What Makes a Successful Long Term Relationship? Part 2: Sex and Intimacy
Sex and intimacy sometimes get connected as being the same thing and sometimes they're described as something very different. There are a lot of different opinions out there and it really depends on your definition at the time. They can be relatively interchangeable. I'd like to define intimacy as emotional connection. It is a way of attachment. Being attached to another person is being open and vulnerable. It's also feeling of being relaxed in a relationship. In a relationship intimacy also has to do with the bonding that you have; that connection that you are bonded. Intimacy also goes along with being a hundred percent honest with someone else and expecting that to be reciprocated. So intimacy is kind of complicated. There are a lot of different levels of it. Sometimes people are better at being intimate than others and that's because it's really hard to be intimate, to be open and to be vulnerable. This is often the case if you had a tough childhood or difficult upbringing where you didn't get nurtured in a way that made you feel safe. So then you go-to state may be to close off and not be as intimate with people.
To Feel Intimate You Have To Be Vulnerable
I hear a lot of times on television are movies where a therapist will tell their client “I think you have intimacy issues.” It's actually pretty common. But what we're talking about is to be intimate we need to emotionally and physically safe. We want to be able to be vulnerable. So when we talk about sex, I think of it as physical pleasure and physical connection. Sex is the physical part of being intimate; the most intimate act that any two people can engage in is having sex. There's nothing more vulnerable for a person than to be naked with another person. It can be pretty scary especially if it's your first time because there is something about having nothing protecting us that makes us feel a little bit scared. Now when we're talking about being in a successful long-term relationship intimacy and sex are really important. Intimacy and sex are probably one of the key indicators for a successful relationship. It's really difficult to find a relationship that's going really well if there is not regular sex and intimacy; they're related. The more intimacy you have typically, the more sex there is in a relationship because the very act of being sexual puts you in a vulnerable position. If you don't have the intimacy right there between you, nicely connected and bonded sometimes sex just doesn't happen. Or you might have sex but its bad sex and that's not good either.
More Intimacy Leads To More Sex
If you're having challenges with getting enough sex in your relationship (which I hear a lot in my practice) it's really important to focus on intimacy. I know this sounds kind of sexist but women because of the way our brains are put together, we have a need for a lot of intimacy in order to feel sexual. This means that when you are in a long-term relationship and you want more sex you have to ramp up the intimacy. Sometimes that means connect in a positive way like giving hugs out of nowhere. Maybe it’s giving a really nice passionate kiss not just a high peck on the cheek or maybe its practicing being more open and honest with each other. Going out of your way to talk about things that might be kind of tough to talk about but they're getting in the way of intimacy. It's also important to recognize each other for something positive that you're doing when trying to build intimacy. People love to be recognized for doing something right. It's really easy to point out when we're doing things wrong but it's not always so easy to point out when we're doing it right. We just assume “oh they know because I'm not yelling at them” or “oh they know because I seem happy about it.” But you take that validation to the next level by saying “gosh thanks for doing that” or “I really appreciate you considering what I want or my feelings.” So think about recognizing each other for something positive. You can also focus on being vulnerable which can be hard. Oftentimes the easiest way to be more vulnerable is to avoid being angry. If you are vulnerable you're going to be open and you're going to be in a place that is safe. If you're angry that means you're not in that vulnerable position. Anger is a very defensive position. Try to focus on being vulnerable or really focus on reducing the anger. The bottom line for intimacy is that you must feel safe and vulnerable. Think about how can I interact with my partner in a way that will increase or improve intimacy and how can I be more vulnerable, open, honest and positive. It sounds kind of silly but these things really work. Sometimes having a plan can be very helpful.
Have A Plan For Greater Intimacy and More Sex
What I mean is having a plan on when you're going to be having sex, what day, what time. Maybe it's more about establishing when it’s not a good time or a good day to have sex. Also does the sex have to be intercourse? Being sexual doesn't necessarily have to be two people naked in bed having intercourse. There are alternatives; there's oral sex, there's manual sex, there are all kinds of different alternatives. Maybe that’s part of your plan. You’re discussing what are some of the alternatives if I or my partner is not in the mood to have intercourse. Can we satisfy our sexual needs in a different way? This is something you're going to need to talk to your partner about. Consider alternatives and be conscious and aware of what your partner's boundaries are. Let's say my partner really would appreciate oral sex and let's say for some reason I'm not okay with that but maybe there are other options. So explore, communicate and try to be open and vulnerable. This will improve your intimacy and oftentimes (but I don't make any guarantees) it will also improve the amount of sex that you're having in your relationship. Once you get this down focus on building intimacy by being open, being vulnerable, connecting, attaching, bonding, being kind to each other and saying positive things. By doing these mindful actions you can establish greater intimacy with your partner increasing the likelihood of increased sex life both of which are key components to creating and maintaining a successful and long-lasting relationship.