Intimacy comes in many different forms and although one first thought might be sexual; this is not the only way to be intimate with your partner. You can have intimacy without sex and vice versa. Intimate moments might be shared by having deep intellectual conversations, sharing a meal together, sharing thoughts and feelings with one another, showing appreciation and support for one another, physically touching each other, or even reminiscing on memories you share. This is not an inclusive list, and it is important to remember that each couple’s definition of intimacy might differ. Generally, intimacy involves trust, acceptance, vulnerability, and feeling emotionally connected with your partner. The four types of intimacy are experiential, emotional, intellectual, and sexual. We all desire different types and varying amounts of intimacy in all relationships.
Life may get in the way of prioritizing intimate moments with your partner. If being intimate is not a part of your everyday routine, it’s easy to forget about it or push it to the back burner. Once this happens, you and your partner’s emotional and physical connection might feel as if it has diminished. This may lead to feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, poor self-esteem, and even resentment. Intimacy tends to look different in males and females as well as gender-diverse folk. Most, not all, men communicate facts, whereas most, not all, women communicate emotions. Meaning that men are more likely to communicate interesting or funny bits of information they have acquired throughout the day, and women desire more meaningful communication that spans outside of question-and-answer sessions. Some non-binary folks have reported that they find high levels of intimacy associated with comfort and communication. They desire for their partners to be educated about LGBTQ+ struggles, and that their partners are accepting their identity.
Studies have shown that there are many physical health benefits to being in a relationship with a partner rather than being single. Intimacy helps to reduce stress levels and maintain a strong immune system. Increasing the amount of nonsexual intimate moments can lead to better sex life. Having sexual intimate relationships can boost levels of oxytocin, otherwise known as the cuddle hormone. A healthy sex life also reduces blood pressure, acts as a pain reliever, lowers your risk for developing heart disease, allows for better sleep, and gives you an overall mood boost. Intimacy can also give you a mental boost as well. Without intimacy, men report feeling angry often and women report feeling depressed. Just being touched or touching your partner can increase “happy hormones” such as dopamine.
A few factors that may contribute to issues in intimacy may include a lack of communication, mental illness in one or both partners, a lack of trust for one another, having children, having opposite work schedules, difficulty resolving conflict, and not having enough alone time. You might also find that the way you perceive intimacy might be different than the way your partner does. Each member in the relationship may have different ideals, values, and beliefs about how to share intimate moments. These have commonly been referred to as love languages. Although love languages are not empirically supported, they can provide you with the basic information of how you wish to be loved and show love in your relationship. Knowing your partner’s love language can help you to better navigate each other’s intimate needs. Feel free to use the link below to take a fun and free quiz to find out what your love language is! https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
If you feel as if you and your partner’s level of intimacy needs some improvements, below are ten helpful tips to try and restore intimacy in your relationship:
- Work on your communication skills – Be clear, concise, honest, and direct when expressing yourself. Strive to be open-minded and willing to take a new perspective. Allowing each other a safe space to be vulnerable will help increase trust and compassion.
- Work on resolving conflict – Conflict is normal! There is no way to avoid it, so you might as well embrace it. Take turns speaking and try not to interrupt one another. Use a firm assertive tone but try not to become aggressive. This is a very fine line and takes a lot of emotion regulation and self-control. Be patient with yourself and practice whenever conflict does arise.
- Plan activities to do together – This can be anything from date night to going on a walk, to Netflix and Chilling. Anything that would be fun and romantic for you both. Don’t be afraid to try something new that is outside of your daily routine! When you do something new and different together, the excitement generated by the experience can stimulate a connection that can help you feel closer to each other.
- Support your partner – We all like to be recognized for our efforts. Whether that be saying thank you for doing the dishes or showing up to an important event. Your partner will always appreciate you showing up for them. Simply being there for them in whatever way they need conveys the message that you care deeply about them. It is important to set boundaries in what you can and cannot help them with. Overextending yourself could lead to compassion fatigue and resentment.
- Stay connected – Be more mindful about the mundane tasks that take up hours of your day. Make them more meaningful by putting your phone down. When you speak to each other, make eye contact! Try to physically touch each other more! Affectionate physical touching such as hand-holding, hugging, and kissing helps to build an intimate connection between you and your partner.
- Schedule sex – I know it’s not the most romantic or sexiest way to make sex a priority again. However, scheduled sex allows each member of the relationship to mentally prepare for alone time to focus solely on one another. It also allows for the opportunity to build anticipation. When a couple engages in regularly planned sexual intimacy, they are more likely to engage in spontaneous sexual encounters as well.
- Give each other space when needed – It is okay to not want to be around each other all the time. Ask for space when you need it. Be respectful and understanding of your partner’s wishes when they ask for space. Try not to take it personally, there could be a million other reasons why they need space than solely because of your relationship issues.
- Accept yourself, accept your partner – Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has bad days. We all need reminders that we are enough and that we are worthwhile! A little bit of kindness goes a long way.
- Have a life outside of your relationship – Catch up with old friends, pick up that hobby you dropped all those years ago. Get involved in a new hobby or activity that you’ve been dying to try. It’s important to make time for yourself to do the things your partner doesn’t necessarily take interest in.
- Consider couples counseling or sex therapy – Having a non-biased, third-party perspective could provide you with the insight and guidance you both have been looking for. Oftentimes, couples will enter counseling before it’s too late. Be proactive and consider using your EAP services for couples counseling today!
By, Victoria Reid, Intern