Are you looking to improve your intimacy? Enhance your sex life? It may be easy for some couples and seemingly impossible for others.

While physical intimacy is important to the wellbeing of a happy marriage, it is usually a component of emotional intimacy and intellectual intimacy. A healthy marriage has all of these variables. Sex and intimacy are phrases often used interchangeably, but intimacy in a relationship is more than sexual intimacy, or a weekly date night.

What is Intimacy in Marriage?

One researcher that has studied intimacy for more than 40 years, John Gottman, describes intimacy as a combination of shared meaning and helping to make each other’s life dreams come true. A sense of greater purpose and legacy provides intimacy.

How to Enhance Intimacy In Marriage

Spend Time Together

But a couple can watch TV every evening and not experience an increase in intimacy. So much more is required.

Why’s that?

Because it’s not proximity that matters. It’s the sharing of thoughts and feelings that matters.

Can you talk about anything and still enhance intimacy?

But intimacy is more than requesting: “Pick up the dry cleaning tomorrow.” It’s sharing your inner world, thoughts about that world, and about yourself, that matters.

Introduce Novelty and Playfulness

Shared experiences and novel activities co-create meaning. Even making up a secret language or referring to some shared phenomenon with coded language, can create this type of intimacy.

Novelty jump-starts positive emotions because, on a biological level, novelty is good for mood and brain chemistry. Novelty enhances dopamine.

One researcher believes that when the brain’s “play circuitry” is activated, it triggers the reward system in the brain, linking the sense of pleasure with being in the presence of their partner. For this reason alone, sharing novel experiences together is essential.

Learning to Have More Fun

Not sure what’s “fun” anymore? While you can think back to what you did when you were first dating for clues, you may have to reflect further back.

Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child or teen.

  • Listening to music? Going to a rock concert? Heading out to a new beach for a day?

Linking a sense of shared pleasure with what are called “mirror neurons” enhances the feelings of intimate connection.

Why Do a Husband and Wife Experience a Lack of Intimacy?

One clinician called it “Intimacy Anorexia.” It’s often linked to both early trauma (called “Developmental Trauma“) and sex addiction. Imagine if heading out to a day at the beach resulted in a violent incident between your parents. What if the only “novelty” you experienced was terrifying?

Some of us also have negative experiences with sharing our thoughts and feelings with adults and other children. Can you imagine how challenging it would be to share deeper thoughts and feelings as an adult if they guilt-tripped, punished or even abused you for doing so?

Pathways to Building Intimacy

Emotional Closeness

Knowing your partner’s inner world requires not only sharing positive thoughts and feelings, but also essential is the capacity to complain safely to each other. Living with anyone can be an annoying experience. Increasing emotional intimacy requires candor and openness. Openness means “vulnerability” for many couples.

When we can tell our partner with kindness and candor how we want them to change, the resentments fade, and we become more interested in kissing with full tenderness.

Value of Spiritual Intimacy

Not all men and women value spiritual intimacy. However, married couples who share spiritual intimacy, along with bathing together, and having physical intimacy report being happiest in one research study.

One exercise we suggest to couples who want to integrate more spiritual intimacy into their marriage we call “Dashnaw’s Prayer” based upon the clinician who designed it.

In this nightly exercise, each person takes turns saying, “Dear God, thank you for this woman.” They then thank God for one specific act that their spouse did that they are grateful for over that day. Then they reverse it: “Dear God, thank you for this man.”

The only conversation is a simple “Amen” at the end of each person’s turn.

Being truly intimate in marriage is more than physical closeness. “Knowing” someone and allowing them to “know” you, as well as when your spouse shares novel experiences, is important to overall intimate relating.