Ask a therapist
How often should we be intimate?
Every Friday, we open our Instagram to the Ours community and let couples submit questions to our team of couples therapists. We pick the most interesting ones and write our thoughts here. This week’s question is: “What is a healthy number to be intimate a month?”
Intimacy stands as a fundamental pillar of relational well-being. Yet, in my experience, many therapists — including couples therapists — don’t know how to bring up the subject of sexuality. There’s a hesitation to bring it up. However, steering clear of the topic of sex makes it challenging to assist clients in navigating healthy relationships effectively.
Nearly every conversation in a therapeutic setting involves some type of intimacy — whether that’s in the form of sharing something vulnerable not related to sex or talking explicitly about sex. While this question is more prescriptive in asking for an exact number, the larger question here is what exactly does intimacy mean to you?
The TLDR direct answer to this question is: I don’t know what’s right for you, but I can sense that the topic of intimacy is weighing on you, and I’d love to explore that more and what it means to you.
It’s such an innocent question, yet there’s so much underneath it.
Therapist revelation – 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.
While intimacy means more than sex, we are on a whole, less intimate and less connected than we once were. We live in a world where staying connected to one another is literally at our fingertips, yet we still grapple with such intense loneliness that it’s become an epidemic. Part of that is due to how we talk about intimacy and pre-conceived notions of how we define intimacy.
Here are five questions that can help you and your partner start talking about intimacy:
- How do you and your partner define intimacy?
- How are you aligning your sexual compatibility?
- How has intimacy and sex changed as your relationship has grown?
- 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 motivates your sexuality? What turns you off?
How do you and your partner define intimacy?
Creating space to individually reflect on and understand how you and your partner experience intimacy is vital to the success of your relationship. In the beginning phases of a relationship, it’s pretty formulaic. It turns out we’re really good at noticing what we’re immediately attracted to — the ‘automatic turn on.’ We take all of that, the passion, the ease of how that feels, and try to make it permanent. We convince ourselves that we always have to feel that same type of desire in order to feel sexual. Sustaining the attraction and getting caught up in the comparison to the intimacy in the honeymoon phase of a relationship makes talking honestly and vulnerably about intimacy hard. We have to think about the quality of the relationship as a whole when considering how we define intimacy — by talking to our partners about what moves them to feel closer to us.
Let’s talk about sexual compatibility
How are you communicating about sex? More importantly, how are you communicating about sex in a safe and comfortable way? When one partner feels that their sex drive is higher than their partners, how do you create the space to explore this positively and safely? How can you listen deeply to your partner? How do we establish a different kind of intimacy that goes beyond the surface of making out and sex.
How do you visualize yourself as a sexual being?
This is more of an individual exercise to share with your partner later. But some questions to ask yourself here include:
- How do I view sex and intimacy? What stories do I tell myself?
- How was sexuality described to me as a child?
- How did that view impact me when I first started having sex?
- How has that shifted my view of it now?
- What do I want it to be for the future?
Need a bit more help talking about sex?
Our therapists are highly-vetted and trained in talking about topics like sex and intimacy.