Knowing what to expect as you progress through the various stages of intimacy can help you decide if you want to put the brakes on or let things heat up!
As humans, we are compelled to connect to one another on different stages of intimacy. It’s our nature to be attracted to each other, whether by our physical, intellectual, or emotional characteristics. Often, it’s this attraction *or, more specifically, infatuation* that leads us to act strangely and impulsively. We do things for the person to whom we are attracted that we wouldn’t do for other people. This is because, inherently, we desire some form of intimacy towards the person we like. And this could lead to a lot of problems *if done wrong* or much happiness *if done right*.
But what is the right path toward intimacy? While this can vary from person to person, there is a general progression that we can more or less follow.
The 12 stages of intimacy in all relationships
Desmond Morris, a zoologist and ethnologist who studied the intimate behavior of humans, reveals that there is a distinct pattern in human intimacy. He breaks this down into his 12 stages of intimacy, which we outline below.
#1 Eye to body. Attraction starts at first glance, and from there, anything can happen. At this first stage of intimacy, you’re summing up the person. You notice their height, weight, clothing, physique, and how they carry themselves. From here, you create your first impression of the person and you automatically make a decision about whether or not you like what you see.
#2 Eye to eye. So if you don’t like what you see, no biggie, you can turn your back and just get on with your life. Otherwise, you can move on to this stage, where you may try to be noticed. You may also find yourself staring until the other person feels your gaze and looks back at you. Here, your eyes may meet, and you will both see a spark that just might make you move on to the next stage.
#3 Voice to voice. There’s no other way to it—if you both find interest in each other, you’re bound to speak eventually. Whether it’s a casual “hi” or a more detail conversation ending in an exchange of numbers, you can say that you have started a relationship at this stage.
This is where you start to get to know each other better through communication. Since this stage may take a pretty long while, it also includes other forms of exchanges such as emails, phone calls, texts, and instant messages. You might also go on a few dates during this stage, creating an emotional bond—or not. If you start to create a physical bond before the emotional, you may regret this stage of intimacy and even break up even before you get any further.
#4 Hand to hand. This stage of intimacy may start soon after the last stage has begun. This may be as simple as the other person’s reaching out to help you out of a car, or even just holding each other’s hands to make the other feel special. Still, this is your first physical, tactile contact together, and this crosses your personal space and creates a deeper sense of intimacy.
#5 Hand to shoulder. This is a much closer intimacy, wherein one of you puts his or her arm around the other. This is highly intimate and invasive, yet if you already feel comfortable with your partner, this gesture is loving, welcoming, and even exciting. This stage of intimacy also comes after you are at ease with each other—perhaps you have the same goals and interests, and you find your relationship going somewhere, even short-term. It’s also at this stage that sexual tension stirs up, as your bodies are closer to each other than ever.
#6 Hand to waist. Reaching this stage in your relationship indeed makes a statement. A hand at the small of the back or wrapped around the waist and lying just below the chest shows everyone else a closeness that not many other people can reach with you. This shows the world that you’re allowed to touch the other person in such a personal and intimate way. To both of you, this displays a physical comfort and understanding that goes beyond words, without necessarily being sexual.
#7 Face to face. This stage of intimacy can also be called “mouth to mouth” for romantic relationships, because this is where you kiss! Reaching this stage of intimacy means deep physical bonding. You have formed a strong emotional bond and have expressed your attraction to each other in ways that allow the relationship to progress. Aside from kisses, this is also a stage where you might also hug. Here, you can communicate with each other effectively, even without words, which means that you know each other very well and are probably on the same wavelength.
#8 Hand to head. This is the stage where you wipe the other person’s tears, or remove the mustard off of their chin. This is the last stage of intimacy that also applies to family and friends, because this stage is all about familiarity. You may stroke the other person’s hair, hold their face as you kiss, or simply just express comfort and show concern for the other, often automatically and without much thought or pretense.
#9 Hand to body. This stage of intimacy moves couples to the beginnings of foreplay. You start to touch each other in increasingly intimate ways and in increasingly intimate parts. Once you get to this stage, it’s hard to turn back. This is why some people would tell you to save this part for your wedding night. Reaching this stage not only shows that you are comfortable with each other, but it also shows that you trust each other enough to let your romantic feelings get this far.
#10 Mouth to body. At this point of no return, the emotions take a backseat to the primal drive to get very physical. You start to explore the other person using your mouth, kissing their neck, cheeks, breasts or chest, and many other body parts, leading to oral sex.
#11 Touching below the waist. Also aptly called “hand to genitals,” this stage is all about physical pleasure, and stopping this is nearly impossible—that is, unless one of you keeps your clothes on. You have already committed your body to the other person in ways you don’t do with just any other person. Still, there’s a deep physical bonding that usually ends up in the next stage.
#12 Intercourse. Ah, “the Big Kahuna.” This can be a risky physical act that may result in so many things: pregnancy, STDs, and deep attachment, just to name a few. For many, going to this stage of intimacy means that you’re giving a part of yourself to the other person in a way that “seals the deal.” That part, you may never get back *unless you’re into casual sex and one-night stands*.
So while you, as a human, are prone to acting and deciding based on emotions, you can at least go about your relationships much more enlightened with these 12 stages of intimacy. Knowing these stages allows you to think before you act, and therefore anticipate what could come next with your every move.