Marriage offers us so many life-enhancing gifts. Number one on the list is intimacy, both sexual and emotional. But some couples will go through phases where there is a lack of intimacy in the marriage. Where does this come from, and what can women do to help bring intimacy back into the marriage?
A lack of intimacy can have several causes. Let’s look at some of the typical ones.
You are pulled every which way
Between your work and your family demands, it’s a wonder that you fit in time to take a shower, let alone have some romantic moments with your spouse. After a long day at the office, helping your child with his homework, doing a load or two of laundry, and balancing your checkbook, you find it difficult to muster the mental bandwidth necessary for connecting with your husband in any meaningful way. And you sense he is feeling the same. It just seems so much easier to tune into the latest episode of This Is Us than to actually tune into Us, right?
You feel distant from your spouse
It’s hard for women to feel connected sexually to their partner if they aren’t feeling connected emotionally. (This is less of an issue for men, who are more easily stimulated by the visual and less so by the emotional.) When you’ve racked up a few years in the marriage, it is normal to pay less attention to tending the fires that heat up your feelings of intimacy. You may even be taking each other for granted and living more like friends than lovers. That works for some people but if this lack of intimacy is an issue for you, it is wise to pay attention to this now before your marriage becomes a sexual and emotional desert.
Many couples experience a lack of intimacy as they go through the aging process. Older men will have erectile issues; older women are faced with hot flashes and a drop in estrogen. Intercourse may be painful or incomplete. But there are sexual aids—chemical and mechanical– that can help keep the sexual intimacy going which in turn helps maintain the emotional intimacy.
Let’s redefine intimacy
If you find yourself experiencing any of the above challenges, don’t despair. The great thing about intimacy in a couple is that it is a renewable resource. Sure, when you go through a rough patch it may feel depressing like things are never going to be the way they were when you were first married. You think fondly of those days when sex was at the forefront of the marriage, and it wasn’t such an effort to carve out time to talk about meaningful subjects with your husband. Missing those times? Know that you can bring intimacy back into your dynamic. It will just look different now, as compared to when you were newlyweds. For couples willing to put in the work, intimacy 2.0 is at hand!
The new intimacy
1. It begins with focusing on you
Don’t expect to change your spouse.You can only change yourself, how you look at things and how these issues affect you. Take a moment to think deeply about your marriage: what you expect from it, what you love about it, what you dislike about it. Ask yourself if your expectations of intimacy are realistic. Ask yourself if you are doing enough to communicate these expectations to your husband.
2. Ask your partner how he defines intimacy
It may be that your husband does not realize that you are sensing a lack of intimacy in the relationship. He may be fine with the level and frequency of your sex life. He may have no problem at all spending evenings on the internet or in front of the TV and he may think you have no issue with this. If you haven’t told him that you are feeling disconnected from him, you need to do so. Men are not mind-readers and are not gifted at picking up subtle hints. It may be that the lack of intimacy you are feeling stems from a misunderstanding of what you need from him, to feel heard and loved. Tell him. He cannot guess.
3. Make your marriage a priority again
All the other demands on your time are real. But you can prioritize them in order to focus on restoring intimacy in your marriage. Once all of the evening tasks are done, why not draw a bath instead of picking up your tablet and scrolling through your Facebook feed? Then invite your husband to take a relaxing soak with you, or just watch you as you unwind in the tub. The goal is to be together without outside distractions. This is a natural spark to intimacy, both emotional and sexual.
Maintain this priority. It doesn’t have to be a bath. You can do a low-key exercise together, like yoga or stretching. Anything not in front of a screen that gives you a block of time together after all the chores are done.
4. Plan some “fun” things to do together
To increase or revive intimacy, sit down with your partner and create a “fun” list of things you both enjoy doing together. This can be something a simple and accessible as cooking a new recipe, or as complex as putting together an itinerary for a trip you’ve always dreamed of taking. And remember to follow through on a regular basis with the items on this list! Don’t just put it away in a drawer.
When women feel a lack of intimacy it can be a real wakeup call to start paying attention to the relationship. There are normal ebbs and flows in every couple’s sense of connection. The important thing is to identify what is going on so you can commit to rebuilding that wonderful sense of intimacy that every marriage deserves.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.