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Building Intimacy in Marriage

Building Intimacy in Marriage

By William Schroeder, LPC

It’s not uncommon for clients to enter counseling looking for guidance in building intimacy in marriage. First, I should address the most common question that comes up.

CAN A MARRIAGE SURVIVE WITHOUT INTIMACY?

All of us know couples who don’t seem very close but continue to co-exist together. They go to work, come home, and exist in their separate bubbles. Maybe they have kids that are part of the mix, and that also separates their functioning. It’s most glaring when they are together with a more connected couple or family as the parts of the partnership that don’t fit are often exposed. Think about any couple or family member where you have seen them uncomfortably together at dinner or a holiday event. You know, the ones that make unfriendly comments towards one another, potentially fight, possibly flirt with strangers, or they are completely unplugged from one another. I say all of this not to shame them, but I acknowledge this happens very frequently, and with the stresses of daily life, it’s easy for couples to turn to bad habits that decrease closeness. The good news and bad news is that things can get so bad that couples are faced with a crisis that can help them rebuild their marriage, which also means rekindling intimacy. Also, intimacy can be many different things as it is not just sex.

WHAT ARE THE 5 TYPES OF INTIMACY IN MARRIAGE?

There are also those relationships that may share forms of intimacy that are less visible.

  1. Spiritual intimacy – You may be thinking of a couple that goes to church together, which would be one example, but it can be many different things. Ultimately it’s the mutual sharing of values, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. It’s a common bond of moral understanding. Even if these things are different between them, if the partners show curiosity and compassion, it can aid the connection.
  2. Intellectual intimacy – I immediately have a friend couple that comes to mind when I say this. They are both bright people in very different realms, but they genuinely appreciate the intellectual might and curiosity that their partner exhibits. This, in turn, validates their interests and encourages them to share their thoughts and ideas. The willingness to be open to these thoughts, even if they are different than your own, can go a long way to promoting this type of connection.
  3. Compatibility intimacy – Do you enjoy your time with your partner and even your time apart? If so, you have high compatibility intimacy in your relationship. The goal here is dedicated time for both shared and individual projects and focus on another. It can also mean having curiosity and interest in those projects which are different.
  4. Emotional intimacy – In short, this is the feeling of safety in a relationship to discuss a whole range of emotions. Your partner validates these concerns, and you feel accepted. I will clarify as it is not on the party listening to their partner’s feelings to solve or fix the situation. For more on this topic, see our post on intimacy and marriage.
  5. Sexual intimacy – this is what most people think is often associated with the word intimacy. It truly is about feeling comfortable with the expression of sexual desires or lack thereof. Sex itself can be mechanical or intimate. However, sexual intimacy involves a willingness to discuss each person’s expectations and desires without judgment.

HOW DO YOU BUILD INTIMACY?

Think about the above list and what connects you and your partner, and explore the list with them. The challenge for most couples is to keep dating one another even when you are married. Marriage takes work, and it’s easy to build bad habits. The real challenge is to work on growing your connection with your partner.

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