8 Warning Signs of Relationship Intimacy Issues
Intimacy—Before we tackle the elephant in the room, aka sexual intimacy in relationships, let’s set the record straight. Defined, intimacy is a deep, familiar, and typically affectionate bond with someone else (or a group, or thing, but let’s not get weird here). In other words, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about sex.
Intimacy is about connecting with your partner in any way emotionally or physically. Relationships need intimacy to survive—without it, couples cannot weather the storms of life. It’s also very common for couples to have a different idea of what constitutes intimacy. Typically women need more emotional intimacy than men. And the less we get, the less inclined we are to have desire for sexual intimacy in our relationships.
For me, intimacy is the anchor that binds my relationship with my husband. I can literally feel when I haven’t had any affection from him—It’s like being in the desert without a drop of water! There is a big piece of understanding here around men and women respecting and understanding each other’s differences.
“Women need more emotional intimacy than men. And the less we get, the less inclined we are to have desire for sexual intimacy.”
If you feel like your relationship isn’t affected by any intimacy issues – Fabulous! Maybe still keep this article handy in case you start to feel there is something you can still gain from challenging the status quo. Also skip to my series entitled “Get Your Sexy Back“. If some of these tell-tale signs indicate that you’re headed toward intimacy distress, it’s not too late to do your part and improve your relationship intimacy issues. Make an effort, and reignite the spark.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
1. There’s No Physical Contact
Again, we’re not just talking about sex here. Being intimate with your partner isn’t just about being lovingly affectionate, it’s about giving that person attention and time. In fact, some signs of affection are even more meaningful than sex to both the giver and the receiver.
Any two people can get together and have sex. It takes a special type of bond to show love for one another in everyday gestures. Such as kissing each other on the cheek or forehead. If he rubs your shoulders just because. Or if you both casually join hands en route to dinner on a date night. If he sends you a loving text on a Tuesday afternoon. No matter how often you are having sex, getting this part down is fundamental to healing the intimacy factor in your relationship.
“Being intimate with your partner isn’t merely being lovingly affectionate, it’s about giving that person attention and time”
Sometimes when we see flaws in life, our tendency is to blame someone else. If these little signs of intimacy aren’t happening in your relationship and you want to blame your spouse, remember that the greatest way to inspire change is to be the change you want to see in your relationship. Make the effort tonight to be the change you wish to see—bust out the massage oil and offer a rub-down or casually caress his arm while watching a movie. If you’re apart tonight, send some flirty texts. Tease him a bit. Start building that spark. The goal here is to consciously work on the relationship intimacy issues that you’re having.
Ok, back to date nights…
2. You Never Make Alone Time for Each Other
As parents, intimacy almost takes on a hilarious new definition. There’s nothing hotter than a Dad who gets up in the middle of the night to tend to the crying child, right? As much as you adore and appreciate your growing family, you must try to nurture the foundation you first established as a couple. You can do this right now by starting AND maintaining a routine date night. Pick a specific night each month and stick to it. If a kid gets sick, reschedule, but you must make it a priority. Hire a babysitter, get dressed up, get home late, and–most importantly–have fun! This is a sure fire way of tackling any relationship intimacy issues you may be having!
“You have to continue to nurture the foundation you first established as a couple.”
3. There’s No Transparency
Trust and communication are the backbones of any successful marriage, and thus the very core of intimacy. As women, we have to feel safe that who he says he is, is really who he is. Open and honest communication is the only way to convince your partner that their heart is safe with you. A lack of transparency will undoubtedly lead to relationship intimacy issues. How can you comfortably give your physical self to someone you can’t trust with your heart?
“Open and honest communication is the only way to convince your partner that their heart is safe with you.”
4. There Are Medical or Psychological Interruptions
Often, what appears to be intimacy issues on the surface is really underlying issues that haven’t been addressed. For instance, your husband could be suffering from erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation issues (the likelihood of which tends to increase after the age of 40—ain’t growing old grand?!). If his main man is letting him down for the first time in his life, he may be feeling deeply ashamed. After all, he hasn’t lost sexual attraction for his spouse! He may feel that talking to you about it would not only be an admission of this new reality, but that it could also unintentionally hurt your feelings and leave you questioning your own sexual confidence.
Perhaps one or both of you is suffering from a loss of libido. Stress, depression, or anxiety can have a tremendous impact on our desire for sex or the ability to perform. I am a huge fan of therapy and would highly recommend reading my article on therapy here. These kinds of issues are a huge contributor to relationship intimacy issues.
5. You Gave Up on Your Best Self
It’s no surprise that our body image is directly linked to our attitude about intimacy and sex and can have a profound impact on our relationship intimacy issues. Our body image is also not linked to our size or weight. It has everything to with our own perception of ourselves. How we are feeling about our body.
If you’re like me, you’re probably far too busy to worry about chicken broccoli meal prep on Sundays or booking your next spin class. Fact is it’s all about habit, and often times when we become so focused on everyone else, we get into the bad habit of forgetting to factor in what we want for ourselves. When was the last time you even asked yourself that? What do you want? Or maybe you do know what you want, but you can’t quit your habit of avoiding it.
“When was the last time you even asked yourself that? What do you want?”
If you haven’t already heard of Mel Robbins, I’ll do you a solid and make the intro. This little lady is going to challenge the way you think about motivation and in fact, the whole way you relate to your life. Mel says “It Takes 5 Seconds To Change Your Life.” Mel speaks about how people are so consumed with perfection that they don’t bother trying. Trying is making small changes every single day that get you closer to the changes you want to become.
Please, please watch this inspiring interview Mel has with Impact Theory’s Tom Bilyeu. It will blow you away and I swear it is ridiculously easy to implement her ideas (which are based on science, BTW). My husband has started using her 5 second rule and I cannot begin to describe the transmutation that has occurred literally overnight. I even said to him this morning, “You are so perky, it’s annoying”. This coming from the optimist to the pessimist.
So if you’re not feeling comfortable in your own skin, it’s almost a guarantee this is having an effect on your relationship intimacy issues. Figure out where and how to begin carving out time for yourself and what your goals are. You know what will always look hot on you from your spouse’s point of view? Self-confidence. Once you find yourself again —the person that your spouse fell for—it’ll be smooth sailing from there!
“You know what will always look hot on you from your spouse’s point of view? Self-confidence.”
6. You Don’t Have Pillow Talk
I know there are a lot couples out there who sleep separately because of the kids and claim to be extremely happy doing so. SMH. If your kids are past 6 months old, this really should not be happening in any marriage where intimacy is a priority. It’s not often I get on my soapbox about things, but this is one of those topics where I just feel like a spade is a spade. This is a big, fat, relationship intimacy issues red flag! There are a bajillion ways to show your children love, and attention— they need not be sleeping in Papa Bear’s bed to know what love is from their parents.
Snoring can be a huge disruption to your cosy and restful love nest. I’m not going to sugarcoat this–we have this issue…and sometimes in desperation, I do kick him onto the couch. I am seriously considering buying Nora: The Smart Snoring Solution. #Desperation
Pillow talk is tough to come by these days while we all have our eyes glued to our cell phones, TVs, and tablets. Make the effort to put down the devices and connect, you’ll be keeping the intimacy alive by doing so.
7. There’s Too Much Criticism
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Laurie B. Mintz, author of “A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex”, likens bad communication in marriage to gathering pebbles in a backpack-each pebble representing something you didn’t address and talk about. Eventually your backpack is too full to carry, so you sit it down and start throwing pebbles at your partner. Throwing pebbles is clearly not going to help any relationship intimacy issues you may be having.
After you have kids, evenings are no longer about just making dinner for each other and deciding which wine bottle to open! It’s about preparing dinner(s) for everyone, getting the kids fed, the bathtime marathon, reading stories, homework, etc. It’s easy with all this stress piling on thick to turn to the person you’re closest to as the outlet for your frustration. But you need to remember that you’re a team. You have to turn towards the person you love, not away from them. My article on how better to communicate with your man, goes into this in more detail—a must read.
The Four Horseman
My brilliant therapist, Dr. Crane (that’s not really his name; you can read more about him in this article) taught me about about the The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Gottman speaks about how criticism paves the way for more fatal habits, so it’s inordinately important to shine a light on awareness of when and how criticism is happening. Example of criticism in action from the Gottman Institute:
Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish! You never think of others! You never think of me!”
“You have to turn towards the person you love, not away from them.”
8. He’s Emotionally & Conversationally Distant
It’s an acceptable generalisation that women find it far easier to discuss relationship issues than men. Men are much less conversational in general, and this is especially true when it comes to addressing or expressing emotions. Just because men aren’t naturally inclined to want to discuss a lack of intimacy, doesn’t mean that they don’t agree there’s an issue, nor does it mean they wouldn’t be committed to fixing it.
Dr. Mintz touches on this point in her book, as a faulty belief system of women in particular: “I Shouldn’t Have to Ask.” Meaning, women often think that men should just know things. As Mintz says, “To resent something that your partner is not giving you, that you haven’t clearly asked for, is groundless.”
“Talk About the Hard Stuff”
Talk About The Hard Stuff
This really touched a chord with me because I am so guilty of this. I think if I tell him what I want and how I want it, that it nullifies any positive feelings I could get from it. Instead, I foolishly wait for him to do that thing that I really want, and then when he inevitably doesn’t, that’s when resentment breeds. Resentment doesn’t help relationship intimacy issues!
Instead if I just told him, “Hey, honey, it would mean a lot to me if you, too, were thinking about and contributing to our alone time. How about we split up date nights so that one month it’s your responsibility and the next it’s mine?” Seems simple, right? Well, it took me reading that book and writing this article to even have that conversation with my guy.
I’m going to leave you with the single most important piece of marriage advice we received from the man who married us. He said “Talk about the Hard Stuff”. It’s something I’ve never forgotten and something that on our wedding day, meant very little. But 11 years of marriage later, this is one of my core beliefs that has stuck with me. You have to talk, you have to turn towards each other, you have to challenge yourself to your partner to be better.
I would love to hear from you about what’s been working for you on your journey, so please drop me a line anytime at [email protected].