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a guide to the stages of intimacy
part i : our bodies, ourselves
by kevin sonney

My girlfriend and I have had an ongoing discussion about the Stages of Intimacy. Much like a video game, we have been tracking these achievements as they are reached. For the benefit of others, I am attempting to document them here.

You see, the thing is, modern relationships are different. The old method of courtship and dating and then marriage gave us ample opportunity to decide if, perhaps, the person we are with is a good fit. In today's society, we may not actually know if we are dating the demon sibling of Beelzebub until long after having sex with them at a party a few weeks before. This guide is intended to help you determine where you stand if you do decide that things are going to go on for a much longer term than a few nights of drunken groping and inserting tab "A" into slot "B."

I should mention that these stages are not hard-and-fast - I often think of them more like achievements in an video game. You may not get to see all of them, or get to all of them, and sometimes TRYING to get to one is more trouble than it's worth. We'll get to examples as we go.

Part I : Our Bodies, Ourselves
We are, despite our best intentions and repeated affirmations in front of the mirror, unsure of our personal appearances. In keeping with this, there are several stages of how we deal with this when involved in a relationship.

Stage 1 : Personal Hygiene
Early on, you will do everything to appear neat and clean to that special someone. Of course, as we get to know them better, this does evolve - or in my case (and the case of most men and women) devolve. That shower before every meet for coffee after work thing? Before too long, you'll consider it only after a workout or perhaps after a hard day of mucking out the sewers. And even then deodorant can (and in some cases will) be optional. Of course, as civilized beings, we do need to keep ourselves neat and clean - it's just that we come to accept after a while that we cannot be immaculate and have every hair in place.

Surprisingly, this does not happen as quickly when it comes to our mouths. I myself still brush my teeth before our more intense encounters, in addition to the dentist recommended times. Although I do find myself slacking off when it come to a post-coital brushing prior to cuddling until dawn. And Ursula, despite living with me, still turns away on occasion so I won't have to see her brush and floss.

Even so, we do come to accept each other at our sweatiest, grimiest, and smelliest. And when we're sweaty, grimy, and smelly (perhaps due to a touch of bad breath) , we are going to ask, eventually, to borrow the shower (if not the toothbrush) at our significant other's home. Which leads us to...

Stage 2 : Nudity
We may have already touched, kissed, or otherwise stimulated each other's naughty bits, but that doesn't mean you are comfortable with being naked around them. Personally, I don't think anyone needs to see me naked, and the fact that another human being WANTS to do so frightens me. Not because they might be mentally unstable, but because, like many of us, I find my own body full of imperfections - pimples, moles, stretch marks, cellulite - you name it, we notice it on ourselves LONG before we notice it on our special someone. And it's a scary thing, realizing that she's going to see the fur that's sprouted on my shoulder blades in recent years. Sooner or later, it's going to happen, though. And it'll start in baby steps - dressing after a shared moment of passion, then the shower before work after spending the night...eventually, you may even be able to undress around each other with the lights on!

My girlfriend Ursula insists this is even worse for women, but I'm not really convinced. Although it did take a few months before our nightly ritual didn't include her teleporting directly out of her clothes and under the sheets.

Over time, though, you probably will get used to being naked (and not in bed) around each other - although rumor has it there are some couples who have yet to see each other naked until well after their fiftieth wedding anniversary - by which point, does it really matter anymore?

Stage 3 : Bodily Functions
And even if we never got to see each other naked with the lights on, we will, despite our best efforts, eventually have to deal with a lot of other issues dealing with our bodies. I mean, Let's face it - with the abundance of healthy foods based on beans these days, passing gas is not only going to happen, it's most likely going to happen when you're hanging out with the special someone - or worse, when engaged in something close and personal. Since this is also the stage prone to the most sophomoric jokes, let's just get this out of the way.

You will, inevitably, have to fart. At first, you'll hold it in, or try your best to sneak off to the other room. If you happen to be lucky, like Ursula, you get mostly the silent and unscented kind. Or, if you are unlucky, like me, you get the explosive, noisy, and disgusting kind. It is a measure of your love for each other (and how intimate things are getting) as to how long it takes before you're not only admitting to passing gas, but actively allowing it to happen. And while men are prone to high-fives after a particularly impressive letting lose, it is the sign of true intimacy when you and your significant other are trading high-fives.

Of course, there is the inevitable follow-up to the passing of gas, and that's the passing of other things. It's unavoidable, since what goes in must eventually come out. And this is where, once again, the differences between women and men get outlined in stark relief. I was encouraged to find that Ursula still wanted to spend time with me after I had used a hotel room bathroom that she needed immediately afterwards. Despite crying out in involuntary horror "Did something DIE in your rectum?!?" she not only continued to date me, but eventually moved in with me, and inflicts similar horrors upon me on occasion. (Not surprisingly, it took sharing a house before we reached that point, despite several more trips together in close quarters.)

Stage 4 : In sickness and in health
Thinking of close quarters, sooner or later one - or both - of you are going to get sick. Fortunately, this is typically in the mild and easy to deal with categories. Ursula gets the occasional migraine, and I find it very easy to care for her, since it's about the same treatment as a cold - hot bath, hot tea, shot of bourbon, tuck her in and cuddle. This is significantly different from holding each other's hair (since I have none on my head, this would be the aforementioned back hair) while dealing with the aftermath of a night of heavy drinking or, in extreme cases the stomach flu or food poisoning. Thankfully, this has not come up in our relationship, but New Year's is coming up soon.

And there is one level of intimacy I hope we never reach, involving two broken arms and toilet paper. For some things, it's just better, in my opinion, to hire a nurse's aide.

I hope you've found Part I of this guide informative and helpful. In January, we will discuss Part II : Family Matters - pre-supposing I survive meeting her parents over the holidays.


Kevin Sonney - who, contrary to popular opinion was NOT raised by wolves - grew up in central North Carolina. He fell into the technology field by accident in 1991, when he gave up the wild and crazy lifestyle of an on-air AM radio DJ to become a mundane technical support monkey. The technology industry has never really recovered from this. Kevin currently works as in independent IT contractor. In his spare time he rescues stray animals and plays video games with his two sons. His girlfriend, we're sad to say, helps him get past the really hard bits. Kevin is still not very mundane, he just got better at hiding it.

more about kevin sonney


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topic: general
published: 10.31.08


sandra thompson
11.28.08 @ 10:50a

I can't wait for Part II. So hurry up!

alex b
11.28.08 @ 2:10p

I don't think many new relationships survive the passing gas stage. It gets too intense.

Can't wait for Part II!

lucy lediaev
12.1.08 @ 1:10p

Good luck with the family meeting. I want to read Part II.

tracey kelley
12.2.08 @ 10:37p

This is all so painfully true. And hilarious.

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