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Green, Purple & Orange: The 3 Types of Physical Intimacy


Physical intimacy includes various kinds of physical connection — not just sex. There are various layers to physical intimacy, demonstrated in the figure below by Dr. Doug Rosenau.

In Dr. Rosenau's color-coded system, each color or layer represents various physical aspects of intimate relating. Together, these types of physical intimacy can lend themselves to a caring, loving, and trustworthy relationship.




Type 1: Bonding Intimacy (Green)

At the base of Dr. Rosenau's pyramid is the Green layer, which represents bonding intimacy. Bonding intimacy is the expressing of feelings; connecting behaviors such as:

  • a hand on the shoulder
  • a hug
  • looking into another's eyes
  • listening intently

Bonding intimacy not only happens with spouses; it is what happens between friends and family. This type of intimacy—often referred to as fellowship—is what occurs on Sundays at church as we express warmth and love to brothers and sisters of the faith.

Type 2: Coupling Intimacy (Purple)

The next level of intimacy is coded Purple for passion. Filled with the excitement and desire for touch, coupling intimacy includes:

  • kissing
  • cuddling
  • making out
  • romantic feelings
  • hand holding
  • sensual touch
  • flirting

These types of behaviors are not done with just anyone. They express intentional movement toward an exclusive relationship of dating or engagement.

Type 3: Sexual Intimacy (Orange)
The third category for intimacy is colored Orange for sexual intimacy and called igniting passion. This includes all other forms of green and purple intimacy with the added layers of:

  • genital touching
  • intercourse
  • the full sexual experience

In Christian circles, Orange intimacy is reserved for the marital relationship. And though intercourse is the ultimate symbol for intimate relating, sex should not be the only expression of physical intimacy.
As depicted in Dr. Rosenau's figure, sexual intimacy is built on the foundation of the bonding and coupling types of physical connecting.

Thus, true physical intimacy in marriage includes all forms of physical connection, including hand-holding, looking into your spouse's eyes, hugs, listening intently, expressing warmth, kissing, flirting, romance, etc. Without the Green and the Purple types of physical connection, the sexual connection can be lacking in the intimacy for which it is designed.