As human beings, we all crave intimacy and connection with other members of our species. We’re naturally programmed to desire interaction with others, and there’s no instinct more basic than love.
There are two sides to intimacy and connection: physical and emotional. When we’re in love, we want to be close to the object of our affections in both senses.
We want an insight into their thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears, and for them to be honest and open with us.
But we also want to be close to that person physically, whether that’s through sexual interaction or something as simple as holding hands.
Although it’s true that there are people out there who have no interest in doing so, the vast majority of us want nothing more than to develop a loving, intimate relationship with another person, and to feel close to them physically as well as emotionally.
In this article, rather than the emotional aspect of intimacy, I’ll be focusing on what to do when the physical aspect of your relationship isn’t working as well as it once did, which is an issue that the majority of us will face at one time or another.
Hollywood would have us believe that once we’ve found ‘the one’ we want to spend the rest of our lives with, it’s all sunshine and rainbows and we walk off into the distance into a haze of happily ever after.
The truth, as anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows, is that they take an awful lot of work and maintenance.
Whilst there are any number of things that can go wrong in committed, long-term relationships, problems with intimacy and connection are very common.
They can leave us feeling unsatisfied and unhappy, questioning the very foundations of the bond we have with our partner.
Before you can start to patch up any holes in the physical side of your relationship, however, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions to establish why and where things might have started to go wrong.
It’s vital that you’re honest about whether it was only one partner who started drawing back, or if you both did so simultaneously.
Even if you feel like it has been largely them that has changed, you’ll have undoubtedly played some part in it. So it’s important to accept responsibility for that rather than laying it all at your partner’s door.
Did it happen slowly, or was there a catalyst?
Life gets in the way. You’re tired, and if you live together and sleep in the same bed every night, you can easily end up taking each other for granted.
Was that the case with you? Did intimacy slowly fade out of your relationship?
Or, did some event in your relationship, however insignificant it might have seemed at the time, trigger a change?
Is it a symptom of a fundamental problem?
Before you start trying to rebuild intimacy and connection in your relationship, think carefully about whether it’s something you really want.
Is it just that you’ve lost touch with one another in a physical sense, but the foundations of your relationship are still strong? Or, is it a symptom of other issues that might not be so easily solved?
A lack of intimacy is something that you can fix if you both truly want to, and doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that your relationship is doomed.
It’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself about what your true feelings are and what you really want before you make any big decisions or start trying to make any changes.
7 Practical Tips To Up Levels Of Intimacy
If you would like to put the spark back into your relationship and regain some of the intimacy and connection that seems to have been lost, what can you do?
Well, to start with, you can follow this advice:
1. Lower Your Expectations
I know that doesn’t sound good. It makes it sound like I’m telling you to simply settle for the hand you’ve been dealt. But that’s not what I mean.
I don’t mean that your expectations should be low, per se, but they definitely shouldn’t be unrealistically high, either.
It’s important to remember that your physical relationship will probably never have quite the spark that it did when you first met.
That’s all down to pesky hormones that go crazy when you’re experiencing that first hit of love and lust, but naturally settle down a little once you’ve transitioned into a committed relationship.
After all, if we constantly lived in the state of restlessness that new love induces, we’d never get anything done.
If you expect it to be just as wild and passionate as it was when you first met, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.
You may well experience moments that hark back to the days when you were first getting to know each other, and you’ll continue to discover new things about each other as you both grow and your bodies and tastes change, but you can’t expect your physical relationship to go on being earth-shattering for years on end.
It’s also important not to let the idea that the media like to perpetuate (that if you don’t have a revolutionary sex life then you’re some kind of failure) affect you.
You shouldn’t be aiming for a physical relationship that meets those crazy standards, but rather one that makes you happy, that’s based on a true connection with and understanding of your partner.
I know you already know how important communication is, but when it comes to tricky topics like sex, you might have been hoping that you wouldn’t have to sit down and have the big conversation about it.
However, sitting down together and having a discussion about how you’ve been feeling with regards to the physical intimacy and connection in your relationship really is the first step toward solving the problem.
You need to know that you’re both on the same page, that neither partner blames the other, and that you’re both committed to working on it.
Something that’s key here is to never have this conversation after you’ve been intimate with one another, as that’s a time when you’re both feeling a little vulnerable and, with all those hormones rushing around, emotions can easily run high.
3. Start Small
Physical intimacy isn’t all about sex. Things such as holding hands, making proper eye contact, touching their arm, or hugging are just as, if not more, important.
It’s those tiny gestures that you make on a daily basis that let your partner know that you really care and keep the connection strong.
4. Get Romantic
Romance isn’t about flashy gestures. It’s about enjoying the beauty in life and each other’s company at the same time.
Busy as I’m sure you are, it’s important to carve out some time for each other, and show your partner that you’ve genuinely put some thought in.
Take a little extra time to cook them a special meal, just because. Get creative and think outside the box. Take your partner for a picnic at a spot with a view. Watch the sunset. Show them that you’re happy just spending time in their company, and want to make memories.
5. Take Care Of Yourself
In the modern world, with advertising and Instagram, there’s an awful lot of pressure to look a certain way, so I’m certainly not going to add to that.
Beauty is not one-size-fits-all, and you shouldn’t be trying to match up to unrealistic standards.
However, rejecting beauty standards doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look after yourself.
Taking a little bit of extra care over the way you dress and your personal grooming can make a huge difference, as if you don’t feel attractive, then you’re likely to transmit that to your partner.
After all, as we’ve all been told many times, it’s difficult to accept love from someone else if you don’t love yourself.
Do things that make you feel good, whether that’s as simple as taking time for yourself, having a bath, booking a spa day, eating food so nourishing it leaves you bursting with energy, or exercising in a way that leaves you feeling fabulous.
Exercise isn’t about achieving a certain body type, as fit comes in all shapes and sizes. Exercising means you’ll have more energy and generally a more optimistic outlook on life, which is attractive in anyone’s book.
When you look in the mirror, focus on the things you love, rather than the things you might change.
At the same time, make sure you support your partner when they’re doing things for themselves, and don’t forget to tell them how beautiful they are, inside and out.
It’s hard to connect with your partner when all you can think about is the pile of work waiting on your desk the next morning, or when you are constantly checking your work emails.
Chances are your partner knows you better than anyone, so they’ll be able to tell a mile off when you’re not really in the room with them.
All areas of your life will improve when you’re not stressed, not just your physical connection with your partner. You ought to try to make it a priority.
Let off steam through exercise and find an activity that helps you calm your hectic mind, whether that’s yoga, journaling, meditation, or just reading a good book.
You owe it to your partner to be fully present when you’re with them and give them all the attention they deserve.
7. Don’t Expect Change Overnight
Good things come to those who wait. Make a conscious effort to put the tips above into practice in your relationship, but don’t expect instant results. With time and patience, that intimacy you’re craving will flourish once again.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.