11 Tips to Strengthen Intimacy in Relationships
Maintaining intimacy in a relationship, especially long term relationship, is often overlooked. With so many challenges couples face, such as long work hours, long commutes, fatigue, parenting, weight gain, housework and illnesses, it's no surprise that intimacy is set on the back burner to be tended to at a later time. However, when intimacy is compromised, boredom and a feeling of lack and disconnection sets in.
Intimacy isn't just about sexual intercourse. It's about closeness, passion and desire. It's also about connection on a deeper level that ignites arousal in many forms, including spiritual, mental and emotional.
Where many couples fail, is they lack an ability to identify what strengthens the body of intimacy for their partner. Men and women have very different ways in which they connect with their partner on an intimate level.
Here are 11 simple tips that both men and women can incorporate into their bedroom time to strengthen that bond of intimacy.
1. Be Open About Body Image
Many couples face the obstacle of what age and having children does to the body. Not only do women experience low self esteem and harsh judgments upon themselves for not looking like they did when they were younger, but surprisingly, men do as well.
As men watch their partner age and change in body weight, they also undergo changes. Whether it's weight gain, hair loss, lack of libido or plain old boredom, men find that they don't feel as aroused or attracted as they once did. So it's important for couples to be open about body image and ask each other questions about their own body. Couples will benefit when they make the effort to learn about their partners thoughts.
Many women often are so preoccupied with their own lack of self esteem, that they tend to overlook the self esteem woes that their mate is going through.
So try something new! Ask your partner what he or she really likes about their body. Even if it's something small that may seem insignificant, start there. It may be as simple as a nicely manicured set of nails, or the color of their hair. Start with something positive rather than negative. Seeing whether or not your partner can actually come up with something positive is also telling on how much they judge their own appearance.
When your partner is comfortable talking about his or her body, even if it's parts they wish to get back into shape, encourage them to keep thinking positively. Encouragement creates relaxation. Men, your wife or girlfriend will be more likely to be at ease during sex if she feels safe to tell you of her insecurities. And women, your husband or boyfriend will feel more attractive if he receives encouragement about how age and other things in life has changed his body.
2. Create a Sacred Space
It is common that when we have children, we lose privacy and with a loss of privacy comes a loss of personal space that you have for yourself and for each other. A bedroom often becomes a drop zone for extra clothes, and all the other things we hurry to shove out of the way from the hallway or other rooms. We end up moving in a TV or a bunch of other things that crowd our space. Before we know it, our bedroom is transformed into a glorified closet! If this describes your bedroom, you can surely bet that it's very difficult to maintain intimate moments while shuffling through a sea of "stuff". De-clutter your private sacred space. Create an environment that is both relaxing and comforting without the distractions of things that don't need to be there. Compliment your room with soft lighting, attractive colors that are pleasing to the eye and keep things simple.
Keep your room designated strictly for sleep and spending alone time together so that when you enter that space, you are immediately more encouraged to engage in those activities. Couples who fall asleep with the TV on are having less sex and are also contributing to a lesser quality sleep cycle. The brain is over stimulated and people find they aren't able to sleep even though their body is tired. People are also more likely to be distracted by the TV that dampens the libido.
3. Maintain Sensual Touch
Men are very visual and can become sexually aroused just by looking over at their partner. The wheels start turning and before he knows it, he's ready to go when she hasn't even figured it out yet that he's ready to go. This throws off the timing of arousal and can make it difficult for both men and women to enjoy intimate moments longer. For women, arousal comes through emotional responses and physical touch. Foreplay doesn't necessarily have to be intercourse related. A woman can become aroused by sensual touch in many forms, as well as men, and creates a stronger desire for the other person. Keeping your mates attention by soft sensual touch is easier than it seems. Caressing the back of her neck, or running your fingers along his upper arm can be just as exciting because it creates anticipation. It also creates a sense of reassurance. Giving a ten minute foot massage or rubbing your partners temples to alleviate pressure headaches and stress also helps. Keep contact with each other even if sex isn't the result of the initial contact.
Men, if you maintain contact, she won't feel like you only want her for sex if the only time she gets contact is for that reason. And women, if you maintain contact with him, you'll be more likely to engage in sexual contact because you will have already initiated a start to it.
4. Curtail the Late Night Work Projects
We can't always avoid pulling a late nighter, especially if our workload is high. But it's also important to remember that success is achieved in moderation. We can't sit at the computer ten hours a day and stay up until one a.m. trying to get it all done. Burnout is a risk that can actually devastate a marriage. A partner that is unavailable for too long a period of time creates a disconnect and where there's disconnect, there's dissatisfaction. People fall out of love because of neglect and it happens more often than not. So, cut your work-at-home time and pay attention to your partner. If you find you're in a position in which the demands of your job require many late nights along with full time days, you might be looking at a marriage to your job instead of a spouse. Although, many couples try to see through the long hours and demands of a building career which can be inspiring and create strength by patience. The difficulty comes when it becomes the norm and lasts for years rather than a temporary amount of time. So be mindful that if you are choosing a partnership, time and effort put into that partnership is a must.
5. Keep Things Current
We hear of so many couples that drift apart. Whether it's work, as mentioned above, children, or different schedules even, many couples who have been together for a good amount of time become lazy with communication and lose touch with each other mentally. Change is inevitable and many relationships falls apart under the premise that they no longer have anything in common. One partner begins to explore something else within themselves and either they find difficulty relating to their partner or they assume their partner just isn't interested. Regardless, it is important to at least give your partner an opportunity to speak for themselves and say whether or not your new interests are an equal interest. Many new experiences, studies and hobbies actually bring people closer together so always give your mate that invitation. An open invitation sends a message that they are important to you, and that you value whether or not they connect with you in that way.
In relationships where personal time together is limited, it's important to communicate as much as possible in that time. Find a way to give a condensed version of your day or week, or even month if you have to, and do your best to keep the sharing positive. Many times we find that we unload all of our stresses on our partner as soon as we have an opportunity to. They know us best, after all, and it tends to become habit to share all the gritty dark details of stressful situations. Many of us do that as a way to seek advice or even just support. The detriment of this habit is that it creates a repetitive pattern of negativity whenever you're together, even if that negativity isn't aimed directly at you or them. Repetition creates predictable responses. Many couples don't notice it until it's too late, that every time they are around each other they become negative which, upon trying to find a root cause, we often mislabel the real reason it happens in the first place. So, use your time wisely. As they say, quality matters. If you find that stress has overwhelmed you and it's having a negative effect on the only time you have with your mate, then it's important to find other creative and healthy outlets to express your pains and stress so that it doesn't bleed in to the positive aspect of time spent together.
6. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Everyone has little things in their life that irritate them and cause distress. Some people more than others. There is nothing more destructive to the intimacy of a partnership that picking things apart, or as what many men like to call, nagging. Men and women alike have habits that drive the other person banana's but they don't have to. The first step to eliminating this situation is to ask those important questions at the very beginning of the partnership and be truthful with yourself if these are habits that you will not be able to tolerate at a later time. Little things can become big things and even at first if they appear small, such as a partner that appears to drink too much, or smoke when you're not a smoker, or chew their nails in public; regardless of what the "small" things are, assess them realistically and set boundaries if they are deal breakers in a relationship. Many couples enter long term partnerships and marriage even though there are many things about the relationship they do not like to tolerate. This can only accelerate temperamental moods and the lure of saying many critical things. So, don't sweat the small stuff if it's something you can live with. But be honest if it's something you can't. You will be doing yourself and your partner a great deal of good by being truthful and respectful.
If it's socks on the floor, the toilet seat left up or even the cap left off the toothpaste, are these things really something to end a relationship over? Many partners that enter into marriage at a later age, find they are less tolerant of a spouse because they have been single for a long while and have had control over these things longer than not. The older we get, the more stubborn and less flexible we tend to become. Even the sweetest person can be a bit difficult to live with if this is the case. So keep the small things small and be flexible.
7. Be Kind
Intimacy is born of trust. Spiritually, Emotionally and Mentally we connect on an intimate level with our partner because we trust them with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. Partners who tend to jab, nit pick or make fun of their partner often will create an atmosphere of defensiveness. It's great to be able to laugh at ourselves but there are boundaries to what should be served up hot on a platter of punch lines. Be realistic about your partners sensitivities and if something is just too tender of a topic, leave it be.
Many couples enter a relationship wounded. Defensive postures are high and certain things can trigger those defenses. The more kind we are to our partner, the deeper the trust they give us, and the more generous they become with affection, communication and sex. Kindness is not to be mistaken for someone who is subdued and weak willed. Kindness shows maturity, a healthy emotional self, and brings out the best in us. For people who thrive on putting their partner down, especially in public, they have not acquired the skills they need to be an equal loving person in a long term committed relationship. Kindness shows readiness and strength.
Kindness in difficult conversation also helps to avoid conflict. Not giving in to provocation can spare a nasty argument and can also help to get to the root of the issue. Being kind does not mean having to allow oneself to be badgered. It means being diplomatic, direct and concise without a rise in temperament, attitude or hostility.
8. A Little Flirtation Goes a Long Way
When courting a potential mate, flirtation is a big part of creating desire and attraction. But what happens once we have secured a partnership with that potential mate? Sadly, many people often become disinterested because they stop trying to please their partner. They become lazy and fall into a very common trap of neglect. Regardless if you have been married for twelve years or have just been serious about each other for three months, flirtation is a direct way of saying to your partner that you still desire them, you are attracted to them and they are a sexually attractive person.
Flirtation builds intimacy because it keeps desire and playfulness current. Women are more likely to initiate sex and intimate touching when they are complimented and flirted with in a respectful way. And men are more likely to feel as though they satisfy their partner sexually and emotionally.
9. Try New Things
We've all heard it. Try new things. Trying something new doesn't mean people have to completely step outside of their comfort zone to keep their partner interested sexually to maintain intimacy. It just means that we are staying aware that boredom can set in easily and fizzle out even the hottest passion partners have for each other. Making love at noon and spending the day caressing each other in the nude is a good way to add spontaneity. Or making love with the lights on if you're normally an "in the dark" person. Men are visually stimulated and seeing his girlfriend or wife nude in the light is alluring. And for women, sensual touch or massage that doesn't include genitals encourages arousal and also relaxation. A relaxed woman is more likely to enjoy sex.
Switch up the routine. If you find yourself in a rut of long love making sessions, try a quickie instead. Or if you're used to quickies, make the time to take your time with your partner. Do something different. It shows you care about your intimate connection and are willing to keep that important, regardless of what other obligations you have going on.
10. Ask Questions
One of the biggest busters to intimacy in relationships are arguments that have been accelerated by assumption. Almost all disagreements or arguments can be avoided by simply asking a polite question. If your partner is defensive, because they feel under attack frequently, they will become distant and energetically push you away.
In a different example, if you're just entering a new long term partnership and you're trying to figure out what makes him or her tick, ASK! Ask what they like and what they don't like. Ask where they like to be touched and where they don't like to be touched. Ask what they prefer and ask what they would like to try, and when you do, respect the answer.
In situations where your partner has difficulty experiencing sexual pleasure due to inexperience or even sexual abuse, ask questions to help them get through the experience so that they can learn something new and find ways to move through difficult situations. Asking questions will also show your partner you care about their response, their pleasure and what makes them happy which in turn gains their trust and creates a more natural experience of sexual expression. Many women become disappointed or dissatisfied with physical intimacy because they feel their partner is neglectful or even selfish when in many examples, their partner just doesn't understand what makes them tick. So speak up about what you need and want and ask your partner for the same. You'll find that you will have a gentler time getting over the hurdles of awkwardness and will experience much more passion on a regular basis.
11. Be Clean
Last, be clean. This is definitely one of the most important tips, to maintain physical hygiene. As we become comfortable in our relationships, sometimes we tend to neglect hygiene which can be a big turn off for your partner. Brush your teeth. Shower. Trim your finger nails. Wash your hair. Shave. Wear clean clothes and do your best not to lounge in sweat pants all day. Make the effort to attract your partner to you, regardless of how long you've been together. Most couples prefer to engage in sex after they have bathed or showered and are feeling fresh. Odors that result from poor hygiene are a common complaint for both men and women and create a resistance to engaging in sex. Wear perfume for your mate. Wear cologne. Make the effort to look and smell nice. Many couples prefer a partner that trims or shaves their genital areas to maintain cleanliness and also more sensitivity during physical intimacy. Trimming these areas also cuts down on bacteria which helps to prevent odor and infections. Women are susceptible to urinary tract infections much more than men due to the location of the urethra which is the opening that leads to the bladder. Friction against the urethra during sex can cause bacteria to enter it which leads to bladder or kidney infection. Bathing before hand is a good step. And for women especially, urinating after sex is wise. This expels bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex. More sex, and sex that is more fulfilling leads to a stronger bond of intimacy in other ways that enhances relationships emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.