You’d love to increase the intimacy in your relationship, but life always seems to get in the way. Between meetings that could’ve been emails, social engagements, parenting and endless life admin, you feel as if you’ve barely got a moment to breathe let alone have sex!
With a lack of intimacy comes a lack of healthy communication. You retread well-worn paths of arguments you’ve had a hundred times over, never progressing beyond critical finger-pointing and childish outbursts.
As resentment builds and intimacy takes a backseat, you both feel misunderstood and unheard. You want to remind yourselves why you fell in love in the first place so you can stop the arguments and enjoy a fulfilling sex life. So, how do you rekindle the spark and build intimacy with your partner?
To figure that out, you need to understand what intimacy means.
What does intimacy mean?
Intimacy isn’t purely sexual. It’s about connecting on a deeper level, so you feel safe, cherished and heard in your relationship. It requires vulnerability, patience and trust, which is why it falls by the wayside when there has been a communication breakdown.
There are several types of intimacy, from emotional to experiential, spiritual to intellectual. It’s not all slinky slips, sex toys, and strawberries dipped in chocolate. Although, those do sound like the ingredients of a pretty fun evening!
Sex is just one example of physical intimacy and one way of expressing your connection and commitment to one another. Intimate moments might also mean respecting your different viewpoints, trying new things together or enjoying a shared sense of purpose.
What causes a lack of intimacy for couples?
Stress, tiredness, complacency, ill health, work, children, and financial difficulties. There are many reasons why your relationship might be less intimate than it once was. When clients come to me lamenting a lack of intimacy, however, it usually stems from a breakdown in communication.
Couples can unknowingly find themselves falling into a parent-child dynamic. Irritation creates confrontation. In response, one of you may take on the role of a critical parent and proceed to address your partner like a child. Your partner may then retaliate by embodying that role. This creates a power imbalance, makes healthy communication impossible and is an instant passion killer!
When you aren’t bickering, you both deploy the classic cold shoulder. You orbit one another and avoid tackling the issues head-on which, you guessed it, causes confrontation. The cycle begins again. Rinse and repeat! Sound familiar?
You’re ready to work towards a happy, healthy, communicative partnership, but you feel like you’ve tried everything going.
That’s why I’ve put together 5 surprising ways to help you build intimacy in your relationship outside of the bedroom…
5 Surprising Ways to Increase Intimacy in a Relationship (Without Having Sex!)
- Take sex off the menu
It might seem counterproductive to take sex off the menu when you want to increase intimacy in a relationship, but, as we’ve discussed, it’s a broad church.
Removing the assumption that every suggestive look, hug or passionate kiss will lead to intercourse instantly takes the pressure off.
Remind yourselves that there are multiple ways to get physically intimate without getting jiggy – hug, kiss, hold hands, and be playful with one another. Throwback to the early days of dating when fizzy sexual tension was at its peak.
- Communicate your feelings with an emotional ‘show and tell’
When we feel starved of intimate contact, we long to feel accepted, acknowledged and heard by our partners. Our needs aren’t likely to be met if we can’t communicate them effectively.
When discussing how to communicate with your partner in a recent blog post, I mentioned picking stress-free times to engage in open, non-confrontational discussions about your feelings. Hold an emotional ‘show and tell’ and take turns talking whilst the other listens. Use ‘I feel’ statements and don’t allow interruptions.
Issues may not be resolved by the end of each discussion, but you’ll have listened to one another and committed to tackling challenges together. Remember: it’s not about coming round to one another’s way of thinking, it’s about acknowledging feelings and accepting that there will be times when you disagree.
- Create a chores chart
Redressing the disproportionate balance of domestic labour in relationships can be hugely impactful when co-habiting. A study found that feeling underappreciated domestically has negative emotional consequences, with women who take on a larger share of the housework reporting lower relationship satisfaction.
Women often take on a ‘hidden load’ of responsibilities, from appointment-making to present-buying, mood-boosting to cupboard-filling. This can create animosity. To prevent a ripple effect that impacts intimacy, I encourage clients – regardless of gender or sexuality – to commit to small actions that address domestic irritations. It could be a case of putting dirty laundry in the basket or making dinner a few times a week. It’s amazing how powerful this exercise can be for rejuvenating relationships!
Another surprisingly impactful exercise for couples battling domestic disputes? Chore charts! You both pick chores to help contribute to the running of the household and commit to completing them within a specific timeframe. Whilst seemingly childish, chore charts can actually help you establish boundaries and carve out quality time to spend with one another.
- Schedule non-negotiable dates
I know what you’re thinking, ‘Carla, we don’t have time for regular dates.’ My answer? Make time. Your relationship deserves just as much care and attention as your other commitments. Treat these dates like non-negotiables that you can’t reschedule if something else comes up. Pop them in your calendar and take turns arranging them to keep things fresh.
Studies have shown that engaging in ‘novel, self-expanding’ activities with romantic partners can reignite passion and increase sexual desire. Dates, however, don’t have to be flashy or time-consuming. You could cook a delicious meal together, go for a walk, enjoy a cosy film night, or share a romantic bath. If you’re stuck for date night ideas, check out A Year Of Dates for inspiration.
The only rules? No smartphones and no admin! This isn’t time for you to synchronise your schedules, discuss house projects or work through piles of paperwork. Share what you love about one another, laugh together and be reminded of what attracted you both in the first place.
- Explore intimacy issues with a psychotherapist
Every relationship experiences highs and lows, but sometimes they require extra support. I’ve helped countless couples to rekindle their spark and find their way back to one another.
Book a session with me if you feel trapped in a cycle of confrontation and avoidance. We’ll start by establishing what drew you to relationship therapy before exploring how you communicate, what triggers disagreements and what’s happening in the intimacy department. By focusing on specific examples from your life, I’m able to facilitate a safe space for the challenging conversations you struggle with as a couple.
We’ll process any big feelings that pop up and establish a healthy way to initiate conversations before reaching boiling point. You’ll leave each session feeling more able to express your emotions and desires with one another, and I’ll also share helpful exercises for you to try at home!
Book your 90-minute couples therapy session by emailing or calling me 0121 745 9044.
Those are 5 surprising ways to increase intimacy in your relationship (without having sex!) – as you can see, communication is key.
Make time for your relationship, learn to listen attentively, and you’ll soon find that intimacy is restored in the bedroom and beyond!
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