Physical intimacy is more than just about sex.
It also includes a touch, a smile, or a kiss on the cheek.
And physical intimacy matters a lot to us and the effects of lack of physical intimacy in a relationship can be the most unexpected and destructive to our bodies and mental state.
Good politicians spend their lives shaking hands and kissing babies because they know that even the slightest of physical intimacies create a feeling of closeness and belonging.
They may shake your hand with one hand, but they will also touch you gently on the arm or the shoulder with the other. Doing so creates that extra sensation of closeness, even oneness.
If such a small gesture can create a feeling of oneness, how extraordinary the oneness must be when two people engage in sexual intercourse.
That explains the connection between a man and a woman through the act of making love.
And don’t forget, please, about holding hands, hugging, romantic talking, affectionate cuddling, and nonsexual massages—all acts that provide sensual arousal and pleasure in physical ways.
Effects of lack of physical intimacy in a relationship: how things are going
When intimacy is gone in a relationship
In the early stages of relationships and into the early years of marriage, many couples tend to touch quite a bit.
You hold hands, hug, kiss, and so forth.
Over time, however, couples tend to bypass the sensual and move more exclusively to goal-oriented sexual behavior.
Less time and energy is spent on the playful, intimate, sensual contacts that were once so delightful.
This leads to big problems because it’s the sensual connection that keeps partners from feeling as though they are growing apart.
Over time, sex itself becomes more a matter of performance than of intimacy.
For some couples, the pattern progresses to the point that they become interested in sex only for sex’s sake.
Once sensuality drops out of the equation, couples have no way of intimately connecting unless they have sex.
That starts to put a lot of pressure on the sexual relationship.
And we’ve stopped having sex
Lack of sex drive and sexual interest
Sex therapists say that perhaps the major issue between married couples in the twenty-first century is sexual disinterest or a lack of erotic desire.
Experts suggest that high rates of sexual disinterest may be due to our increasingly busy lives and not making our sensual and sexual relationship a priority.
So while I think it is important to stress that sex does not equal intimacy,
it is also important to point out that the power of our sexuality is much more than physical.
Understanding the impact of sexuality on our personality
While the second half of the twentieth century would claim to have fully investigated our sexuality, we have not even begun to understand the multidimensional impact that sex has on the human person.
Our sexuality is a powerful instrument in our quest to become the best-version-of-ourselves; we can use it, as we can so many things in this world, to further that cause or to hinder it.
It is also important to note that all of our relationships have a physical aspect.
Depression, self-confidence, and mental wellbeing
Research shows that seven out of ten women say that the lack of sexual intimacy in their relationships makes them feel depressed and decreases their self-confidence and mental wellbeing.
Numerous international studies point to psychological problems ranging from embarrassment to serious depression as a result of a sexless relationship.
As a result of lack of physical intimacy, 54% of women said they feel less attractive; 44% became less self-confident; 34% referred to the emotions of alienation and abandonment; 22% trusted their partner less; 21% were worried that their partner might be having an affair and 11% felt betrayed.
If a woman loses sense of intimacy in relationship,
she can choose to deprive her partner of any type of sexual experience.
After going through the pain associated with rejection and lack of empathy from your partner, you might divert all your attention to other matters in order to compensate for the loss of sexual intimacy.
The fact is, there needs to be a place for romance and for sensual talking and touching in your relationship—both in and outside the context of making love.
Stress vs. Intimacy
Just as the pressures of life lead many couples to problem-solve prematurely, too many couples shortchange the sensual and prematurely focus on just sex.
This leads to sex without the overall context of romance, touching, and closeness.
Over time, this actually leads to less sex.
Because men and women need and value the sensual side of intimacy for pleasure, attachment, and arousal.
Sensual experiences set the stage for better sexual experiences.
Importance of physical intimacy
The importance of physical intimacy also explains the pain we feel after separating from a person with whom we have been sexually active.
Even years later, we still experience the pain and disorientation of the separation.
In a very real manner through sex, two become one. Many of us get the feeling of disorientation after a sexual relationship has ended. Even years later, we still feel the pain and confusion of separation because we lose that physical connection.
Touching sensually or making love is a powerful way to connect,
and protect your relationship from destructive conflicts.
If you can build a deep physical intimacy with your partner, you can do a great deal to keep your relationship alive and well.
Your physical connection must work to handle conflict and stress in your life.
It’s important that you agree to keep problems and disagreements off-limits when you are being sensual or making love.
Just not interested in sex
Ask expert sex therapists these days, they will tell you that the single most common complaint they hear from couples is that one or the other of the partners simply has no interest in sex.
Studies confirm that this problem is far from uncommon, particularly in women.
For example, in the last major national survey on sex in America, conducted by Edward Laumann at the University of Chicago and his associates, 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men reported some kind of significant sexual problem. Whereas only 5 percent of the men reported the problem of low sexual desire, 22 percent of the women reported this problem. Another 14 percent of women reported that they felt desire, but had difficulty becoming sexually aroused.
All those stats are pretty impersonal.
Read more about What is intimacy to a man?
What about your relationship?
Do either of you (or both of you) have difficulty just being interested in sex?
If you both have little interest, it may be that this causes no great strain on your relationship. But if only one of you has low interest and the other has normal or high interest, you have a problem that can cause a lot of pain.
It’s all the more difficult for couples to cope with this if the physical relationship is one of their primary ways to feel connected.
Low sexual desire
Experts say there can be any number of reasons why so many people have low sexual desire or what researchers are now calling “erotic loss.”
The list of possible suspects is extensive, few keys here:
- Side effects of medications (including antidepressants)
- Excessive alcohol use
- Chronic illnesses of many kinds
- Hormonal problems
- Sleep problems (nothing works well when you are not sleeping enough)
Most of this list has to do with your overall health and energy. If you are tired, run-down, sick, and stressed, you’re not likely to feel very interested in sex.
When you have problems what happens to your sex life
When you are coping with financial or parenting problems, it’s hard to feel that your sexual problems are a top priority.
With more dual-career couples and more technology to distract us and sap our energy, erotic loss is becoming more and more of a problem.
But it does not have to be that way.
I want to remind you that feeling close to your partner is a source of emotional and psychological strength that can keep the rest of your life going more smoothly, and sex is an important aspect of that whole picture.
Get a thorough physical
First, and most important, if you are the one with low desire, get a thorough physical.
Be candid with the doctor about your concerns so that he or she knows what to ask you and what tests to run. If you find this embarrassing, try to get over it.
It’s very likely your mate would deeply appreciate your doing what you can do to give your lovemaking a new lease on life.
If your sexual desire is fine, but your partner is the one having more trouble being interested, be supportive and patient in trying to find what may help. It’s unlikely that pressure and anger will help very much at all.
Once you’ve either ruled out physical problems or begun dealing with them the best you can, work together on the other things that are under your control. Consider other causes of the sexual difficulties.
Visit sex therapist
Relationship problems may be one cause. Perhaps seeing a sex therapist would be helpful.
Have the two of you talked openly about your likes and dislikes in bed?
Are you concerned about wanting to do things your partner won’t like?
Or have you asked for things and been rejected by your partner?
What about how often you want to have sex?
Sometimes embarrassment and shyness cause difficulties.
Communicating about sex is so important. Many books about sex and intimacy are available and may also make this task easier.
Some couples will say they are just not interested in a sexual relationship. Once again if both of you agree on this, fine. Skip the rest and move on. But be sure you both truly agree. If one partner’s needs are not being met, problems will certainly come up in the future.
Make your physical intimacy a priority
Read more about How to get sensation back: woman’s guide
Mary and John had a happy marriage, but, like so many couples, had sexual relationships rarely – once or twice a month if they were lucky (as they said).
When they had sex, they said it went pretty well, with both getting aroused, having orgasms, and feeling connected.
However, they had developed some concerns that both wanted to work through. In part, they had lost any creative aspect in their lovemaking, tending to do the same things over and over again.
They’d come to a point where Mary’s orgasms always followed intercourse, through Johne’s stimulating her. Mary felt a bit limited in this, and John felt that they could never have intercourse and just relax right afterward because he always needed to focus on helping her climax. He did, and it was good that he did. Still, they felt there could be more.
What Mary and John described suggests concerns other than specific sexual dysfunctions.
For so many couples, if they feel that something is not quite right or that something is limited about their physical relationship, one or both partners can too easily begin to wonder if there is something more at stake: Do they really love each other? Are they still really attracted to each other? That kind of thinking makes a relatively common situation turn into a dangerous one. For Mary and John, the matter was really more about the development of bad habits wherein they had made their lovemaking a low priority.
Unlike couples who simply do not take the time to devote to their physical intimacy, Mary and John realized that they had neglected this aspect of their relationship and were willing to do something about it. They decided they both wanted to increase their investment in physical intimacy.
Your plan to improve physical intimacy
Here is a great example of a plan to return a more vital romantic spirit back to your life.
It’s the plan that the sex therapists suggested to Mary and John in the brilliant book “Fighting for your marriage”.
You can customize this list to suit your own tastes and priorities as a couple. Try to push yourself to have fun. Choose at least one activity from each category to complete each week.
Take care of yourself
- Brush your teeth.
- Work out.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat well.
- Pay attention to your appearance.
Be a great lover
- When having sex, kiss and touch sensual spots that your partner enjoys—the earlobe, neck, or whatever.
- Try something new; marital sex is the place to explore all kinds of sexual activities.
- Do not focus on orgasms or other outcomes; pressure is not an aphrodisiac.
- Read a book or article online about how to be a great lover.
Focus on being romantic
- Call in the middle of the day to say, “I love you.”
- Slip a love note into a pocket.
- Surprise your partner with a small gift or a special night out.
- Set of favorite songs, love songs, or songs that are meaningful to both of you.
- Go on a picnic to watch the sunset or sunrise—in a park or your own backyard.
- Book a room at a hotel for an hour or a night.
- Send a single flower, or a bouquet, for no apparent reason.
- Go for a walk in the rain or snow or fog.
- Make dinner or breakfast in bed.
- Leave chocolate kisses on the pillow.
- Touch your spouse erotically during dinner.
- Hold hands wherever you go.
- Read poetry, love stories, or erotica together or to each other.
- Initiate lovemaking at unexpected times and places.
- Try making love in different places—on the floor, in the backyard, in the bathtub. (Please make sure you’re both comfortable!)
- Try a new position—buy a book or go online to find new positions you can both agree to experiment with.
Use your imagination—be creative
- Leave a note on the bathroom mirror suggesting a rendezvous at a specific time and place.
- Fill ten balloons with love notes and blow up lots more; your partner has to pop them all to read the love notes inside the balloons.
- Make a set of Love Coupons: for a full-body massage, a dance in the rain, a romantic dinner for two, champagne and cuddling by the fire, a kiss anytime anywhere, and so on.
Be sensitive to your partner’s rhythms and needs and wishes
- Find time to make love that is good for both of you.
- Push yourself to initiate sex if your partner usually does.
- Think about what is happening in your partner’s life—did he or she make a big presentation today, have to fire an employee, or take care of your children and their friends?
Remember, Physical Intimacy enriches and enhances your marriage.
You may find that other problems and stresses seem less urgent or are more easily resolved if you feel closer to each other and more loved.
The bad news is that leaving physical and emotional intimacy out of a relationship because you think it’s a low priority invariably leads to problems.
The good news is that increased intimacy and romance go a long way toward helping partners feel like working things out.
Read more about How to deal with your husband who does not want you
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