How to build intimacy in your relationship
“Real intimacy makes us feel alive like we’ve been found, as if someone finally took the time to peer into the depths of our soul and really see us there. Until then, until we experience true intimacy, we will feel passed over and ignored, like someone is looking right through us.”Shana Schutte
What is true intimacy? And how can you build it or restore it in your relationship? If you crave closeness and connection, but you feel starved and disconnected and have no idea where to start, what you really want is to feel intimate again. In this post I’m exploring the topic of intimacy and how you can have more of it.
What is being intimate?
It can be difficult to define what intimacy is as it’s not something is tangible or visible to an outsider. Being intimate with your partner doesn’t automatically mean you’re having sex or being sexual, in fact, it isn’t always physical at all.
Sometimes the most intimate thing you can do with your partner is to look into each others’ eyes for 1 minute, share your deepest fears, or share one of your oldest memories. Intimacy is a feeling of closeness, connection, bliss, and union with somebody else- be it with your partner, a family member, a close friend, your therapist, or yourself.
Intimacy isn’t just something you experience within your romantic or sexual relationships. Maybe for you, having a deep heart to heart conversation with your bestie feels intimate. Or when you smell your child’s hair and give them a long cuddle is real intimacy for you. You may already experience intimate moments with your partner, but because it wasn’t “sex” or “making love”, it didn’t feel like how intimacy “should” be.
Here’s how I define intimacy: you feel able to let down your guard and allow somebody to see all of you, without the masks on. You allow yourself to be vulnerable, which can take a lot of courage. I also define intimacy as having a deep connection to yourself, to your innermost self, your body and your erotic energy.
If you find it difficult to be intimate with yourself, then how can you expect to feel intimate with your partner?
It can take time for you to build intimacy, it’s part of an ongoing relationship with yourself as well as your partner. It takes work, trust and feeling safe, which is why if you feel your trust has been betrayed, you no longer feel safe and the intimacy will be broken.
When you are learning to be intimate with yourself, you need to feel that your body is a safe place to be. This is why if you’ve experienced sexual trauma, the first step towards healing is creating safety again in your body.
I also believe that being able to name all of your anatomy and learning to feel comfortable with your genitals is the foundation to real intimacy with yourself, which you can then share with your partner.
I see intimacy as a whole person experience: physical, emotional, mental, energetic and spiritual, which I’ll explore later on in this post.
Also, remember that what you think of as being intimate could be very difficult to your partner’s, so it’s always best to check in with how they like to feel close to you and how they like to give and receive love.
Why is intimacy important in a relationship?
You could ask why is love important? Why are relationships important? Why do we have relationships in the first place? It all comes down to feeling close and connected to yourself, and then to somebody else.
Humans are built for intimate connections; it’s literally hardwired into our nervous systems if you think back to our ancestry in living in tribes. Bonding was crucial to your survival so that your tribe would stay together. Banishment and isolation meant certain death. We need each other to survive and thrive.
While we do live in the 21st century, being close and connected is no less vital to our well being than it was thousands of years ago. No human is an island, even if you identify as a loner or an introvert. We know that babies fail to thrive when they aren’t given enough physical and emotional closeness, and this need for closeness is something we need throughout our whole lives.
Your relationship cannot grow without intimacy because your relationship cannot grow without connection. When you make a practice of connecting with your partner, letting them in, sharing a part of yourself, you are helping to grow your relationship and nourish your emotional wellbeing.
What intimacy looks like
Intimacy comes in many forms, so I’ve broken it down into 5 categories using the MEBES(c) Wheel of how I work with clients:
Mind: Sharing your thoughts and ideas without fear that they will be rejected or shut down, being able to speak freely and know you won’t be judged, sharing your desires and fantasies, your turn ons and turn offs.
Emotions: Sharing your dreams and aspirations, letting your partner see a creative project, letting your guard down, crying, having a heart to heart conversation with all the cards laid on the table.
Body: Holding hands, a back rub, a head rub, a gentle massage, snuggling on the sofa, a long cuddle, spooning, a caress on the arms, partner dancing, hand dancing, genital massage, genital mapping, having your partner worship your body and delight in it.
Energy: Allowing your partner into your energy field, giving an energy healing, connecting through dance, feeling energy harmonize with your partner, sensing your partner enter the room before they do.
Spirit: A shared spiritual practice or ritual, creating a couples’ ritual together, doing a spiritual retreat together, practising meditation together.
As a sex coach, of course, I view sex as physical intimacy. But this barely scratches the surface, because you can probably think of times where you’ve been in bed with someone and it felt completely detached and soul-less.
One crucial part of physical intimacy which is left out is being able to talk openly and honestly about sex with your partner. Where you can share what you like and don’t like, what you want, your desires and fantasies, your turn-ons and turn-offs.
Also remember that sex doesn’t equal intercourse, and after a while intercourse can become so routine that it loses all feelings of closeness. You can develop your intimate connection by treating each others’ bodies as an adventure, where you commit to exploring all the ways you can experience pleasure that don’t just mean penetration.
How you can improve your intimacy
If you’re reading this and having a mini panic because you feel that you have drifted far apart from your partner- don’t worry! Intimacy can be learned; rebuilding it takes time and patience. You can start by practicing little moments of intimacy each day that will make you feel closer and more connected to your partner.
Try holding hands when you’re out for a walk, snuggling on the sofa together or lying with your hand in your partner’s lap, giving them a full kiss on the lips when they come home or offering to give them the massage you know they like. Start giving your partner compliments and praise that you know they would love to hear. Practice expressing your innermost thoughts and feelings to your partner.
And let’s talk about sex too: Yes, start talking about it! Get into the habit of talking about sex, and notice what feelings come up when you do. Learn how to practise asking for what you want and inviting your partner to do the same. Become familiar with your genitals and your partner’s genitals, name all of the parts.
My passion is helping couples restore the passionate connection with each other, and empowering women to experience their erotic power.
If you need more help to improve and rebuild the intimacy in your relationship, then book a free 20-minute call with me to find out how I can help you.