Updated: Sep 18, 2020
An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. ... Emotional intimacy involves feelings of liking or loving one or more people, and may result in physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic love, sexual activity, or other passionate attachment. Intimacy is something that feels natural at first, and that’s because it is! It manifests as a strong chemical reaction, an emotional connection between two yearning souls that can’t seem to get enough of each other it is beautiful and so thrilling. Intimacy is at the core of every committed partnership. Well...it should be. But over time and after the inevitable process of settling into the complacent routines of a long-term relationship, intimacy seems to feel further away than it perhaps once was. Intimacy is a process – not a thing. It takes place over time and is not stagnant. In fact, any kind of stagnation in a relationship kills intimacy.
Some couples find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationship. Others can find that after achieving intimacy it seems to slip away. There are many reasons why some people find it difficult to achieve intimacy in their relationship.
This is commonly the result of problems such as:
Communication issues – if you and your partner are not communicating to each other what your feelings and needs are then they are not likely to be met. If you do not feel understood by your partner then intimacy is hard to create or maintain. It’s important to talk to your partner about what you need and to check in with them about how they are feeling. This act alone can create a feeling of being connected and intimate
Not Truly Listening
When we are communicating with someone, we often are not committing our full attention. We might be looking at our phones, watching television, or even daydreaming about something else.
When we don’t actively listen to the person we are speaking to, not only do we run the risk of making the person feel invalidated, but we also miss important nonverbal cues and may not fully understand the person’s message
Assuming You Know the Message Before the Person Finishes
We’ve all done it. We’re listening to a friend speak, and we already assume we know what is going to be said before they finish their sentence. When we assume we know what the person will say, we miss what is actually being said. Honor the speaker by remaining openly curious and listening intently for the message rather than predicting what will be said.
Interrupting the Speaker
We’ve probably all interrupted another person mid-sentence once or twice. It can happen accidentally, or we may get so excited about what we want to say and fear we will forget our response if we don’t just go ahead and say it. Others may interrupt during arguments as a power move. Whatever the intention, interrupting can make a person feel invalidated, as if what they have to say is unimportant. Have respect for the other person, and allow them to finish the message entirely before you respond.
If there is ongoing conflict in your relationship it can be difficult to develop intimacy. It is not easy to feel close to someone you are arguing with. Anger, hurt, resentment, lack of trust, or a sense of being unappreciated can all affect intimacy.
Using “You” Statements Instead of “I” Statements
When we are discussing our feelings with another person, we need to own those feelings rather than place the responsibility on the other person. It can be easy to say, “You did this” or “You didn’t do that.” When we use “I” statements, we take ownership of how we feel and are less likely to make the other person feel attacked. Instead of saying, “You didn’t call me back…” try saying, “I felt hurt when you didn’t return my call.”
Letting Your Emotions Dictate Your Response
When we react emotionally, we are likely to say things we don’t mean. A good communicator allows emotions to sit for a while and then chooses to carefully respond rather than react.
Practical issues – practical issues and life stressors such as financial worries, pressures at work, concern about children, or just being too busy to really connect with each other can affect intimacy. There are times in a couple’s relationship when the needs of the couple have to be put aside while more pressing issues are dealt with. But it is important to try and carve out time together as a couple even if it is a five-minute check in or having a cup of tea together. Small moments of feeling close to each other all add up to a greater feeling of intimacy.
Well, it looks like a lot more work and feels more like trust, respect, honesty, and intentionality. It is so far beyond the sensual fireworks and surface-level connection we fool ourselves into believing is true love. It is that, and more. And it is something that must be cultivated or
else it will be lost.
Here are some ways to start cultivating intentional intimacy:
Be honest. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, especially if you expect it to be met with anger. Be brave! Honesty in a relationship is extremely important because it is the fundamental thing that makes a person feel safe. Even if you think the truth will be hard for your partner to hear, they will appreciate it in the long run.
Be flexible. Rigidity is a sign of trouble. Try to be flexible. You may think your idea is best, but staying open to your partner’s opinions and ideas is an important ingredient in successful communication.
Be supportive. Build self-esteem by using words that support and motivate with empathic attunement. If you have a complaint or criticism, present it like an Oreo cookie: couched between two positive statements. You don’t always have to agree with your partner, but everyone wants to be heard.
Use humor. When addressing your relationship problems, avoid being businesslike. Instead, use humor! Humor can diffuse a rough situation and warm your partner up to you. Laughing can diffuse the intensity of an argument, keep perspective and help lighten up the moment.
Thinking positively about your partner. Having positive thoughts about your partner means that you focus on the good, not the bad, in your partner’s personal qualities and character. People in good relationships engage in “sentiment override,” meaning that they remember more of the favorable than the unfavorable experiences they’ve shared together.
Enjoying novel and challenging activities. Like definitely attracts like when it comes to personal interests and hobbies. Spending time together is important, as how you spend your time that influences your relationship satisfaction even more. Couples can improve their love for each other when they spend their time together exploring new and challenging activities. For example " If you’re going to go bungee jumping for the first time, your relationship will benefit when you and your partner face this challenge together". If you’re not up to bungee jumping, seek out mentally challenging ways to spice up your daily routines.
Expressing affection. Feeling love toward your partner is important, but so is expressing that love in physical ways. It’s not wise to play hard to get when your goal is to build the passion in your relationship. The affection you show doesn’t have to be elaborate or overly gushy. A touch on the shoulder or kiss on the cheek is enough to build your relationship’s intensity.
Having a strong passion for life. People who approach their daily lives with zest and strong emotion seem to carry these intense feelings over to their love life as well. If you want your relationship to have passion, put that emotional energy to work in your hobbies, interests. Your brain's reward centers respond similarly to love as to getting excited about your other daily interests.Getting "fired up" in these areas of life translates into firing up the feelings you have toward your partner.
Take time for yourself. Be sure to set aside private time for yourself each day. Try for short, undivided, and positive attention to fortify yourself. You'd be surprised how challenging this is when you have a spouse and children tugging at you 24/7, but it is necessary.
Serve each other. There are no 50-50 splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrificially serve one another.