An integral, but often overlooked component of health is enjoying a fulfilling, satisfying relationship with your partner or spouse. Unfortunately, we’re seldom modeled or taught the art of developing enjoyable, affectionate partnerships. Often times, television, magazines and movies are unrealistic in their portrayal of the dynamics of this significant relationship. They prefer to exaggerate the physical bonding and pass it off as love. They fail to accurately depict the daily steps and challenges involved in creating true intimacy. So we must take responsibility to learn these skills ourselves. This article describes 5 key ingredients for creating greater emotional and physical intimacy.

The consequences of ignoring this part of your relationship

Before looking at solutions, let’s consider the consequences if you choose to ignore this essential part of your relationship. Intimacy is a human need. Just as babies need attention and love, so do adults. This desire for a deep, emotional connection is present throughout our lives. If this need is repressed, humans find surprising ways to replace it. For example, many people unconsciously embrace addictions in the form of drinking, gambling, overeating and overworking to add some comfort and sweetness to their lives. They seek satisfaction in these areas rather than resolve their intimacy conflicts. The true purpose of intimacy in a committed relationship is to give and receive love. It merges two separate individuals into one strong, cohesive bond. If you’re not experiencing emotional and physical intimacy in your relationship, we invite you to take a closer look at the reasons why.

What are your thoughts around intimacy?

What prevents couples from experiencing intimacy? One reason is the unconscious adoption of false beliefs from parents, past relationships and the media. We rarely question these distorted thoughts so they remain entrenched in our minds and affect our current relationships. Some examples of these deep-seated thought patterns might be “I am not worthy of love”; “It’s not spiritual to enjoy physical intimacy”; “I will get hurt if I truly love another”. Where did these beliefs begin? If you’re not experiencing a loving relationship and you want to improve this situation, then we invite you to take 30 minutes, get a notebook and write the word ‘intimacy’ in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Then brainstorm the feelings or thoughts that surface around this word. Then ask yourself: Are these beliefs relevant in my life now? Do they foster a loving, caring attitude? Am I willing to change…? Once you’ve finished, review each word or phrase and determine how it currently impacts your life. This powerful exercise opens the door to a more conscious response to intimacy because it uncovers your assumptions and allows you to choose new ideas rather than operate from outdated beliefs. Carl Jung once said about healing: “That which is unconscious must ultimately become conscious”.

5 Key Ingredients for creating greater emotional and physical intimacy

#1 – Understand that intimacy is not created in the bedroom

It’s important to clear up the myth that enjoyable physical intimacy is created in the bedroom. Satisfying intimacy doesn’t magically appear when you decide to physically be together. Particularly for women, it’s the result of building a bridge of love that invites expression between a couple. It’s the day-to-day acts of love expressed in small gestures like holding hands, compliments, helping around the house, writing a quick love note, kissing passionately, buying flowers, and especially communicating honestly and openly. What starts as small, loving gestures can more easily blossom into passion. TV and media constantly portray passion as a physical activity separate from expressing love in meaningful, daily gestures. This relentless depiction confuses many people and makes them question the depth of their own relationship.

#2 – Communicate openly, honestly and transparently

If you and your partner have not had an in-depth discussion about your feelings towards intimacy, you’re missing an opportunity to understand one another and create a deeper bond. There is an excellent book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman that discusses the importance of expressing love to your partner in a way that they recognize and appreciate. For example, some people love to hear positive affirmations, others appreciate small gifts and gestures, and still others value quality time spent with their partner. Speaking your partner’s love language significantly enhances your relationship. Reading this book could start the intimacy conversation with your significant other. If you apply the skills presented in this book on a daily basis, you can create a connectedness that will enhance your emotional and physical intimacy. Remember, stronger than the subtle frustrations or defenses that block intimacy, is the natural human desire to let it thrive.

#3 – Nutrition and wellness is a doorway to greater intimacy

Does the way you eat affect your relationship? Yes! Food is fuel. If you fill your car with cheap fuel, you will get poor performance and increased maintenance. These same consequences apply to your body. Eating refined white sugar, fatty foods and unbalanced meals not only impacts your physical health but also your emotional well-being, since your body and mind are intricately connected. Taking care of yourself by eating well, exercising and engaging in self-care activities such as yoga, journaling, long baths or reading will put you in a more relaxed loving mood to experience intimacy with your partner. There is a fascinating parallel between happy couples and high-quality food. If a husband and wife regularly eat different meals, they aren’t as bonded. When they improve their diet as a couple and eat the same foods, they bond at a deeper level. This occurs because they feel healthier and because nutritious foods have a higher vibration. When a couple is fueled with the same high-quality foods, they are better able to bridge the emotional gaps in their relationship. Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition to create passion in your relationship!

#4 – Get outside support

In general, women are more apt to improve their marriage by working with a therapist. Men are often apprehensive because they feel vulnerable discussing intimate issues with an outsider. Men may also think that they can resolve their marital issues themselves. Here’s an analogy that might put men more at ease about seeking outside help for their marriage: If a man doesn’t know how to repair an electrical problem in his home, he may purchase a ‘how-to’ manual or employ an electrician for assistance. If he chooses to attempt the repair himself, the results could be disastrous. So by consulting a book or contacting a specialist, he can successfully complete the project. How is counseling any different from this scenario? If you aren’t satisfied with your relationship, seek the advice of an expert author or therapist. If your life is being propelled by subtle, negative thought patterns that don’t serve you, get assistance to shine the spotlight of attention on your problem areas. It’s important to continually learn new skills to resolve these problems because ignoring them could lead you both in separate directions. We recommend interviewing several therapists as a couple, and then choosing the one that you both feel comfortable working with.

#5 – Create a space for intimacy

Many people want to experience greater intimacy and the thought looks good on paper, but they frequently spend little time nurturing their relationship. They give their car or house more attention and care than they give their partner. If you over schedule and don’t give yourself downtime, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the energy to actively love your partner by making their favorite meal, packing their lunch or writing them a love note. Take a closer look at your life and see if you’re spending your time consciously or if you’re involved in activities that aren’t mutually satisfying. If you want a loving relationship, you must allow time to nurture and grow it. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner and discover what each of you can do to make the other feel more loved and appreciated. Then schedule these activities on your calendar just as you do other important responsibilities in your life.

Take responsibility and make progress

Just as humans want necessities like food and shelter, they also want an intimate, bonding closeness with another human. It helps us to thrive. So we invite you to discover what keeps you from experiencing this enjoyable closeness with the person you love. There are always stressors and challenges in life such as careers, children, and aging parents, but the time invested in small gestures of love can blossom over time. Be willing to face your fears, communicate honestly and transparently and then move your relationship in a direction that feels right for both of you. Keep in mind that it’s tempting to want to change your partner in order to create greater intimacy, but just like anything in life, change must begin with you. Just as cleaning an old space in a house creates the opportunity for new energy, working towards greater intimacy with your partner creates space for both of you to blossom and flourish.