6 Min Read
- What Is Intimacy Really?
- Why Intimacy In Marriage Gets Lost
- What Happens When The Intimacy In Marriage Is Gone
- Can You Bring The Intimacy Back To Your Marriage?
- What To Take Away
If you’ve lost intimacy in your marriage, you’re not alone.
One of the greatest gifts offered by marriage is intimacy – or at least it should be. Unfortunately, for many couples that gift breaks down over time and partners are left feeling alone and distant from one another.
The good news is that things don’t have to stay this way.
If the intimacy in your marriage has been lost that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. In most cases there are pathways back to what you had, or a new version that’s even better.
What Is Intimacy Really?
Before we discuss how to regain the lost intimacy in marriage, we should talk about what intimacy is – it’s more than what most people think.
Very often people talk about intimacy as though it’s a synonym for sex. True intimacy, however, is much more than just sex. In fact, there are several types of intimacy and they all play an important role in a healthy marriage.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines intimacy as:
1. the state of being intimate: FAMILIARITY
2. something of a personal or private nature
So, yes, sex is intimate, but not all intimacy is sexual.
Dr. Kurt sees couples daily who are struggling with intimacy. Most often they refer specifically to sex. But more often than not there’s a great deal more to it. According to Dr. Kurt,
All the time I hear partners say, 'We're not intimate anymore.' What almost all of them mean is that they don't have sex anymore. But they're also usually correct (unknowingly) in stating that they aren't intimate in any of intimacy's other forms either. Unfortunately, they don't usually recognize (especially us men) these other places where they've lost intimacy in their marriage, or how they're directly related to the loss of sex. When there's effort at building non-sexual physical intimacy (guys, this means leave out the expectation of it leadng to sex), or maintaining mental intimacy, or the real big one in order for most women to have a desire for sex is creating emotional intimacy, then sexual intimacy usually follows. The different forms of intimacy are all interconnected, important, and dependent upon each other."
The primary types of intimacy in a marriage are:
- Sexual Intimacy. As noted above, when people talk about being intimate or wanting more intimacy in their relationship, it’s typically assumed they mean sexual intimacy. Afterall, sexual experiences literally strip us naked and make us vulnerable.
Sexual intimacy is a big part of most healthy marriages. Those living in sexless marriages often feel rejected and undesired. Feeling unwanted by the person who’s supposed to love you unconditionally is extremely painful.
- Physical Intimacy. Wait, didn’t we talk about this already? Actually, no. Physical intimacy is different from sexual intimacy.
Touching, holding hands, hugging, kissing, or just being close to each other are all examples of physical intimacy. Think about it – those aren’t things you do with just anyone, you reserve those efforts for your partner or those to whom you’re close.
Physical intimacy demonstrates affection and by doing so helps break down barriers and create a connection between partners.
- Emotional Intimacy. As hard as it can be to physically vulnerable with someone, it can be exponentially more difficult to make yourself emotionally vulnerable.
But by allowing yourself to express feelings, confide, and trust your partner, you create emotional intimacy.
When emotional intimacy is lost in a marriage it can feel like you and your partner exist together but with a wall between you. Eventually you each live in your own worlds, keeping thoughts, feelings, and love to yourselves rather than sharing it with each other.
- Spiritual Intimacy. Spiritual intimacy can look very different from couple to couple. Spirituality is very personal and can take several forms.
Whatever that looks like for you, sharing a common belief or preferred expression of spirituality can be an important part of marriage. It’s a lot like sharing the same views on parenting or morality, except perhaps more intimate.
- Mental Intimacy. No, this isn’t telepathic communication or reading each other’s minds. This is a cognitive connection that develops when you share your inner thoughts.
In a healthy and successful marriage, all forms of intimacy will be present.
Why Intimacy In Marriage Gets Lost
For most couples, intimacy in all forms exists and is strong at the beginning of their relationship. At least that would be the hope.
But somewhere along the way many couples find that the intimacy in their marriage gets lost.
The big question is, why?
Typically losing intimacy in marriage is something that happens gradually. Schedules get busy, communication starts to fail, and couples start neglecting to make time for each other.
This can mean you end up drifting apart and feeling like strangers.
Do you share any kind of intimacy with a stranger? No, of course not.
Other reasons for lost intimacy in marriage include:
- Physical changes. Weight gain or loss, hormone changes like menopause or the male version of menopause, and aging, can all affect intimacy, especially sexual intimacy. Time can dampen the natural attraction you had to your partner, making keeping an active sex life more work.
- Children and their needs. Anyone who’s a parent knows how much time and attention children take. There are a lot of wonderful things that come with that, but if you’re not paying attention to your relationship you may find that you and your partner are drifting apart and losing intimacy of all types.
- Trauma and loss. Losing a loved one – grandparent, parent, sibling, close friend – brings up a lot of difficult feelings. Grappling with these feelings can be isolating. It’s not uncommon for people suffering with grief to withdraw into themselves and pull away from people they love.
- Overscheduling. If you proudly wear the “I’m too busy to relax” badge and think down time is for the weak, you’re likely to lose the intimacy in your marriage. Unfortunately, overscheduling is more the norm than the oddity these days. This results in exhaustion and a lack of connection between partners, thus reducing any kind of intimacy.
These aren’t the only reasons intimacy gets lost in a marriage, but they are some of the leading factors.
What Happens When The Intimacy In Marriage Is Gone
One of the big mistakes couples make is confusing cause and effect when the intimacy is lost in their marriage.
- "We argue all the time."
- “She’s always busy with the kids.”
- “He seems constantly stressed and angry.”
- "She never initiates sex – why should I?”
- “It’s like we speak two different languages!”
- “He seems like a stranger – I wouldn’t have sex with a stranger, so I don’t have sex with him.”
Let’s be clear about something – the above are not CAUSES for losing intimacy in your marriage. They are RESULTS of losing intimacy in your marriage.
Not understanding the difference can mean you never address the real issue.
Intimacy in all its forms is part of what,
- Keeps you close and connected.
- Allows love to grow.
- Propels you to communicate and stay connected.
When you allow the intimacy in your marriage to get lost it’s like removing a protective barrier. If it goes on too long the feelings that can result are,
- Feeling like the love is gone
Some of the actions that can then result from those feelings are,
So, is intimacy in all it’s forms important to maintain? Yes, it’s crucial.
Can You Bring The Intimacy Back To Your Marriage?
If you feel, or are starting to feel, like the intimacy in your marriage has been lost, you probably want to know if there’s a fix.
Yes, there is - if you’re willing to put in the effort.
It’s not a simple as,
- Trying to have more sex
- The occasional hug
- Asking about your partner’s day
- Or a passing conversation about spiritual topics
Those things certainly won’t hurt, but they’re simply not enough.
To truly bring the intimacy back to your marriage you and your partner need to share that desire to get it back and make it a common goal. Then you need to create a plan together to make the effort and keep each other on track.
Regaining intimacy in marriage can’t be done alone.
It’s important to note that this isn’t always an easy process. In fact, if the intimacy has been gone for a long time, it can feel almost impossible to get it back.
People will often say they know what needs to be done, they just have no idea how to do it.
The truth is, rebuilding lost intimacy in a marriage can be complicated. It requires learning how to be vulnerable and open with one another again, and that can feel very uncomfortable.
This is an area where marriage counseling or couples counseling can be extremely beneficial. Learning effective strategies for reconnecting is something many couples need to do. These strategies then act as tools to be used ongoing to maintain intimacy.
What To Take Away
If you’ve lost intimacy in marriage, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over as long as you work to get it back.
- Intimacy is more than sex. Having regular sex doesn’t mean the intimacy in your relationship is strong – just that one aspect of it is.
- There’s more than one kind of intimacy. The strongest and happiest marriages pay attention to all types.
- Losing intimacy in a marriage happens to many, many couples. You’re not alone.
- You can regain lost intimacy in marriage if you’re willing to become vulnerable to one another again and put in the effort.
- Consider seeking counseling if the barriers seem too difficult to overcome on your own.
No relationship is always “happy.” But when you’ve lost intimacy in marriage it can make weathering the tough times extremely difficult.
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