Intimacy is an absolute pillar when it comes to healthy relationships. With it, relationships are strengthened to a place where two people can foster closeness, affection, security, and happiness.
And even though many people believe that intimacy is merely the physical act of love or lust, the definition of intimacy is much broader than that.
Today, we’ll talk about the different forms of intimacy, and how you can connect with your partner on a more intimate level.
If you’re already in a relationship and feel as though you need to reconnect, we’ll also discuss how rebuilding intimacy with your partner is such an important and beautiful thing.
How to Rekindle a Relationship: 14 Ideas for Intimacy
So, we’ve already established that intimacy is important in relationships. But merely giving you 14 ideas for intimacy would simply not be enough.
For that reason, in conjunction with tips on increasing intimacy, we’ll also be looking at:
- The definition of intimacy
- The difference between love and intimacy
- The effects of lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship
- The importance of sharing feelings in a relationship
- How to rebuild intimacy
- Physical and emotional forms of intimacy
- How to reconnect with your partner sexually
- Intimacy ideas for married couples
Let’s dive in…
What is the Definition of Intimacy?
Oxford Languages defines the word ‘intimacy’ as:
“close familiarity or friendship”
“a cosy and private or relaxed atmosphere”
- And the euphemism of intimacy, which is “sexual intercourse”
And the truth is, all of the above are all true and valid when it comes to relationships.
As we mentioned, intimacy is a pivotal concept when it comes to two people becoming close, comfortable, and establishing safety and happiness. So the first definition makes perfect sense when it comes to familiarity and friendship.
In the second definition; cosiness—having a sense of relaxation lets us know that intimacy is not just the physical act of sex. It’s a feeling, it’s an experience, it’s a place of trust and solace.
And as per the last definition, the euphemism “sexual intercourse”, is too, correct. Intimacy can be experienced on an emotional and a physical level… the latter being sex or sexual closeness.
*It’s important to note however, that intimacy is not just “sexual intercourse”, and that it can also take shape in the form of holding hands, cuddling, kissing, caressing, and more.
Essentially, this definition is well-rounded, allowing us to realise that intimacy is way more than just sex. That intimacy is something that can be both emotional and physical, and that it is something that can transform relationships and people, in more ways than one.
What is the Difference Between Love and Intimacy?
Love is an intense feeling of deep affection. It’s an emotion rife with passion and commitment. It’s also a universal language that almost all of us (want to) give and receive in one capacity or another. We have the ability to love our friends, family, pets, and partners.
Intimacy, on the other hand, is a physical and emotional connection that one has with their partner. It’s a state of being. Self-disclosure, and the sharing of dreams, beliefs, and emotionally meaningful experiences is often seen as synonymous with intimacy on an emotional level. It’s not something that can be forced but rather, something that happens naturally.
On a physical level, intimacy is sensual proximity or touching. In this way, simply engaging in eye contact or being in each other’s space could be a form of physical intimacy.
Additionally, physical acts such as hugging, cuddling, kissing, or other sexual experiences also encompass physical intimacy.
The difference here is that partners can love each other, yes, but they may or may not feel physically or emotionally connected to their partner (intimacy).
What Are the Effects of Lack of Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship?
Feeling emotional intimacy in a relationship can transcend who you are as a person and how you feel, as well as increase the connection you have with your partner.
With it comes a deep sense of security and the freedom to be wholly yourself without having to feel as though there’s a risk of the relationship ending or breaking down.
When there is a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship however, the effects can be damaging for all involved.
A lack of emotional intimacy can lead one or both partners feeling:
- As though they’ve been emotionally abandoned and rejected
- A diminished interest in sexual intimacy, which could lead to ISD, “inhibited sexual desire”
- As though they cannot confide in, speak to, or connect with their other half
- A lack of self esteem, emotional safety, and security
- Isolated, anger, disconnectedness, anxiety, stress, depression, frustration, resentment, and inadequacy
- The desire to engage in infidelity
How to Rebuild Intimacy
We’ve mentioned that intimacy can be emotional and physical, so perhaps now is a good time to think about whether you’re lacking in either emotional or physical intimacy, or both.
In this way, you can actively take these steps in rebuilding intimacy with your partner.
Rebuilding Emotional Intimacy
When you take the journey to rebuild emotional intimacy, the most important thing is to increase the amount of time you spend with your partner. In this way, you’re working towards recovering that sense of “us-ness”.
And the thing about relationships is that they’re unique. No two couples are the same, and the amount of time that one couple spends together may work for them, but may not work for you.
The way that you can decipher whether there is a lack of emotional intimacy is when you feel the loss of closeness that you once had, and perhaps a feeling of not being loved.
Of course, there are reasons why some couples don’t spend a lot of time together. Perhaps they tend to engage in conflict when they do, which could lead one or both partners to actively avoiding time together. But the only way through this is to work through the conflict and to restore the desire to spend time together.
For others, they may argue that their lives are too busy, and they don’t have much time to set aside for their partner. For them, they may believe that being in the same room together whilst on their phone or watching TV equals spending time together. But essentially, the way in which you spend time together is important.
This doesn’t mean that you need to opt for a date night every week, or go on a big vacation together though. It merely means that time is set aside to actively be with each other, to engage in meaningful conversations.
In this realm, it is quality over quantity (which is not to say that quantity is not important). Spending one hour connecting and communicating trumps watching five hours of your favourite show together, for example.
Adversely however, spending more time together can help you to establish that sense of closeness and connection. It takes time and energy to rebuild a sense of intimacy.
Rebuilding Physical Intimacy
In the realm of rebuilding physical intimacy, it’s true that many couples have mismatched libidos.
One partner may have a higher sex drive than the other, which may lead them to feel deprived, undesirable and to blame their significant other. But remember: physical intimacy doesn’t just encompass sex.
Physical intimacy also pertains to being close to each other, physically. Sitting together intimately, hugging, kissing, foreplay, cuddling, holding hands, and sex… all of these things encompasses physical intimacy.
If there is a lack of physical intimacy in your relationship, the most important thing not to do, is to blame each other. This will only make things worse.
Additionally, pretending that the problem doesn’t exist can also be harmful to the relationship. Recognising and expressing your feelings is the most constructive way in which to start rebuilding your physical intimacy.
Communicate that you may be feeling rejected, unloved, pressured, unhappy, a lack of closeness, or deprived. Using “I” statements is preferred as not to place blame on your partner. It may be hard not to criticise, but the most effective way is to own a feeling rather than blame.
During your conversation, try to be sensitive and reflective. If you’re unsure of what your partner is saying, ask for clarification, allow them the time and space to share their experience and truth with you in a respectful and accepting way.
If there is mutual respect and understanding, a lot can be achieved. When there is blame, disrespect or active avoidance when it comes to the topic of physical intimacy, this creates a huge roadblock to actively rebuilding physical intimacy.
On the other hand, it’s worthy to note that the brain is considered to be the biggest sexual organ. When there are issues within or outside of a relationship, stress, depression, fear, or anxiety, it’s difficult for a person to “get in the mood”. What’s the best way to go about this when rebuilding intimacy? To create a space for that partner that’ll make them feel relaxed.
You could engage in light touching or even giving them a massage to unwind and try to relieve any tension. This kind of non-sexual touching is especially important for women, as they often need emotional and physical stimulation before penetrative sex.
What’s also helpful for those who want to rebuild their physical intimacy is simply to be with each other without any expectation of sex or sexual activity. Long hugs and cuddling, for example, can help to restore intimacy. It also releases the chemical oxytocin in the brain, which promotes closeness and trust.
Ultimately however, it’s up to you to decide why there is a lack of physical intimacy, and taking it from there.
Take note that a lack of physical intimacy could also be occurring because of medical issues, such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. This could make one partner shy away from any physical touch out of fear or discomfort.
At the end of the day, it is solely about effective communication to uncover the root, and to work on rebuilding intimacy.
And, now that we’ve uncovered how to rebuild intimacy with a partner, here are some more practical tips for you to experiment with…
7 Ideas for Emotional Intimacy
To improve emotional intimacy with your partner, there are some incredibly creative and fun things you can try.
Here are seven emotionally intimate things to do with your partner:
- Tell your partner something you appreciate about them: it’s so simple yet can be so meaningful. It’s also a way in which to improve upon your communication. Once a day, strive to tell your partner one thing you appreciate about them. It could be something like: “You made an excellent breakfast this morning, thank you!” or “You look beautiful today.” Try to make it unique to them which can make them feel really good about themselves.
- Set time aside for uninterrupted alone time: Almost everyone has a chaotic life, but when you actively set time aside to spend with your partner, you’re intentionally putting in the energy to become more intimately close. During this time, try to avoid distractions, and simply engage in a conversation about your thoughts, feelings, and opinions. At the same time, leave room for your partner to do the same whilst you listen. Alternatively, you could spend your time together doing a shared hobby, creating something together, or trying something new for the first time.
- Leave tokens of your affection: much the same as telling your partner something you appreciate about them, leaving tokens of your affection is a creative and fun way to show you care. For example, you could leave them a kind sticky note on their refrigerator or in their notebook.
- Be available for them in new ways: try to find ways to be there for your partner that are different. For example, if you know that they love coffee from a specific place, make the effort to get it for them. Or, if they’re usually the one to do a certain chore, you could do it for them. These simple acts of generosity are a surprisingly big intimacy booster.
- Write down the things you love/like about each other: another simple idea, but super great as a means to enhance connection. Instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws, spend time writing down the things you really like or love about them… almost like a gratitude list. You could do this together, or even by yourself, but by doing so, you’re able to refocus the way in which you see and feel about them.
- Invest in personal development: it may sound counterintuitive, but self-love and self-care is extremely important. We want to be the best versions of ourselves whether we’re alone or in a partnership. And in a relationship, investing in your wellness will allow you to feel your best and be in touch with what and how you think. This can result in more participation and willingness to communicate with your partner in a mindful and meaningful way.
- Engage in eye contact: many studies show that when you engage in eye contact with a partner, you can build a stronger and deeper connection. Eye contact is so powerful in fact that it can strengthen relationships and increase intimacy in different realms. This is because, when you engage in eye contact, the hormone oxycontin is released. Oxytocin is called the “love hormone” and promotes bonding, trust, empathy, and positive memories. To practise eye contact, you can sit opposite from your partner, set a timer for an agreed-upon amount of time, then do nothing besides stare into each other’s eyes. At the same time, try to feel what your partner is feeling.
7 Ideas for Physical Intimacy
The ways in which to connect physically on an intimate level are seemingly endless. And this is great news, as it offers you the choice to find something you both really enjoy.
Here are seven physically intimate things to do with your partner:
- Prioritise sexual pleasure: when you make your and your partner’s sexual pleasure a priority and work on letting go of internalised beliefs or issues that don’t serve you, you’ll open yourself up to a different frequency of bliss. It’s harder than it sounds, yes, but take it slow. Remember that pleasure does not need to be all or nothing, and that working together to get your needs met is a mutually beneficial thing. This doesn’t necessarily mean achieving orgasm. It can be simply imbibing the sexual experience with your partner in such a way that it makes you both feel free, pleasure, happy, and comfortable.
- Mutual masturbation: Mutual masturbation is either when both partners masturbate each other at the same time, or each partner masturbates in front of their partner. For the latter, it can be entirely freeing and powerful. It’s not only a way to ensure pleasure, but it’s also a teachable moment for your partner to watch you do what really gets you aroused.
- Tantric sex: tantric sex is all about enlightenment and working towards transcending both your sexual and spiritual planes by engaging in deeply meditative, spontaneous, and intimate sex. It’s similar to yoga in that it is about physical and spiritual awareness, and becoming more in-tune with your body, and your partners. The thing about tantric sex however is that it need not even include penetrative sex. It can be an experience of intense foreplay that’s mindful. Things such as giving and receiving oral, giving and receiving massages, or showering together, when being fully in the present, can be considered tantric sex. The main thing about tantric sex is to build connection, go slow, be mindful and present, and to fully immerse yourself into the moment.
- Take late night walks together: physical intimacy is not just about sex or sexual experiences. And that’s why activities such as taking walks together, can be entirely satisfying and physically intimate. Take a stroll together, hand-in-hand, and get rid of all that excess energy. It’s also a great way to connect with the outdoors and to perhaps have a deep and meaningful discussion.
- Give each other a sensual and sexually suggestive massage: sensual massages are amazingly beneficial, and don’t require a lot. Simply create a warm and safe space that prompts comfort and trust, and grab a soothing and gentle massage oil. You can take turns to massage each other, and it can be however you both prefer. Perhaps start off with non-erogenous zones such as the legs and arms, and then inch your way closer to the genitals and other erogenous zones. The key to practising a sensual massage is to go slow, to communicate how you feel throughout, and to be mindful of each other.
- Embrace new sexual experiences: this is a fun one, as it can be anything you find intriguing. You could play a sexy game such as truth or dare, or even buy a sex board game. Or, why not consider talking dirty in the bedroom, sending suggestive texts as a means of foreplay, using a (new) sex toy, experiment with warming and cooling gloss or lubes, or perhaps try outdoor play with a wearable vibrator? The list is seemingly endless.
- Create an Erotic Blueprint: this is an arousal map that reveals your specific erotic language, whether it is sensual, sexy, kinky, energetic, or shapeshifter. In doing the Erotic Blueprint quiz, you can figure out your own language as well as your partners so that you can fully embrace your desires together.
How to Reconnect with Your Partner Sexually
While we’ve talked about reconnecting with your partner on an emotional and a physical level, here we’re going to discuss the topic of sex. Yes, physical intimacy does encompass sex, but not always.
Sex and sexual intimacy is an important part of a relationship, and working on reconnecting with your partner sexually comes with a slew of benefits, both mental and physical.
Here are a few ways that you can reconnect with your partner sexually:
- Rediscover each others’ bodies: set enough time aside with no distraction and just play. Take it slow, and touch each other in new and old places to really remember each others’ bodies and what feels pleasurable for both of you.
- Reintroduce old habits that served you well: perhaps you both used to do all sorts of fun things when you first met, but have since stopped. Go back to the basics! Do the things that used to get your heart racing before—things that you’ve perhaps forgotten about.
- Orgasm is not the end goal: as time goes on, sex may become monotonous, boring, or mundane. It may also be something that’s done simply in an attempt to reach orgasm. But why not really explore one another? Take time to engage in foreplay and other sexual things that can bring about immense pleasure. Forget about a five-minute romp session with an end goal of orgasm, and have fun!
- Try new things, sexually: you’re never too old to learn new tricks! And it seems as though there’s a new sex position or a new sex toy or prop that’s coming out every day! Start researching and find new ways to enjoy one another.
- Prioritise sex: With the busyness of life, prioritising sex is a great way to actually make sure you’re having it. Studies show that the more sex you have, the more sex you want. So, in order to keep up that sexual arousal, go forth and set time aside for sex. It may seem less spontaneous, but it could actually work in your favour, as you can mentally prepare for it.
- Communicate your desires: as we’ve mentioned throughout this article, communication is at the forefront of a healthy relationship. When you’re able to communicate your sexual needs without judgement, there’s room to explore and grow. And who knows, perhaps there’s a desire or fantasy that both of you have that you did not know about!
- Take it slow if you need to: taking it slow can be extremely beneficial as a means to grow closer together and to build trust. Not just that, but many people, especially women, need time to gain arousal before they engage in penetrative sex or other very intimate sexual acts.
How to Bring Back Intimacy in a Marriage: Intimacy Ideas for Married Couples
When people are in a long term relationship or have been together/married for some time, it can be quite challenging to get back to those honeymoon days.
But the truth is, while the beginning of your relationship was probably a lot of fun with lots of sexual experimentation, it’s almost impossible to gain that back.
The good news to this is that the time you’ve spent together has only added to your intimacy. You now know each other more deeply, and this means that even more meaningful sex can be had. It adds a layer of connection that’s impossible for new couples.
So, for those looking on how to be more sexually intimate with your husband, or how to be more sexually intimate with your wife, you’re actually in a really good place already.
How to be more intimate with your partner when you’re married
Here, we list a few actionable things you can do to be more intimate with your partner when you’re married.
Remember though, teamwork makes the dream work. So, communication is essential when it comes to really gaining the benefits of the intimacy activities.
So, for those married folk out there, here are a few ways that you can be more intimate with your partner when you’re married:
Start cuddling: it can be difficult when partners put pressure on themselves to go from a lack of intimacy straight back to “normal” sexual intercourse. Instead, taking the more sensual route can reduce anxiety and lead to heightened sexual experiences as time goes on. Cuddling, in that respect, is a great first step. Take the time to cuddle for 10 minutes before bed, for example. What’s also great about cuddling is that it has the power to release a cocktail of feel-good hormones, which can ease some negative or uncomfortable feelings.
Kiss each other: just like cuddling, deep kissing is a lovely way to slowly inch back towards being more intimate with your spouse. It can help you two to reconnect physically, and if it leads to consensual and satisfying sex or other sexual activity… then that’s great too.
Be intentional with touch: make a conscious effort to incorporate small acts of touch into your marriage. Things such as hugs, a quick kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back, or even a squeezing of the hand will help to reestablish your physical bond and draw you closer together.
Take turns spoiling each other: relationships and marriages are about give and take. And implementing this attitude when it comes to sex will be hugely beneficial for both partners. Take the time to do something for your husband or wife that they love… it could be giving them oral sex, deep kissing, or a sensual massage. And then, have the favour reciprocated. This is an excellent way to solve any issues such as a mismatched libido or a current lack of sexual compatibility.
The Importance of Sharing Feelings in a Relationship
And finally, let’s discover why sharing feelings in a relationship is important!
Oftentimes, the first issue that comes with a lack of intimacy is a lack of communication. This means that one or both partners may feel disconnected on a deeper level.
They may believe that they’re unable to go to their partner when they feel sad or unhappy, or when they’re having a problem (relationship-related or not). Not just that, but they may feel as though they can’t or don’t want to share their positive feelings with their partner either.
When this happens, emotional distance occurs. And inevitably, relationships will struggle because feelings, situations, experiences, and concerns are not addressed or talked about.
That being said, it’s evident that sharing feelings in a relationship is of huge importance. In fact, a healthy relationship is often one that encompasses open and honest communication without any feelings of fear, guilt, or judgement.
The bottom line however is that when you are free to share your feelings with your partner, you’re actively taking part in creating closeness and connection.
It can be scary, as it may involve taking an emotional risk and courage, and it may make you feel exposed and vulnerable. But vulnerability in a relationship is also important, as it allows one to be their authentic self, instead of trying to please others. It fosters deeper intimacy and trust in relationships.
Conversely, in order to feel the full benefits of sharing your feelings within your relationship, a study shows that self-disclosure is only half of the process. The other half is partner responsiveness.
In other words, when one is expressing their feelings, a partner should show feelings of appreciation, affection, understanding, and acceptance in order for an intimate experience to take place.
Empathetic feedback is the cornerstone of effective communication, whether it is verbal or non-verbal, as it indicates that trust is present.
We hope that you’ve learned a thing or two, and are able to practise some of these suggestions in your relationship. We’re on your team, and we’re rooting for you to have the most satisfying intimate relationships with your partner or spouse!