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.
“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.”
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 of 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
Consistent misunderstandings and feeling misunderstood by your partner
Imbalance in mental load at home
Significant life event that takes emotional priority such as grief, with the loss of a loved one or a job
Feeling emotionally or physically unsafe in your relationship
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.
“When you’re first dating, you rapidly build intimacy because you’re constantly having new experiences together,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
“However, once you settle into a routine and feel solid in the relationship, you might deprioritize trying to impress your partner with new date ideas.”
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.
“Intimacy is built on safety and trust within a relationship,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“If one partner is consistently dishonest, it creates a pattern of mistrust that can hinder 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.
“It’s important to show your partner that they hold significance in your life and are valued,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Expressing love goes beyond mere gestures like giving flowers, it involves conveying that they are on your mind and evoking positive emotions within you. This realization can be empowering as it highlights the impact you have on someone else’s life.”
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.
This one may seem simple, but often it’s the simple things we forget in long-term relationships.
Set aside time for proper conversation with your spouse — ask them deep questions and learn how to communicate in a way that benefits your relationship. Maintaining good avenues of communication can help improve your emotional intimacy and it will make it easier to keep the flame alive.
No matter how long you have been together, there is no need to abandon flirting.
You may not need pick-up lines anymore, but tuning up on romance will help to improve both emotional and physical intimacy. Start by initiating more physical touch with kissing, hugging, and holding hands — make sure you kiss your spouse goodbye when you leave the house.
When it comes to intimacy, everyone has different preferences. Gain an understanding of your spouse and their needs.
Understanding your partners' love language will help you formulate the most effective and mindful approach to intimacy in your relationship.
Accept any differences you might have and adjust accordingly!
When you’re in love, you want to impress your partner in every way that you can. This goes beyond bestowing gifts on them, but working on the best version of yourself.
“In the early stages of a relationship, we tend to present ourselves in a positive light,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“As we become more comfortable with each other, we open up and show our flaws, which is an important aspect of intimacy. However, this doesn’t mean that we should stop working on improving ourselves.”
In a healthy relationship, you should encourage each other to grow and try new things. This kind of attitude helps to avoid co-dependency or toxic habits forming in a relationship.
“Ideally, we want our partners to be attracted to our healthiest selves, and we should strive to bring out the best in ourselves and our partners,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“If we stop growing, the relationship can become stagnant, and we may find ourselves feeling disconnected from each other. When this happens, it’s important to look inward and reflect on what may be causing the distance between us. By staying curious and self-aware, we can deepen our connection with our partners and continue to grow together.”
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.
“Share deeper insight into yourself,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Be curious about what they desire to feel more connected to you, don’t just initiate sex in hopes that will bring connection.”
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. Be open to hearing what she does not like, knowing turns off can be just as impactful as knowing turns her on.
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.
“Many husbands desire physical connection as a way to feel wanted and secure enough to be brave and open up emotionally,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“However, this can sometimes cause a conflict, as the partner's needs for connection clash. One physically first and the other emotionally.”
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.
“To overcome this challenge, it’s important to find a balance in how you connect and ensure that both partners’ needs are met,” says Seeger DeGeare.
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.
When trying to discover the secret to marriage intimacy, Seeger DeGeare has coined the formula known as ‘CROW’.