14 Tips for How to Bring Back Intimacy in a Marriage
If your relationship is struggling with intimacy, you’re not alone. One study surveyed almost 18,000 couples in the United States and found that 15.6 percent of married couples hadn’t had sex within the last year.
The same survey found that 13.5 percent of married couples hadn’t had sex in the last five years. While being intimate isn’t the only factor for a healthy relationship, a lack of intimacy can cause turbulence.
When considering how to bring back intimacy in a marriage, many also wonder, “How often should a couple be sexually intimate?”
“I never answer this question when asked by couples directly because it is so personal and subjective and creates more confusion and chaos. It’s simply not helpful or empowering to prescribe what are best sex practices for someone else’s relationship.”
Benu Lahiry, LMFT
Sometimes, a couple perceives a lack of intimacy based on an arbitrary number of times they believe they should be intimate. It may also be time to rekindle intimacy in your marriage. In this post, not only will we go over ways to bring back intimacy in your relationship, but we’ll also give you ways to communicate effectively to ensure both you and your partner’s sexual and emotional needs are being met.
What does it mean to have no intimacy in a relationship?
When there’s no intimacy in a relationship, we’re referring to the absence of both a physical and emotional connection between both partners. This means a lack of sex, of course, but it can also mean a lack of communication and affection as well. Here are some factors that may cause a lack of intimacy:
- Relationship problems
- Health issues
- Past trauma
If the mental health of one or both partners is suffering, this may be why intimacy fades in a relationship. Although we’re going to discuss how to be more sexually intimate with your husband or wife, it’s important to note that speaking with a couples counselor may help with additional mental health issues.
What is emotional intimacy?
Emotional intimacy is the closeness you feel to your partner on an emotional level. A lack of sexual intimacy can be the result of a lack of emotional intimacy. Each person in the relationship has different sexual accelerators, and an emotional connection can be an accelerator.
When trying to improve your physical relationship, you will also need to work on how you’re connecting emotionally. This involves healthy, loving, and respectful communication while also meeting your partner’s emotional needs.
14 ways to bring back intimacy to your marriage
During the early stages of a relationship or marriage, couples feel closer than ever and may not be able to get enough of each other emotionally or physically. As time goes on and routines set in, sometimes, the intimacy leaves the relationship. Couples may no longer know how to be romantic, and the stresses of a relationship may cause intimacy to leave the relationship.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can rekindle both your physical and emotional intimacy, but it takes work. A good place to start is by having a conversation. Here are four questions for you and your partner to answer to begin talking about sex from our resident couples therapist Benu Lahiry, LMFT:
- How do you and your partner define intimacy?
- How are you aligning your sexual compatibility?
- How do you visualize yourself as a sexual being? How have you visualized it in the past? Present? Future? What does your desired future with your partner look like?
- What are your sexual accelerators? What are your sexual brakes?
Now that you’re on the same page, here are 14 ways to start rebuilding intimacy in your marriage.
1. Show more physical affection
A great place to start bringing back intimacy is by initiating more affectionate touch. This can come in a variety of forms. You can offer to give your partner a shoulder or back rub. Physical affection can be a great way to rekindle passion for any relationship. These acts could be as simple as a hug at the end of a stressful day, sitting on the same side of the table, or setting your hand on their thigh.
2. Become a better listener
Communication is key in a relationship, but you need to be a great listener to do it effectively. Do you truly listen, or are you just waiting to speak? Ask your partner questions and take an interest in what they’re saying while giving them your full attention. Your partner will feel validated when you listen, and it can help you feel closer to them.
In his bestselling book “How to Know a Person,” author David Brooks says, “Perhaps to really know another person, you have to have a glimmer of how they experience the world. To really know someone, you have to know how they know you.”
3. Switch up how you initiate sex
When sexual intimacy is lacking in a relationship, some couples start blaming or criticizing one another. If things aren’t working out when one person or the other tries initiating sex, try switching things up. For those who don’t initiate sex, try initiating it sometimes. Rather than scheduling sex, be spontaneous. Find what works for you.
4. Keep routine away from sexual intimacy
As a married couple, many of your routines should be completely separate from sex. When it’s time to be intimate, give that time and your partner your full attention. Discussing chores, bills, or relationship problems when trying to be intimate can kill the mood quickly.
5. Regularly show appreciation
If you want to arouse your partner, show them your appreciation for what they do. This can come in various different forms. Thank them for making dinner and tell them what you loved about it. Let them know how grateful you are for them remembering to pick that thing up from the store. Tell them how great they are with the kids. We all love compliments, and it makes your partner feel wanted when they see that you notice and appreciate them.
6. Holding hands can be intimate
Holding hands isn’t just a way to show physical affection toward your partner — it also has incredible neurological benefits. Studies find that holding hands stimulates the vagus nerve, which lowers blood pressure and helps reduce stress. It also helps release the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which helps you feel closer and more connected to someone.
7. Try being more emotionally vulnerable during sex
During sex, open up to your partner more on an emotional level. Share your desires and fantasies with your partner. This is a great practice to bring you closer together and make the experience more than just the physical experience.
8. Prioritize sex
When learning how to bring intimacy back into a relationship, it’s important to make sex a priority. This doesn’t mean that it trumps everything else in life, but it does mean that it should be intentional and take some effort. Set the mood with soft lighting or candles, share some wine, and listen to your favorite music to set the stage.
Oftentimes, it’s these romantic gestures and the environment that also leave a relationship. Making sex a priority and putting in the extra effort also shows your partner you care about the romantic experience as a whole.
9. Spend more quality time together
Sometimes, a relationship loses intimacy as you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With work, children, and other responsibilities, couples often lose that quality time they spent together in the early stages of their relationship when the intimacy was there.
Make it a point to spend quality time together. This can be small things like cooking some meals together during the week, going for nightly walks, or scheduling date nights.
10. Go to bed at the same time
It’s common for couples to get to a point where, although they share the same bed, they go to bed at different times. Whether it’s different sleep schedules or someone stays up to finish some chores around the house, this can harm the intimacy in a relationship. The closeness of going to bed together can greatly improve the feeling of closeness, and if you’re in the mood, it’s a lot easier to do so.
Even if you both face the challenge of getting tired at different times, try to have a few nights each week where you lie down at the same time.
11. Switch up the types of sex you have
Sometimes, intimacy fades from a marriage because it’s become dull for one or both people. If this is the case, change up the types of sex that you have. You can have gentle, intimate sex and switch to more erotic sex.
12. Build up sexual tension
To help rebuild intimacy, increase the feeling of anticipation by building sexual tension before heading to the bedroom. The brain loves anticipation. In one study, they found that anticipating future desired events closely correlates with well-being. Discuss your fantasies with your partner, and take your time during foreplay. These are both great ways to build that tension.
13. Get curious about sexual intimacy
Try experimenting with different ways to bring pleasure to one another in the bedroom. Sex can be a time to get curious and get to know your partner better as you explore new ways of being intimate. Some questions you can ask your partner may include:
- What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to try?
- Are there any toys you’d like to try in the bedroom?
- Is there a fantasy you’d like to try with me?
- What are things you’d like me to do to bring you pleasure?
But don’t limit yourself to just these. Let your curiosity guide the way.
14. Do more shared activities together
One of the best ways to bring back intimacy is to start spending more time together through shared activities. This is different from doing things like cooking together or going on date nights. Find hobbies, activities, or sports that you both enjoy. Having fun together is a great way to reconnect and spend quality time together.
Why does intimacy leave in marriages?
There are different reasons that intimacy may leave a marriage, like stress, unresolved conflicts, boredom, and communication issues. It’s important to remember that not only are all marriages different, but people within each relationship are different. Couples often grow together, but sometimes, the sexual desires of one may change, and this can cause intimacy issues.
It’s also important to remember that a person’s physical and mental health closely correlates to their libido. One study found that depression decreased sexual desire and ability to orgasm. Intimacy may leave a marriage because of changes within the body, or it could be due to past trauma, depression, anxiety, or other factors. Some of these challenges may need to be resolved by individual visits with a physician or a mental health professional.
5 signs your marriage lacks intimacy
Remember, there’s no number set in stone for how often a couple has sex. How often you and your partner are sexually intimate with each other depends on your relationship and what works for you. It’s important to have open lines of communication and healthy ways to discuss these matters without pointing fingers and blaming one another.
If you’re wondering if your marriage is lacking intimacy, here are some of the common signs:
- You spend less time together
- You distance yourselves emotionally
- You’re having communication issues
- You avoid one another
- You’re having sexual issues
Couples counseling can help bring back intimacy to your marriage
Many couples struggle with emotional and physical intimacy at one point or another in their relationship. If you’re trying to figure out how to bring back intimacy to your marriage, allow the qualified couples counselors at Ours to help. We have a team of therapists who specialize in marriage and premarital counseling.
First, you fill out a simple questionnaire, and then we handpick the therapist that’s right for your specific situation. To get started, sign up today.