11 Expert Tips On How To Increase Physical Intimacy In A Relationship

December 16, 2023 |
how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship
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The dilemma of how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship is one that many couples wrestle with at some point in their journey of togetherness. Primarily because while the question may be straightforward, the answers are not. Intimacy is a nuanced concept with different types and sub-sets, which broadly includes physical intimacy, sexual intimacy emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, experiential intimacy, and spiritual intimacy — all portals to feeling closer and more connected to your partner.

Among these, fostering physical intimacy can often be tricky because it is so commonly confused with sexual intimacy. While there can be some overlapping elements in the different types of physical intimacy and sexual intimacy, the two aren’t synonymous with each other. So, what is physical intimacy? Handholding with your partner or kissing without the intent of it leading to something more are some physical intimacy examples that can go a long way in strengthening the connection between two romantic partners.  

In this article, we delve deeper into the realm of physical intimacy in a relationship and try to understand its importance and ways to deepen it, in consultation with 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.

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. 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 fosters emotional intimacy.

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The impact of being physically intimate with a romantic partner/interest, however, can be different for different people. For some, physical intimacy can trigger sexual passion and the desire for sexual intimacy. To others, it may offer sensual pleasure. They may find physically intimate gestures 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.

And then, for some, acts of physical intimacy such as 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 might experience “feel good” emotions. To a large extent, the answer to how does physical intimacy affect relationships depends on the love languages of the people involved. 

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. The converse is also true.

Related Reading: 55 Intimate Questions To Ask Your Partner

Physical intimacy vs sexual intimacy 

If you’re wondering how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship, it’s vital to not just understand what being physically intimate with a romantic partner means but also what it does not mean. That’s why it’s imperative to touch upon the physical intimacy vs sexual intimacy difference.

Being in a physically intimate relationship is often misconstrued or even used 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 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 with different intentions and can also evoke different reactions in different people. So,  

Why Is It Important To Foster Physical Intimacy In A Relationship?

How does physical intimacy affect relationships? Is physical intimacy important in a relationship? Shivanya says, “It is the most innate desire in every human to be touched, to be hugged, to be desired. Both in a sexual and a non-sexual way. Different types of hugs, for example, can communicate so much without the need to say anything.” Physical intimacy, whether sexual or non-sexual, satisfies the physiological needs of our bodies and plays an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship. Here’s why:

  • Oxytocin, in response to physical touch, helps reduce stress and anxiety, contributing to the emotional well-being of both partners
  • Consensual and desirable touch, even in non-sexual contexts like when your partner holds 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, it’s not hard to see how physical intimacy affects relationships and why it’s important. Based on my experience of dealing with clients, both men and women, who have had issues with physical intimacy, I can say that it causes massive stress and puts a strain on the connection between two partners.”

Related Reading: Lack Of Affection And Intimacy In A Relationship — 9 Ways It Affects You

11 Expert Tips On How To Increase Physical Intimacy In A Relationship

Why is physical intimacy important in a relationship? Because it caters to the most basic human needs of fulfillment, pleasure, self-worth, self-esteem, a sense of connection, and a feeling of security. That’s why figuring out how to increase physical intimacy in a new relationship or a long-term one should be one of the key focus areas for nurturing relationships. But how does one do that effectively and healthily?

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. Shivanya says, “Physical intimacy must be a mutual act, which means it has to have the consent of the partners involved. Never force physical intimacy on your partner.”

When trying to learn how to be physically romantic, it is very important to be mindful of your partner’s boundaries, to confirm and reconfirm your partner’s consent, and to make sure they don’t feel uncomfortable at any point. When you learn how to ask for physical intimacy the right way, it leads to trust, making way for open communication and a greater sense of security, ultimately enriching the overall quality of the connection you share with your SO.

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.

Related Reading: My Marriage Is Falling Apart – Expert Suggests 13 Ways To Turn It Around

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 improving physical intimacy in marriage or a relationship, Shivanya says, “Communicating your physical needs is extremely crucial for having a physical connection with your partner. Communicate your needs and desires clearly. Tell your partner what feels pleasurable, what doesn’t, and what is hurtful. Talk about what turns you on and turns you off.” She emphasizes the need for candid conversations to foster different types of physical intimacy. 

Partners should also talk about how much touch or physical contact each person likes. Shivanya mentions, “Communicating about these things not only helps you explore different physical intimacy ideas but also creates a spiritual and emotional closeness.”

3. Build a safe space for communication

is physical intimacy important in a relationship
Physical intimacy can be nurtured by creating a safe space for the expression of wants, needs, and desires

If you’re wondering how to ask for physical intimacy, know that it is possible only when both partners feel that they will be listened to without any judgment or backlash from their partner. This is especially important when trying to explore ways to improve physical intimacy in a long-distance relationship because a lot can get lost in translation owing to the physical distance between partners.

Likewise, physical intimacy in a new relationship can be nurtured by creating a safe space for the expression of wants, needs, and desires from the very beginning. Shivanya says, “Physical intimacy increases when there is a safe space for expression of desires and fantasies. It allows intimacy to thrive outside just the physical aspect and nurtures respect in the relationship.”

4. Foster emotional intimacy

Without emotional intimacy, you can’t cross through all the stages of physical intimacy in relationship. As mentioned earlier, intimacy is a nuanced concept and is not limited to the physical realm. No form of intimacy works in isolation. Therefore, it can be easier to foster physical intimacy when the emotional connection between two partners is strong.

Shivanya explains, “Typically, people don’t react to physical contact or touch in the absence of an 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. So, whether you want to improve physical intimacy in marriage, a long-term relationship, or a new relationship, you have to get down in the trenches of emotional intimacy to succeed.

Related Reading: 23 Signs Of Emotional Invalidation In A Relationship

5. Be respectful of your partner’s and your body

“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 in a relationship. Now an obvious question is: how? Well, you can start by:

  • Sharing insecurities with each other 
  • Reassure your partner of your admiration for them and their body
  • Make praising each other a habit

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 their physical relationship with another human being. Physical affection might not mean the same to them as it does to you. 

“In this case too, you see, physical intimacy can be enabled only with emotional intimacy,” says Shivanya. If you or your partner grapple with such issues, it can help to consult a skilled therapist to get to the root of it. Unhealed childhood wounds may be affecting much more than just physical intimacy.

Related Reading: Separation Anxiety In Relationships – What Is It And How To Cope?

7. Do not limit intimacy to the bedroom

Do you wonder what to do to increase intimacy in a relationship? Do you feel that you’ve tried everything possible but to no avail? Well, we have a counter question for you: are you limiting your efforts to figure out how to increase physical intimacy in a relationship to the bedroom alone? If so, that could be the reason why you haven’t made much headway.

Physical intimacy, after all, has to feel organic. It must be synonymous with affection, whether sexual or non-sexual. Shivanya advises, “Do not limit physical intimacy to the bedroom. Make your affection felt throughout the day through gestures such as a squeeze of the hand, a back rub, or a forehead kiss. Think of all the ways you can tell your partner you love them without saying it.”

On Intimacy

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, some things 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
    •  Give each other massages without it necessarily leading to something more
  • Create a non-judgmental space where you and your partner feel secure in sharing your deepest thoughts
  • Experiment with changing patterns of initiating physical intimacy to enhance the overall experience

Related Reading: 7 Reasons Showering Together Is Great For Intimacy And How To Do It Right

9. Invest in shared experiences 

Shared experiences entail 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, which has 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 spend 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. By adding an element of spontaneity 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 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 you feel that the state of your connection has deteriorated too much to be revived by yourself, or intimacy has been lost for so long that you do not know where and how to begin, consider seeking professional help.

A skilled professional will help you understand your behavior patterns as well as that of your partner, and equip you with the right tools to replace unhealthy patterns or unhelpful tendencies with healthier habits. If you’re looking for help, Bonobology’s panel of skilled experts is here to help you.

Key Pointers

  • Physical intimacy in a relationship involves the physical closeness, touch, and connection between partners. It is not the same as sexual intimacy
  • It leads to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that activates the brain’s pleasure centers
  • The role of consent is critical in nurturing physical intimacy between two people
  • 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 in a relationship
  • If the issues impeding a strong physical connection in the relationship seem much more complex than you had expected, seeking professional help is the healthiest way to find a resolution

So, take a moment to explore the quality of physical intimacy 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. 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.

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