Sexual and relationship problems often go hand in hand, as observed and reported by Gerald Weeks of Psychology Today.
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Sometimes, couples experiencing issues in their sex life mistakenly believe the problem is entirely physical or wholly mental. Sex is part of the relationship’s foundation, and if that foundation has cracks, the damage can seep into various areas.
Couples often don’t recognize the root cause of trouble in their sex lives, and that comes back to one thing: the false belief that sex and intimacy is one and the same thing. Read on to discover the difference between sex and intimacy and what you can do to foster intimacy to make your relationship stronger and more rewarding.
Intimacy Versus Sex
Basically, sex is the physical act itself – the gratification of a pleasant experience and sharing an orgasm with your partner. Sex can be great with or without a feeling of closeness, an example of the latter being a one-night stand both people enjoy. But intimacy is on a much deeper level than physical sex.
Intimacy is about the emotional connection you’re sharing with someone else – in this case, your partner. Other moments of intimacy in daily life include things like offering a comforting gesture to a loved one in distress or baring your soul to a trusted friend and receiving the same in return. Many people don’t realize these gestures are also forms of intimacy and how much intimacy is a vital part of close relationships in general.
Couples that argue about sex often link these two concepts together as the same thing. For example, you may feel like you need more intimacy, to feel closer, to have more sex with your partner, while he or she feels as if that closeness is off the table unless you’re having more sex. In reality, you can have great sex without intimacy; people do all the time. You can also foster intimacy without having sex, as these two things are mutually exclusive.
Once you acknowledge that you don’t need one to have the other, you can move toward building a more intimate relationship with your partner. That, in turn, can lead to better sex and a happier life for the both of you in general.
Getting More Intimate Without Sex
There is a surprising amount of little things you and your partner can do together to foster intimacy. Touch each other and hold hands, without it leading to sex unless you really want it to. It’s all too easy to get into a rut, where the only time you’re touching each other is before sex. Physical contact with your partner each day is a great way to foster your bond, plus it shows desire, love and appreciation for your partner.
Get yourself into the habit of handing out hugs, little back rubs, and any other type of physical contact you and your partner are comfortable with on a daily basis. Bear in mind, you don’t want to do anything that makes you or your partner feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, so stick to the comfort zones. If your partner, for example, does not like bigger displays of affection in public, stick to more casual gestures when you’re out and about, like hand holding.
You can also pretend you’re a new couple, going back to the days when you couldn’t keep your hands off each other but weren’t having sex yet. Recreate that feeling for a little boost that’s a blast from the past. This exercise is enjoyable for you and your partner and also will remind you of things you may have forgotten, like why you fell for them to begin with. It’s easy to forget those little qualities that made your partner stand out from the rest after being in a relationship for a long period of time, so now is the time to appreciate them all over again.
Sharing interests, believe it or not, is intimacy-building to the max. If it’s been a long time since you and your partner have done anything outside of going to a movie or eating dinner out, it’s time to look for new interests to develop together as a couple. There are a ton of outside interests available for the two of you to share – everything from horseback riding to cooking classes. Try to find something you both want to try but haven’t done yet, and see where it leads. By trying new interests, you and your partner will share your first experiences with each other and have something entirely new to talk about.
If you haven’t been going out to dinner or to the movies together, be sure to add that to the mix. At least a few days each month should be spent in quiet, focused time with your partner, without the kids or TV blaring in the background. This time allows you to reconnect to your partner, and they with you, even during busy or stressful times. By making a point of setting aside time together, you can renew your commitment and lend each other support.
Make sure you stick to this even if there are things going on in yours or your partner’s life that make it seem impossible to spend some time alone together. Those are the times when you both will benefit from reconnecting the most.
Above all, don’t forget to keep talking. While comfortable silence is certainly okay now and again, if you’re never talking with your partner, it screams you have nothing left to say. Keep sharing, whether it is about your hopes and dreams or that trip you just took to the grocery store. If you stop sharing with each other, your relationship will end up in serious trouble.
A Word On Sex
With all this talk of intimacy, it can be easy to forget that sex is important too, whether it be the intimate kind or the more physical gratification sort. Both types are great for couples, and both have their place in your relationship. Neglecting one type in favor for the other leaves a hole in your sex life that can work its way into your relationship as a whole.
If you find you’re still having trouble despite working on intimacy and being more active in your sex life, speak to your partner about your concerns. They may also be struggling, and the both of you might benefit from reaching out to a counselor or marriage therapist. Seek medical advice if there is a possibility of an underlying condition or if medication is interfering with your sex drive.
Honest and open communication is the most effective way to identify problems in your relationship and get to the root cause. No matter what you decide to do, be open with your partner, and encourage them to do the same.