The agenda of what we are about to discuss couldn’t be clearer or more direct—we discuss how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship. But the answers are not as direct as the question at hand. Intimacy is a nuanced word. Intimacies or closeness, are of varied kinds and there are different types of physical intimacy and different ways to express them. They all work in tandem with each other.
Physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, experiential intimacy, and spiritual intimacy are all portals to feeling closer and more connected to your partner. Hand holding with your partner feels more intimate while admiring a sunset. You see, physical intimacy examples like kissing under the stars or making love back home feel stronger when they are compounded with other intimacies. It means more than just physical contact; there was a strong connection that was forged.
Our expert relationship and intimacy coach, Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, and REBT), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, takes cues from the varying shades of emotions behind physical intimacy. She addresses the question “How does physical intimacy affect relationships?” and gives us tips on how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship. She also busts myths and false limitations imposed on the idea of physical intimacy.
What Is Physical Intimacy In A Relationship?
Physical connection in a relationship involves the physical closeness, touch, and connection shared between partners. It goes beyond the act of sex and encompasses a range of expressions. These physical intimacy examples include hugging, kissing, and other forms of physical affection, including physical relationships. This closeness creates a sense of security, trust, and emotional bonding between two partners. It’s a way for them to express their love, care, and desire for one another, creating a deeper connection that strengthens their relationship and emotional intimacy.
For someone, physical intimacy can cause sexual passion and the desire to express sexual intimacy. To another, it may cause sensual pleasure. They may find physically intimate grand gestures such as the public display of their affection or touch comforting, soothing, and pleasurable, but it may not necessarily make them want to have sex. It can just be a form of physical affection for them. For someone else, the act of holding hands in public can cause an emotional reaction. This emotion may not initiate sensual or sexual pleasure but only a spiritual sense of joy and peace. They might not be turned on but they might be experiencing “feel good” emotions. It’s also about what their love languages are and what that brings out in them.
What this simply means is that physical intimacy can not be seen bereft of other aspects that a couple shares with each other. While it is true that physical intimacy is holding hands, kissing, and appreciating the experience of physical contact and sexual intercourse, the closeness experienced in such acts depends on the other types of intimacies the couple shares, which fosters the desire for one another. Similarly, it works the other way around, too. This is why it holds the kind of importance it does in a relationship and makes the question “How to increase physical intimacy in a relationship?” a recurring concern.
Physical intimacy vs sexual intimacy
Being in a physically intimate relationship is often misconstrued or even used by most people as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Shivanya sets the record straight. She says, “Physical intimacy is not just plain sex or physical romance. It is a means of connection and involves the emotions of consent, safety, trust, and transparency. For one to feel physical closeness and comfort, there has to be a groundwork of several layers of understanding, communication, and connection.”
Sex and physical intimacy are not the same thing. Sexual intimacy is a form of physical intimacy, but it is not limited to it. Sexual touch, sensual touch, and physical touch are not interchangeable. For example, a public display of affection is a physical touch. But it can be initiated as a result of different intentions. It can also instigate different reactions in a person.
Related Reading: 55 Intimate Questions To Ask Your Partner
Why Is It Important To Foster Physical Intimacy In A Relationship?
Is physical intimacy important in a relationship? Well, Shivanya says, “It is the most innate desire in every human to be touched, to be hugged, to be desired. Both in a sexual way and a non-sexual way. Different types of hugs, for example, can communicate so much without the need to say anything.”
How does physical intimacy affect relationships and one another? Well, physical intimacy, whether sexual or non-sexual, satisfies the physiological needs of our bodies and plays an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship.
How to be physically romantic? Well, physical contact, including hugging, kissing, and sexual interactions, helps. It leads to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that activates the brain’s pleasure centers
- Oxytocin, in response to physical touch, helps reduce stress and anxiety, contributing to emotional well-being in a relationship
- Consensual and desirable touch, even in non-sexual contexts like when your partner hold hands with you or cuddles, strengthens the emotional bond in a relationship
- Physical intimacy enhances trust, security, and overall relationship satisfaction by providing a channel for expressing love and care.
- It promotes a sense of belonging and comfort, making partners feel valued and understood.
Shivanya adds, “If we pay attention to what happens when physical intimacy is denied in a relationship, we will understand how physical intimacy affects relationships and why it’s important. Speaking through my experience of dealing with clients, both men and women, who have had issues with physical intimacy, I can say that the amount of stress this lack causes is massive.”
11 Expert Tips On How To Increase Physical Intimacy In A Relationship
Shivanya answered our question, “Is physical intimacy important in a relationship?” As she mentioned, physical intimacy is something humans crave, as it provides them with the most basic needs of fulfillment, pleasure, self-worth and self-esteem, a sense of connection, and a feeling of trust in the bond they create. How to increase physical intimacy in a new relationship or even a long-term one, between unmarried or married couples should be one of our major intentions when nurturing relationships. But how does one do that effectively and in a healthy way?
Here are a few things that our expert advises to help you increase physical connection in a relationship. Prioritizing these will not only help you bring yourself closer to your partner, but each of these tips will also help you through all the stages of physical intimacy in relationship, including love, mutual respect, and, as a result, a deeper connection with your partner.
1. Be mindful of consent
No conversation about how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship should begin without understanding the role of consent and the assurance of consent. Shivanya says, “Physical intimacy must be a mutual act, which means it has to have the consent of the partners involved, be it either married couples or unmarried. Never force physical intimacy on your partner.” It is very important to be mindful of your partner’s boundaries. It is important to confirm and reconfirm your partner’s consent and make sure they don’t feel uncomfortable in order to improve physical intimacy in marriage, whether in a new relationship or an old one.
How to ask for physical intimacy? It certainly starts with respecting your partner’s boundaries, which leads to trust, making way for open communication and resolution of conflicts, ultimately enriching physical intimacy. On the other hand, forcing yourself on them, whether physically or emotionally, can be considered abuse and that is not a foundation on which a healthy relationship is built. Navigating physical intimacy in a relationship may sometimes involve overcoming moments of a subtle power struggle as partners find a balance that suits both their needs and boundaries.
2. Communicate effectively
If one had to pick out the most important quality that is a constant in a healthy, joyful relationship, it would be communication. Learning ways to improve communication is the key to improving all aspects of a relationship. In one form or another, it has a constant spot in all discussions surrounding love. For physical intimacy, Shivanya says, “Communicating your physical needs is extremely crucial for having a physical connection with your partner. Communicate your needs and desires otherwise as well as in the act. What feels pleasurable, what doesn’t, and what is hurtful? What turns you on and turns you off?” She highlights the need to have candid conversations about your preferences for different types of physical intimacy.
Even for non-sexual touch, partners should often talk about how much touch or physical contact each person likes. Shivanya mentions, “Communicating these things and talking about them also creates a spiritual and emotional closeness with your partner. So, the benefits are manyfold.” Instead of just wondering all by yourself or googling your concerns, your best bet could simply be to ask your partner their opinion on how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship. Couples often benefit from openly discussing and implementing various physical intimacy ideas to ensure their romantic connection remains.
3. Build a safe space for communication
We know how necessary it is for the communication channel between two partners to be free and open. This is something that goes a long way for the relationship. Maintaining physical intimacy in a long-distance relationship especially requires communication to bridge the geographical distance it brings. But how to ask for physical intimacy? Sincere and open-minded communication about it is possible only when both partners feel that they will be listened to without any judgment or fear of backlash from their partner. This is especially noteworthy when wanting to share one’s desires, fantasies, and physically intimate things to do with them. Physical intimacy in a new relationship can be nurtured by talking about these emotions from the very beginning.
Shivanya says, “Physical intimacy increases with effective communication of desires and fantasies. It allows the improvement of intimacy beyond the limits of the physical aspect. It nurtures respect in the relationship. That is why we advise having a safe space for communication of these without the fear of judgment from the partner.”
4. Foster emotional intimacy
Without emotional intimacy, you can’t cross through all the stages of physical intimacy in relationship. As we discussed earlier, intimacy is a compound concept and is not limited to just physical romance. No intimacy works in isolation. Physical intimacy can be nurtured when the emotional connection between two partners is fostered. People tend to put in all their energy to improve physical intimacy in marriage or lack thereof. However, they do not consider the state of the emotional connection they have with their partner.
Shivanya gets straight to the point, “Nobody reacts well to physical contact or touch when there is a lack of emotional connection. But some people feel more shut down than others. A touch from someone else can feel extremely intrusive and unwanted in that case.” A simple example of this would be a person complaining that their partner always jumps into the act but refuses to take time out to do other things together or even simply talk about their day.
Related Reading: How Hair Loss Triggers Body Image Issues And Impacts Relationships
5. Be respectful of your partner’s and your bodies
“We shouldn’t feel judged for our bodies. The color of our skin, the shape of our body, and the appearance of the genitalia. If one does, it is going to come in the way of physical intimacy. A conscious effort must be made to appreciate each other’s bodies,” says Shivanya.
In fact, we would go on to say that not judging one’s body isn’t enough. If one were to feel proud of their physicality and find it easy to love their bodies, it would open a completely new channel of physical connection between partners that would go a long way in the relationship. Now an obvious question is: how? Well, you can start by:
- Open communication, with an open mind and sharing insecurities with each other
- Reassure your partner of your admiration for them and for their body
- Make praising each other a habit
Shivanya especially advises seeking professional help for issues like vaginismus, erectile dysfunction, and premature or delayed ejaculation. Help should also be sought for sexual incompatibility issues. They are often dealt with in a secretive tone but are very real, very common issues that are often easy to treat with a clear diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional.
6. Consider childhood traumas
“Sometimes people in a relationship that lacks physical intimacy wonder why their partner is not responding to their touch. Or why do they go frigid when touched? Or why are they less interested? Why do they shy away? Deep-seated childhood wounds might be the reason behind these issues,” says Shivanya.
Many physical intimacy issues stem from sexual abuse trauma. Sexual, physical, mental, and emotional traumas experienced in childhood can hugely affect the relationship a person has with their own body. As well as physical intimacy, including a physical relationship with another human being. Physical affection might not mean the same for them as it means for you.
“In this case too, you see, physical intimacy can be enabled only with emotional intimacy,” says Shivanya. If you or your sex therapist find that your issues are more deep-seated they may recommend that you try trauma-focused therapy. Consult a skilled therapist to get to the root of these issues. They may be affecting much more in your lives than just physical intimacy.
7. Do not limit intimacy to the bedroom
Do you wonder what to do to increase intimacy in a relationship? And then do you make a list and try everything when hitting the sheets? That might not be very effective. Physical intimacy, after all, has to feel organic. Physical intimacy is synonymous with affection, whether sexual or non-sexual.
Shivanya advises, “Do not limit physical intimacy to the bedroom and to nighttime. Make your affection felt throughout the day through other physical gestures such as a squeeze of the hand, a back rub, or a forehead kiss. You don’t have to wait for the night to get on with it. Think of all the ways you can tell them you love them without saying it.”
8. Make a deliberate effort to tackle predictability
Trust, safety, and comfort are paramount in a healthy relationship. The feeling that one knows their partner inside and out can be joyous and peaceful. A small side effect of this level of connection and trust is predictability. While it is a small price to pay for the ease of a great relationship, there are things that can be done to tackle predictability.
“If you are wondering what to do to increase intimacy in a relationship or thinking of different physical intimacy ideas, well, try things that break routine,” advises Shivanya. The following are a few ways Shivanya suggests physically intimate things to do;
- Add elements of surprise to combat predictability with new things:
- Plan getaways to spend quality time together
- Be playful and explore fantasies
- Try roleplays
- Incorporate massages, including body and genital massage
- Use props such as sex toys, feathers, roses, candles, etc.
- Hold a non-judgmental space for partners to feel secure in sharing their deepest thoughts
- Experiment with changing patterns of initiating physical intimacy to enhance the overall experience
Related Reading: How Masturbation Helps In Long-Distance Relationships
Shared experiences involve getting involved in activities together that foster a deeper connection and strengthen the emotional bond between partners. These shared experiences can help a great deal in creating a sense of unity and shared memories, having a positive effect on the overall intimacy, including the physical intimacy of a relationship. Wondering how to invest your time in this? Explore the physical intimacy ideas with the below suggestions. These will also help you have a great time and quality time with your partner:
10. Spontaneity is the key
Discovering how to be physically romantic involves the willingness to embrace and initiate unplanned and unexpected moments of closeness and connection with your partner, which is what spontaneity means. By adding an element of surprise and excitement to the relationship, intimacy of all kinds but especially physical intimacy, blooms. It keeps the romantic and intimate aspects fresh and dynamic.
- Plan unexpected surprises, like spontaneous weekend getaways or surprise date nights for new experiences
- Welcome spontaneity in the bedroom by being open to trying new things without rigid expectations, with a sense of adventure and excitement for one another
11. Seek support from professionals
If how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship seems like an overwhelming question, or if you feel that your issues seem too much to handle, consider seeking support from a skilled sex therapist. It is possible that you realize the lack of physical intimacy is an issue that is now beyond the possibility of self-management or that intimacy has been lost for so long that you do not know where and how to begin. Similarly, if the issues that surface between one another seem much more complex than you had expected, approaching a skilled professional could be the best recourse for you.
If you do not know where to begin, Bonobology’s panel of skilled experts is here to help you.
- Physical intimacy in a relationship involves the physical closeness, touch, and connection shared between partners
- It leads to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that activates the brain’s pleasure centers
- Physical intimacy should begin only when there’s an understanding of consent and the assurance of it as well
- Communicating openly, creating a safe space, building on emotional intimacy, respecting your partner’s body, and breaking predictability are a few ways you can increase physical intimacy
- If the issues that surface in the relationship seem much more complex than you had expected, please seek professional support
Try exploring the physical intimacy you have in your relationship, as it’s abundantly clear now how much of a vital role it plays in maintaining and sustaining a healthy bond. Prioritize open communication, respect boundaries, and tackle challenges actively when establishing intimacy with your partner, be it of any kind. Remember, it’s important to seek professional support if you feel there are concerns that are too complex or overwhelming for you. Enjoy the journey and remember to take care of yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself and your partner. Open your heart and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.