs after establishing real love, trust, companionship, etc. That does not mean you can’t get glimpses of it at the beginning stages of an exchange with someone, because that can absolutely happen. It just often takes more time.


Passion is a tricky one because passion is subjective. 

With passion, like intimacy, can be applied to far-more than the physical act of sex. We can be passionate about our careers, our hobbies, our loved ones, our pets and our sex; however, what passion feels like, how it is applied, to what or who it is applied and when it is applied changes constantly.  

The mistake we so often make is once we feel passionate about something we feel that that we should always be passionate about it; the second that we don’t, we decide must not need or want it anymore. That is the single most-destructive belief that has been applied to our relationships and marriages.

That passion that we all chase in the start of a relationship is temporary, usually referred to as the “honeymoon” phase. It will not last forever.  

Passion refers to a compelling emotion or feeling—such as love or hate. It’s sometimes described as a strong sexual desire. Passion can be so many things while also just being one. 

The problem? We hear the word “passion” and think, “Oh, the sex is mind blowing and my body just yearns for him/her.” But more often than not, even when couples have experienced passion, the physical act of the sex may have been awkward, one or both may not have achieved orgasm, or they didn’t know each other’s bodies well enough for it to be fully mind blowing. Why? 

Because passion, just like intimacy, is often linked to the “honeymoon” phase. When sexual passion and intimacy fades and the sex becomes mundane or stagnant, couples want to break up or divorce saying “I don’t feel the passion anymore. We aren’t in love anymore.” That’s because they are looking for it in the wrong places. Couples shouldn’t be looking for anything, they should be focused on understanding passion and working on creating it. 


Sex. Yes, sex can just be sex. 

It can be a mechanical action to meet a basic biological need of sexual satisfaction without any involvement of deep emotion or feeling.  

Some have asked whether or not that is entirely true. Are humans capable of having emotionless sex? I think it might be possible with the help of drugs or alcohol to numb; but even with that, there is something that occurs during the biological act of sex that is not within our control. 

We have a biological need for sex, but we also have a biological need to connect interpersonally. So one way or another, some sort of a connection occurs emotionally and mentally as well. Where our control comes in is whether we attach meaning to it or not.  

So those who walk away without attaching meaning, those are the individuals who can chalk it off as a mechanical action.


Love is so much more than the intimacy or passion we experience through sex. All of those components play a role in the true meaning of love. 

The single best way to describe true love is through the word freedom.  

One of my favorite authors, Osho, touches on this in his book Being in Love: How to lovers in bedLove with Awareness and Relate Without Fear. The true meaning of love is the notion that you have sex, passion, or intimacy with someone while not looking for it, needing it or missing anything when you don’t have it. This is all in name of acceptance-that the moment is what it is. That if you need any one of those things you will become aware and mindful of it, and create it.  

Love is the idea that we don’t resort to the notion of “I’m not in love anymore” or “I just don’t feel the same.” Those beliefs only come from societal implications of when something is missing we should leave to go find it somewhere else. 

All Together Now

Even after describing the differences of intimacy, passion, and sex, I can see how they may still appear to be one in the same. 

On the surface they do look similar and they even behave in similar ways. They arrive at similar times throughout the connection of an interpersonal relationship.  

The differences become clear when we begin to understand what they mean and how to apply them. We realize that it is within our control to create them at different times of our relationships and interactions with others.  

There are times where we need intimacy more than passion and chemistry. There are times where we need sex without doing the work it may take to involve the other two. There will be times where we stumble across all three and our minds are blown. Most importantly, what we need to learn is how to know which is which and with whom. Because passion, intimacy and even sex can all be misconstrued as love. Similarly, we can fall under the belief that if we don’t have those things, we don’t have love.  

[images: via Jorge MientRowena Waack and Flóra Soós on flickr]

About the Author:

Yvonka De Ridder

Ms. De Ridder was born and raised in South Africa where she grew up during Apartheid. This experience is one of many that have molded her liberal and all-accepting perspective. She firmly believes that true enlightenment, healthy relationships and the ability to love unconditionally lies within the freedom of sexual expression and exploration—making open, free and fulfilling sexual expression the primary gateway to enlightenment. Ms. De Ridder is a board certified Clinical Sexologist with the American Board of Clinical Sexology as well as a PhD candidate. She is also a Marriage and Family therapist (IMT-1814) in the state of Florida where she received her BA in Psychology from the University of Tampa. Ms. De Ridder received an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Capella University where she graduated with distinction. She is currently the student/intern board representative of the Tampa Bay Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (TBAMFT), as well as a member for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists where she received the FAMFT award for student of the year (2011-2012). Ms. De Ridder has extensive experience with couples counseling, sex therapy, clinical sexology, motivational therapy, life coaching and LGBT counseling.


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