Intimacy. What does this even mean in the context of marriage? Sure, it’s sex and closed doors and all that. But real intimacy, the kind that makes marriages and relationships last, is so much more than that. As a previous divorcee and remarried person, I’m often the go-to person for other people to discuss their issues in marriage, love, sex, etc. I’m no therapist, and I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ve experienced my own marital intimacy challenges and have watched several relationships fall apart around me in the same vein. As much as it breaks my heart and is always on my mind, I know that there are times that it “can’t be fixed” for external reasons … but then there are plenty of examples when it can!
Intimacy … what it means in my marriage
Now, I look at intimacy from a whole different perspective. Partly because my spouse and I are so incredibly open with each other, which was a major value we sought out when dating, from day one. We talk about everything, even the hard stuff. We communicate about our hard days, the negative thoughts we have in our heads, what we need to do for our children, what dinner we prefer each night, how we want things in the bedroom. We talk. Sometimes all it takes is opening your mouth and saying the words: I want this.
Frequency means being there
Another huge hurdle I see couples face is that they get so caught up in life that the emotional / mental divide sets in. Then getting “back in the sack” seems even more awkward and hard to approach. One therapist advised my friend to have sex for 20 days straight when she was experiencing intimacy issues in her marriage many years ago. Yes, this sounds insane to me, but the point is that sometimes you just have to lurch back into the motion to make the connections again and have enjoyable, comfortable love-making with your partner. My marriage is very blessed. There is a lot of spice there, and we are intimate very often, probably much more frequently than most couples. For us, it is always obvious when it’s been a few too many days since we’ve had our alone time because the small areas of tension can start to rise in our home. I saw one wife joke on Facebook that she would whisper to her husband “SMH” when things got tense in her own home; this gentle reminder would tip her husband that “sex may help.” Sometimes we jest, but the spiritual, physical, emotional connection between spouses who frequently experience intimacy together is noticeably and incomparably different than those who don’t. Trust me – I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve seen the downfall of a truly divided marriage and the joy of routine connection with my spouse. If it takes a calendar to chart your frequencies, Do it! It’s simple and easy and ensures you are dedicating important time to your relationship.
Pleasure and happiness
Intimacy isn’t just the physical act of having intercourse with your partner. It’s all the little things in between, especially in my marriage where we both enjoy high levels of physical touch as our love language. It’s the small hugs, the quick pecks goodbye, the tight squeeze when the kids are out of the room, the wink in the shower … it’s the playfulness, the admiration, the quick texts during the day to say I love you or I’m thinking about you. It’s flirtation and continuing to date each other throughout your relationship. The littlest of things that carry you through the week, lift some of the stress, and create joy in your household. More happiness leads to more pleasure. More pleasure creates more happiness.
What can I do if we’ve lost it?
Well, I’m no relationship counselor or sex expert, but I can tell you that my own personal experiences from my own relationships and those around me have added up to a small list of helpful tips.
- Address it with your spouse. A simple conversation can start like this: I feel like we’ve lost a little bit of our spark. I really want to get that back with you. Let’s start now.
- Admit that sometimes you need therapy. And that’s ok. I love therapy! Individuals and couples can reap enormous benefits from counseling. It’s work, but can be hugely beneficial to seek advice from a third party.
- Make the time. Schedule a date night. Schedule a sex night. Schedule a night when the kids aren’t home. Do something. Make the time to be alone, have a glass of wine, and just make it happen. If we can make our complicated schedules of our jobs, kids, and extracurriculars work each and every week, we can certainly figure out how to spend one hour with our spouses.
- Be very honest about what makes you happy and then ask for it. Clearly, I am not advising some radical fetish-based activity if your spouse is not on board for that. I’m talking about really simple stuff like: I like to kiss, I like morning couple-time, I like to be on top… you know… direct, easy to deliver preferences that can make or break your experience.
- Allow yourself to laugh some. Intimacy doesn’t have to be all hot-n-heavy. It can be playful and fun, lighthearted, and sweet. If things don’t go perfectly with your new lingerie that was crazy scary to purchase let alone wear, who cares. Laugh it off and enjoy the humor in the situation.
- Try to get away. [Note: this last suggestion works much better in non-pandemic times, but could possibly be accomplished with a quick drive to a hotel or resort.] One or two nights away every year will do wonders for your marriage. One of my best friends jokes about “hotel sex” and that it’s just a level above anything you can recreate in your homes. There is something about being away, removing the household duties, and spending time one-on-one that makes a real difference. If it’s possible to schedule even the simplest get-away with your spouse once a year, make it happen. You’ll see incredible value in this alone time.