Physical intimacy is just as important for relationships—married or otherwise—as verbal intimacy and affection. Studies have shown time and time again that physical affection through hugging, kissing and touching is just as important in the development of relationship bonds as communication, which is why many couples struggle if they feel that there is a lack of physical intimacy in their marriage.
What constitutes a lack of physical intimacy?
There are many different types of physical intimacy, which can include more overt romantic physical gestures such as kissing and hugging—as well as smaller physical gestures, such as sitting close to one another, holding hands, or even simple touching.
One of the reasons that even experts struggle with addressing physical intimacy issues in a relationship is that everyone has their own comfort level, as well as personal likes and dislikes, when it comes to physical intimacy. For example: Some people may feel comfortable kissing in public, while others would consider it awkward and embarrassing. In this case, the partner who wants to kiss in public may feel that the lack of kissing in public areas would constitute a lack of physical intimacy, while the partner who considers it undesirable would not.
As a whole, however, most relationship experts agree that a lack of physical intimacy occurs when at least one partner in the relationship feels that their attempts at physical affection and intimate behavior are not being reciprocated to the point of a rift in the relationship. To use the above example, if the second partner does not want to engage in any acts of physical intimacy—even those in private—it will likely be considered a genuine lack of physical intimacy.
How can a lack of physical intimacy hurt a marriage?
People need physical affection. As it has been mentioned, physical intimacy is important to forming and strengthening personal relationships between two people. Intimacy in a marriage is typically expected to be closer and even more frequent than intimacy before a marriage, since the commitment of marriage has brought the two partners together in a ceremonial and legal bond.
Most married people therefore have the expectation of activities like hugging, cuddling, kissing, and so on. When there is a lack of physical intimacy in a marriage, it is easy to feel like the love may be going out of your relationship, or that you are not physically attractive to your partner, or that your partner no longer cares about you in the way they did before.
What can be done to improve physical intimacy?
It is not always easy to fix the issue of a lack of physical intimacy—but it can be done in most cases. The key to resolving intimacy issues is to take things slow, find out what each partner likes and doesn’t like in terms of physical intimacy, and encouraging physical closeness in non-romantic ways such as simply holding hands, sitting next to each other while watching films, talking walks together, and so on.