Is your marriage lacking intimacy? Has the affection gone from your relationship? As a marriage therapist, this is one of the primary complaints that has brought many of my clients to my office. Although the first (and most obvious) sign that things have cooled between the two of you is a lack of sex -or even mundane sex where you feel no connection with your partner- it is important to remember that “intimacy” covers other things as well. It can be touching, holding each other, kissing, cuddling… any form of physical contact that creates a positive emotional response in you.
Unfortunately, for many couples, the intimacy has all but gone from their marriage. They are simply “going through the motions” of marriage without any signs of physical affection. Oftentimes, this is more painful for one person than the other. Many times, one is going through emotional distress due to a lack of intimacy, while the other might seem to hardly notice. All too often, if the intimacy is not restored between a couple, it can result in the end of the marriage, with one (or both) people deciding to look for intimacy elsewhere.
If you are wanting to bring back the intimacy into your marriage, I have come up with four steps you can take. They can help create that zing again between you and your spouse.
Identify the real reason why the intimacy has gone
Many times, people relate a lack of intimacy to problems in the marriage and the conviction that “he or she doesn’t find me attractive anymore.” But usually there are other reasons outside of the marriage that cause one or both partners to pull away. They can be stresses and pressures from other areas of life: finances, career, or other family members. It is important to identify what pressures might be on you and your spouse that are causing you to feel unhappy and less interested in being intimate and affectionate. By reducing other pressures, you and your partner will feel better about each other.
Focus on reconnecting emotionally with your spouse
If your husband or wife is pulling away from you emotionally and not giving you the intimate affection you want and need, it is often tempting to try to just get through to them physically. However, without warming them up emotionally first, this may lead to awkward, forced interactions and even rejection. Yes, it will take some extra time and effort, but find ways to get your partner to feel good about you emotionally before trying anything physical. This can be as simple as making them laugh (with a funny story or joke), getting them to remember a happy or fun occasion you both shared, or doing something that you both enjoy. Add some lightness and fun back into your marriage and you set the stage for intimacy to follow – naturally.
Understand your partner’s intimacy style
Not everyone likes to be touched! Some people are naturally more physical than others and it comes down to something called “communication style.” If your spouse (or you) find that touch is a bit “creepy” (at least to start with), experiment with other ways to start an intimate connection. It could be with sound (saying something complimentary or affectionate) or sight (a particular look or smile you might give them). These are very overlooked -yet powerful- ways to rebuild intimacy. It does not always have to start with the physical. In time, if you discover your partner’s intimacy style, the physical is much more likely to follow.
Keep the pressure off
People can become very distressed when the intimacy wanes in their marriage. They can become hurt, angry, depressed and even irrational in their behavior if they are starved of intimacy and affection. However, give it time and allow intimacy to return rather than forcing it to happen or getting impatient. Follow the steps above and it most likely will happen, but you will kill the chances if you or your spouse feel under any sort of pressure.
Intimacy did not disappear overnight, so it only makes sense that it will not reappear overnight either. Doing the steps above will take extra time and effort on your part, and it will challenge you to step out of your regular routine, but it is a challenge I urge you to take on. The reward will be worth it! If you need help getting started, let’s talk! Call us at 832-421-8714 or contact us here to make an appointment.
~Maigen Pham, LPC-Intern, CST-Candidate