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What Is Aesthetic Intimacy? Why Sharing Beauty Together Matters In Relationships

April 13, 2021

When it comes to intimacy, the word itself evokes feelings of closeness and vulnerability—most often in relation to emotions or sex. While those are two of the most powerful types of intimacy, they're not the only kind. According to clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, CST, aesthetic intimacy is another important form of intimacy in relationships.

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What is aesthetic intimacy? 

Despite how it sounds, aesthetic intimacy is not about finding a partner you're highly attracted to (or vice versa). "It is when you share something beautiful together as a couple," Overstreet tells mbg. "For example, watching a sunset, going on a hike, or going to an art exhibit are all easy ways to build aesthetic intimacy." 

Not only do these experiences help cultivate quality time; they also lead to beloved and shared memories. 

"This type of intimacy is important because it is experiential," Overstreet says. Because aesthetic intimacy occurs during specific shared moments, it allows couples to be more intentional in the time they spend together, she says. It also helps couples create strong visual memories, which they can look back on fondly in the future. 

This doesn't mean you and your partner have to agree on what you find beautiful. If you appreciate the outdoors and your partner doesn't, that won't automatically make you incompatible. Say your partner decides to go hiking with you simply to support your passions and spend quality time with you. You're still growing in aesthetic intimacy, Overstreet explains. 

How to cultivate aesthetic intimacy in relationships. 

Aesthetic intimacy is all about bonding over beautiful experiences, like art, nature, music, or theater. If this form of intimacy seems to be lacking in your relationship, it can easily be cultivated.

First, make a list of the kind of activities you and your partner enjoy doing for their aesthetic qualities. Then, instead of your regular ol' dinner date, schedule in moments of beauty. Think: watching the sunrise (or sunset, if you're not a morning person) and experiencing the beauty of the moment, plus the quality time you're spending with each other. 

Of course, while aesthetic intimacy can be important in relationships, it's not the be-all and end-all for romance. If you find yourself struggling to connect with your partner aesthetically but feel close to them in other ways, that's perfectly fine.

"Not every couple needs this type of intimacy," Overstreet says. "There are 12 types of intimacy, and couples aren't required to have all types in order to be happy and healthy."

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