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What Couple's Intimacy Is & How To Encourage It In A Relationship

What Couple's Intimacy Is & How To Encourage It In A Relationship

By Lisa Hochberger

A human’s sexuality encompasses five major circles of sexuality; sensuality, reproduction and health, sexualization, sexual identity and sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy–and ultimately, couple’s intimacy–isn’t just about the physical body, it is also what makes romantic relationships so valuable and hard to come by. They are rich with trust, deep understanding and vulnerability.

Couple’s intimacy is extremely important in maintaining a healthy relationship. With this in mind, we’ll do a deep dive on intimacy in relationships, from what it looks like and how you can improve the intimacy in your relationship to intimacy questions you and your partner can connect through.

What is couple’s intimacy, and what does it look like?

Couples intimacy is a person's need to experience emotional closeness and connectedness to another person, communicating them clearly to a partner and to having that returned. There are several aspects of intimacy between a couple including sharing, caring, liking of loving another person, emotional risk taking and vulnerability. Intimacy looks different for each couple, however following are some basic indications of intimacy in a relationship. 

Sharing

Sharing is about emotional closeness. Sharing is where we find the richness in a relationship. There is value in a person knowing who we really are and how we really feel. Sharing isn’t sugar coated or wrapped up and pretty, it is honest and pure. When a person feels like they have another person who understands their emotions they gain the ability to relax. They are not alone in their universe, there is another person who knows what is going on. They have a teammate.

Caring

Caring is a part of couple’s intimacy that is rooted in empathy. It’s a couple feeling each other’s joy and pain. Caring in a relationship looks like stopping your day, a day that is going perfectly well, for a partner whose day may not be going well at all. Caring is not about convenience, rather it is about being present with our partners’ emotions. Being present with emotions can be quite uncomfortable but it reinforces security in a relationship.

Caring allows partners to earn secure attachments. People develop styles in childhood (the first 18-24 months of life) that influence their intimate relationships. Many people develop maladaptive attachment styles (anxious or avoidant) in childhood as a result of mirroring their primary parent, which directly impacts their ability to emotionally regulate in adult relationships. Throughout a person’s lifetime, their attachment styles get reinforced by their experiences with family, friends and coworkers. 

An individual in a relationship with a person who continues to show support and care for them can develop an earned secure attachment style in adulthood. Security and trust is an important part of intimacy that can help intertwine the physical and emotional components of a relationship and result in healthy romantic functioning and help to reinforce couple’s intimacy.

Liking or loving another person

This may be obvious, but liking or loving another person involves allowing our emotions to get intertwined with another. It is a manifestation of intimacy that is shown not just through words, but through facial expressions, body language and physical proximity to partners.  

Like or loving another person is a choice that helps free us to connect to another. Connection and intimacy here is looking into another person’s eyes while you are talking and them looking right back into your eyes. The act of eye-gazing isn’t just about physically seeing another, but it is showing the other that you hear them, that you are listening and they will do the same in return. In this moment your body is speaking louder than your words, drawing your partner closer, and melting into one another.

Emotional risk-taking

In order to embody intimacy, a couple must take a risk by sharing emotions with another. Emotional risk-taking plays an important role in couple’s intimacy development. An individual must risk feelings of rejection when expressing admiration for a love interest. They must also feel secure in that the person they are developing a connection with can be trusted with their innermost thoughts and feelings. While all of these aspects are needed to develop healthy intimacy, it can be quite difficult for people for various reasons. 

Emotional risk-taking is rooted in honesty and care for another. Couples must feel like they can really understand each other’s perspectives. They must be aware of how situations, conversations or events might impact their partner’s emotions. 

Emotional risk-taking also allows for self-awareness in a relationship. It is important to nurture this part of intimacy by keeping our partner’s private emotions between the couple and not with those who are not in the intimate pair bond. Through emotional risk-taking people can gain comfort in sexual play that may be considered “taboo.” When we emotionally risk-take we feel safe that our partner would not disclose our sexual preferences to another without consent. 

Additionally, emotional risk-taking allows a person to access their erotic persona, which is a very intimate erotic meditative space. In a person’s erotic persona they are able to connect with themselves and what they are feeling, free from fear about what their partner may “judge” them about in a romantic moment. When a person feels free enough to be embodied they are free from shame and guilt and free to have expansive sensual experiences. Engaging with the erotica persona is a key factor in physical pleasure and can help to encourage couple’s intimacy.

Vulnerability

In order to have intimacy we must share, care, like or love and take emotional risks. All of the aforementioned characteristics make us vulnerable to pain and suffering. Those who we feel extraordinarily close to have the power to hurt us emotionally. Couple’s intimacy requires vulnerability from both individuals in a relationship. 

Vulnerability means that each person in a couple shows empathy and compassion for each other that allows for authentic sharing that feels less risky. Through vulnerability, individuals show their partners that they are not alone in their suffering. Vulnerability in a relationship helps individuals to feel less isolated from the world because they have someone who cares about the way they are feeling and vice versa. 

They are able to trust because they feel safe and secure in a way which they do not feel with others. Being naked without fear of what a partner may see that they “don’t like,” is a deeply personal place for many. To access the erotic persona, a person must embody a vulnerable intimate space.

Tips on how to improve couple's intimacy.

Eye Gaze

Sit face-to-face with your partner and look into their eyes for at least five minutes. Laughing may occur in the early stages of eye gazing but here at Pepper Together, we encourage you to continue to look deep into each other’s eyes. Eye gazing gives couples an introduction into tantric sex. Through tantra, couples can deepen their intimacy, increase their passion and experience greater sexual satisfaction. 

Through eye gazing, couples become transparent to one another and as a result deepen their intimacy. Intimacy has been likened to a spiritual connection, individuals gain access into their partner’s souls, where they cannot hide anything from one another. Eye gazing enhances the closeness between couples, connectedness, vulnerability, openness and sexual arousal.

Hug

Sit face-to-face with your partner and give them a hug. Press your chests together and shut your eyes as you embrace. While you embrace your partner, it can be helpful to rest cheek-to-cheek, as this position can promote the synchronisation of your breath and your bodies. 

This exercise will promote emotional regulation for each individual in the relationship and encourage intimacy for couples. Emotional regulation is a key indicator of relationship health. Many individuals are unaware that they are communicating anxiety through their body. Hugging your partner for at least a full minute a day can promote homeostasis in the autonomic nervous system that results in relaxation in the body, deepened emotional intimacy and enhanced relationship health.

Get into bed at the same time

Getting in bed at the same time can be hard, though we believe it is vital to relationship health. If your job allows it, getting in bed with your partner can be super valuable. Even if you are not ready to go to sleep, spending 15 minutes, even five minutes with our partner in bed at night allows the stress of your day to dissipate as your bodies melt into one another’s safety. 

This isn’t a time for cell phones, rather it is time for a cuddle, an embrace, a quiet moment or to feel one another’s warmth. Two bodies lying next to each other have the power to synchronise each other and help them relax. Two bodies relaxing next to each other promotes sexual arousal and desire. If you aren’t free to stay in bed with your partner who is tired, having a few moments with them before they fall asleep can make all the difference in your journey to deepened couple’s intimacy.

Actively Listen

Active listening is an important part of healthy communication and can improve conflict in relationships. Sexual problems in a couple often stem from emotional difficulty in the relationship. Avoidant individuals tend to be less aware of their lack in communication and its impact on intimacy, while anxious individuals may be overly aware of the crippling effects of their lack of communication. 

When a person is actively listening they concentrate on their partner and not on how they want to respond. Active listening may require an individual to repeat what they think they just heard so that they can clarify their partner’s perspective. Repetition and clarification helps individuals remember what they are saying so that they can respond effectively.

Here are some active listening techniques you can use to encourage intimacy in a relationship: 

  1. Encouraging your partner to convey interest. For instance, “Can you tell me more?”

  2. Clarifying to help each other understand. For example, “When did this happen?” Using neutral words and tones is helpful.

  3. Restate how you are listening and understanding. To reassure your partner, check on the meaning and interpretation of what is being said. “So, you would like…”

  4. Make sure your body language and words reflect how your partner is feeling. For instance, “You sound very upset,” should be communicated in a soft and loving tone.

  5. Validate your partner to help them feel acknowledged in areas that you agree on. 

  6. Restate the major ideas that are being expressed, including their feelings.

  7. Acknowledge their efforts to resolve this manner.

 

Self care

When in a romantic pair bond, couples evoke positive and/or negative feelings from each other, which can ultimately increase or decrease intimacy in a relationship. An individual may be unaware of the negative impact of their anxious, depressed or sad energy. If you are consistently communicating a negative perspective (through words or your body), your partner may feel like they have to move away from you in order to relax (this happens consciously or unconsciously). 

The best way to take care of your relationship is by taking care of yourself first. Mental health is positively associated with the way individuals take care of themselves. If you are feeling mentally healthy, you can help your partner feel that way too. The result will be more couple’s intimacy and increased relationship satisfaction. 

Similar to intimacy in a relationship, self care looks different for everyone, however lighting a candle, getting a massage, reading a book and self-pleasure are fool-proof ways to participate in self care.

Intimacy questions for couples.

Through personal self-disclosure, individuals can represent a reciprocal trust for one another and promote intimacy. Here are some intimacy questions for couples:

  1. What aspect of our relationship makes you feel the most safe?

  2. How do you like to give love?

  3. How do you like to receive love?

  4. What activity would you like to do together in the future and why?

  5. When you dance at events, do you get nervous? If so, why?

  6. How do you envision the perfect day?

  7. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

  8. What do you appreciate the most about our relationship and why?

  9. What do you value most in a best friend?

  10. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

An intimacy deck can also help you to spark even more meaningful conversations in your relationship.

Couples are constantly communicating with each other, however, it is common for communication to get distorted in a relationship. Sex begins from the minute an individual wakes up in the morning (or sees their partner) as they interpret their partner’s body language, observe their tone, physical proximity and the mood. 

If a person is unable to relax, they may project insecurities onto their relationship that manifest as defensiveness, clinginess and trust difficulty. In order to help build intimacy, couples can do a series of self-care rituals, some methods to promote relaxation rely on individual will, and other methods encourage touching, hugging, eye gazing and active listening. In order to promote couple’s intimacy we must literally feel good individually and with our partner.

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