Any great relationship includes three elements: you, your partner, and the relationship you share. When you want to improve the intimacy in your healthy marriage, all three need your attention so that you can experience joy, pleasure, and passion with your partner.
Sometimes couples resist working with a sex therapist or intimacy coach. They think it means that they are “bad at sex” or they “have problems”, the kind of problems that are embarrassing and awkward and uncomfortable to talk about.
When things are less than fabulous in the bedroom, it’s often easier to just not talk about it and hope it will get better with time—which rarely happens.
In a healthy marriage, where you two get along well and the sex is at least okay, it’s easy to avoid focusing on it and instead enjoy other aspects of your relationship.
Don’t do that!
The most effective (and lasting) ways to improve intimacy usually require these two elements:
When you orient to both of these considerations, you will deepen the emotional connection between the two of you in the most delicious and gratifying ways.
When your emotional connection is thriving, you are likely to easily find your way to more delight, fun, and empowerment in the context of increasing your physical intimacy.
In doing so, you will make your marriage happier, healthier, and stronger.
This seems like an obvious question, but the answer is often elusive. Sometimes people think physical intimacy is code for “sex”, but it’s not. It is about sensual touch, about connecting more deeply with your partner through touching and being touched. It is about the kind of connection that arises when you allow yourself to be seen–literally and figuratively. It is about the kind of lovemaking that brings you closer together as a result of being in one another’s arms.
Some people see physical intimacy as secondary but it can be just as important in developing and maintaining a healthy relationship as verbal affection and friendliness with one another.
Emotional intimacy is rooted in a connection of the heart. It includes friendship, romance, trust, love, companionship, and sometimes edgy openness about who you are.
The great thing is that emotional and physical intimacy are synergistic. They nurture one another – the key is to jumpstart that cycle of connection and allow it to grow and expand.
Take responsibility for your own emotional state – if you are disappointed, angry, afraid, or perplexed, you need to own that. Doing so is essential for successful communication. Instead of wanting your partner to change, put your attention on transforming how you feel. You need to confront WHY you feel the way you feel. What has you responding to the circumstances the way you are? Do you expect too much? Are you expecting too little? Have you communicated your needs in a way your partner can understand? Or, are you expecting them to be a mind reader and just know what your needs are? Be honest with yourself and accept any culpability FIRST-then afterwards you can address everything else that follows below.
Self-care makes you a much better partner -In taking care of yourself, whether it is being more honest, better groomed, doing what it takes to improve your mental health, doing what it takes to feel more sexy, or even more organized, you have to identify what is missing in your life and add it in. You are not going to be the best version of yourself for your partner if you don’t become the best version of yourself for you. So go ahead and take that bubble bath, or go on a weekend retreat, or whatever it is that nourishes your body and your soul. Doing so is the opposite of selfish!
Identify your partner’s love language – Yes, it’s ok to ask what your partner’s love language, or request your partner takes the quiz to find out. Because once you know, then you can go ahead and express love in the specific ways that will touch your partner’s heart. Doing so shouldn’t feel like work or be overwhelming. Give yourself grace and start with something small enough to be comfortable for you, that will also be meaningful for them. If your partner is a “words of affirmation” kind of person, tell them how much you love them. In fact, say something every day. The more specific, the better. It’s fine to say, “I am grateful for you”, but even better to say “I am grateful for the way you smile when you are entertained” and “I have so much admiration for how you stay calm when you are putting the children to bed.” If their love language is “receiving gifts,” observe your partner and consider what small thing you can give that will make a big difference for them. Doing small things, when meaningful to your partner, can have a surprisingly huge impact. For example, it used to really frustrate me when I didn’t know when my husband would get home from work because I couldn’t anticipate our family dinnertime-without that information the food was always not ready in time or already cool when he would walk in the front door. Now, my husband texts me when he leaves work so I know what time he will get home. It’s hardly any effort for him–he just does it when he gets his keys out. But it makes a big difference to me, and it has been absolutely wonderful. For my part, I pack his lunch when I pack lunch for our children. It’s not a big deal for me, but when he has his lunch break at work, he feels loved, appreciated, and very much supported by me. If such small gestures in your partner’s love language are new for you, you’ll see that they will go very far in nurturing your connection!
Revisit your best sensual and sexual moments together – It’s often easier to think of complaints and what doesn’t work for you. But instead of aiming to improve your experiences in the bedroom by sharing your frustrations, start by sharing the lovely times you’ve experienced. This could be a momet in the distant past, or it could be from last night. Sharing in this way is like looking through a photo album and enjoying the wonderful memories. Except in this case, doing so makes it likely you’ll relive and recreate those wonderful memories! It also builds confidence and rapport. (And if you can’t think of a favorite moment when you were both naked, start with moments when you were clothed. Maybe walking hand-in-hand at the beach…)
Share your current desires – Once you feel comfortable reminiscing about fun times you’ve had together, share a simple desire you have for a future experience. This can be such a delicious conversation because your desires may have changed over time and it’s an opportunity to catch your partner up! Maybe life got in the way, or you just haven’t had the time to think through what would really turn you on these days – but sit down and think about it. You’d be surprised at how willing our loving partners really are when it comes to making us happy if we share our desires with kindness (and without blame). Perhaps you’d like to try role play in the bedroom (playing doctor, or being a naughty girl with a stern teacher, or anything else that occurs to you). Maybe you’d like to try a new sex position, making love in a new location in your home, or reading erotica together. Or watching porn. Everyone has their own sexual personality in terms of what will add some spice and delight to the bedroom. Keep in mind that desires can be small adjustments that will delight you, or bigger ones that flood you with excitement. Be sure to invite your partner to share any of their desires as well.
Share what isn’t currently working for you right now – Only after you’ve named your favorite moments together, and shared some delightful desires, is it time to share what isn’t working for you. Before you begin check in with your partner to ask if they are up for such a conversation, and do your very best to share your experience without blaming anyone. After all, if you’ve never said it before, how would your partner know that it isn’t actually pleasurable for you. Be sure to take responsibility and acknowledge that you never said it before so they couldn’t have known, but now you are saying it because you want both of you to enjoy more physical intimacy.
Create sensual experiences for one another – Take turns being in charge of creating a sensual experience. This will provide an opportunity for one of you to be creative, while the other one gets to receive and be surprised. Afterwards, share your favorite moments with one another so you know what to expand on the next time! This can be very confronting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will become the highlight of your week!
Focus on one another – Make a point of having conversations on topics other than kids, pets and logistics. Whether you go out for date night each week or you just hang out in your living room, let go of your usual ways of communicating and instead read poetry aloud, or discuss your five year plan for your marriage, or share how you feel in a vulnerable way. The main thing is to go far beyond your roles as parents and people who own a home together as you share yourselves with one another. Or you might learn something new together. Whether you’ve always wanted to speak French, take dancing lessons, or learn to roll sushi, go ahead and do it! Being students together–no matter the topic–is completely invigorating for a relationship.
Plan your intimacy – I know this sounds counterintuitive to being fun and flirtatious, but this really does work. When you are married and have all the stressors of life like bills, kids, jobs and everything in between – it can be very easy to put off an intimate experience. But doing so ends up becoming its own source stress! So make a plan together and put it in the calendar. This can lead to a very fun dynamic, especially if you exchange a lot of flirtatious texts throughout the day because you anticipate being intimate later on. Instead of waiting, wondering, and hoping if you are going to be intimate (only to possibly be let down and frustrated by a lack of intimacy) take out the guesswork and just plan it. It will do wonders for you.
Work with a specialist – You love your spouse, and you know they love you. Sometimes, however, that doesn’t feel like it’s enough and intimacy becomes a very complicated subject. It becomes overwhelming to try to improve things without guidance, structure and support. Many of the couples I coach love each other deeply but they have lost touch with how to effectively communicate with one another about their own needs. They have spent too much time compromising and feel out of touch with their own desires. In some cases, couples are just too busy with their day-to-day lives and therefore appreciate someone guiding them. Getting help to improve your marriage is so worthwhile and really is one of the best investments you can make because the return is tremendous! When you focus on your love, it will expand in the most amazing ways, creating the kind of growth and expansion that leads to intimacy that will blow you away!
I want this for all couples, including you. So try out these suggestions and then reach out with any questions, and to tell me how it went.