Marriage intimacy comes in many forms. Of course, you might show physical intimacy with your partner through love, affection, and sex. But there’s also the mental side to consider. Truly intimate couples will be open and honest with each other, creating a strong personal bond.
But what happens when an intimate relationship starts to fade? Married life can throw any number of challenges and relationship problems our way, sometimes creating a lack of intimacy with our partner. If you’re looking to rekindle the flames of passion in your marriage, check out our tips for better intimacy in marriage.
Marriage intimacy is an extremely close bond formed between two people. It takes many forms, including physical and mental, created by communication, attraction, and shared experiences.
“In a love connection, intimacy is demonstrated when two people know and care for one another,” explains Michelle Shivers, a licensed family and marriage therapist. “These people are open, familiar, and vulnerable together.”
According to Shivers, there are four types of intimacy:
Emotional intimacy: When couples share their feelings openly and honestly with one another, they create a level of emotional intimacy. This allows them to be vulnerable with their partner, building a lasting bond between them.
Experiential intimacy: Married couples go through many shared experiences. Some are good, some might be bad. Sharing these good and bad times builds a level of experiential and spiritual intimacy between each partner.
Intellectual intimacy: Couples can also share intellectual intimacy together. The spouses feel safe sharing their feelings and thoughts — even though they may challenge their partners.
Physical intimacy: Couples can also build physically intimate relationships. This includes sexual intimacy — but also things like kissing, cuddling, and holding hands.
Marital intimacy is built by combining each of the four types of intimacy. In an ideal world, each partner should make the effort to be emotionally, intellectually, and physically intimate, sharing new experiences regularly.
But if there is a lack of intimacy, it’s easy to wonder which of those is missing. Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, founder at The Marriage Restoration Project, explains that working on the emotional side can lead to increased physical intimacy.
“Intimacy starts outside of the bedroom.” Slatkin adds, “Creating emotional safety, and being vulnerable with each other, will allow you to feel more connection in every way. Don't neglect the emotional connection.”
Couples often look to improve marriage intimacy through their sexual relationship. Without a doubt, more sexual activity is one of the biggest benefits of more marital intimacy.
But there are many other advantages. Being more intimate with your partner can:
So, why could a marriage start to lose intimacy? Well, married life is tough. You might be busy working, looking after kids, or dealing with life’s many challenges. No matter the couple in question, married people can sometimes start to see their level of intimacy fade away.
Finding the time to connect with your partner — and feeling energetic or sexy enough to be physically intimate — can sometimes just feel difficult.
A lack of emotional or sexual intimacy in a marriage could be down to many common issues, including:
Mental health concerns
Personal confidence or body image problems
Having, or looking after, children
Life’s general trials and frustrations.
It’s possible that one or both partners might suffer from any of these issues.
While a couple might survive without intimacy, the complete lack of any intimate behaviors is probably not ideal for a healthy marriage. This is especially true of emotional intimacy. Shivers explains that emotional intimacy in particular can be more crucial than others.
“Generally, a marriage can survive without sex but cannot without emotional intimacy. In marriage, love, care, warmth, and trust are necessary,” she says.
Of course, long-term relationships see changes and difficulties over time. To build a healthy emotional and sexual marriage, you’ll both need to make efforts across different types of intimacy.
Let’s look at some ways you can build intimacy with your partner.
Mix the routine up and try something new. Experiential intimacy can help improve other intimacies, too. You might try something simple, like a cooking class or a varied weeknight routine, or take a vacation to focus on each other. Whether it’s a short escape or a complete break from regular family life, the key is to form a bond by experiencing that new thing together.
Even a blissfully happy marriage will have the occasional relationship issues. Try talking openly and honestly with your partner about your love, any concerns, and your future wishes.
Opening up and being vulnerable is an excellent way to build emotional intimacy — the key to improving sexual intimacy. You might disagree sometimes, but that’s part of a healthy relationship. After all, you can only work on issues if you’ve talked about them. Try this on a regular basis and see the results.
This tip might seem obvious but it’s incredibly powerful when done right. Try showing your partner that you love and care for them more often. Make affectionate gestures regularly.
You might make time just for cuddling on a lazy weekend morning, for example. Likewise, try making the effort to ask how their day went — and actively listen. Small, regular gestures of love can add up to a happy, healthy relationship.
Remember the early days of your relationship? Sometimes, injecting a little of that honeymoon-stage excitement can help ignite intimacy in your marriage. Reflect a little: is there something you used to enjoy doing together which has fallen away recently?
It might be a quick weeknight date or a night on the town. This can be a great way to make time for each other and stir up passion. Get a babysitter and head out for a fun date night together — for an added twist, book an overnight stay at a nearby hotel.
A married couple can often find that a lower sex drive comes from a lack of some other intimacy. If you’re looking to be more sexually intimate with your wife, try being more emotionally available in day-to-day life. Talk together, and share stories. Tell her about your love and desire for her regularly.
Small affectionate touches can also work wonders — try holding hands in public more often. One study showed that holding hands with your partner increases mental intimacy, naturally reduces pain, and calms both partners.
Inside the bedroom, spend time making your wife feel relaxed and comfortable. Ask questions and see what she likes. If she enjoys a back rub, for example, this can help her wind down. It can also be a great idea to spend time on gentle, fun, and pressure-free foreplay, if that’s what she’s into. Make the effort to be more emotionally available, understanding, and caring — and see how that impacts your sexual intimacy together.
Likewise, you might wish to address a lack of sex or sexual intimacy with your husband. Communication and emotional intimacy are also essential here.
Talk about what you both want from your sex lives. Are there any fantasies or preferences you’ve never discussed together? This might feel embarrassing at first, but building that level of emotional connection will reflect positively in the bedroom.
It’s important to discover what you’re both comfortable with. Every couple is different. If you like the sound of a naughty night away in a hotel then go for it. If you want to take it slow, that’s fine too. Talk honestly together about what you want and what works for you.
Marriage intimacy — in its many forms — is the key to an ongoing healthy relationship. The first step is to open up honest and open dialogue and discuss any issues.
Work on those four types of intimacy: try new things together, be vulnerable, and make the effort to show affection in and out of the bedroom. The reward will be a happier, healthier, more intimate marriage.
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