Couple lying on bed discussing intimacy issues

When it comes to healthy relationships, physical intimacy issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The issues run deeper than what we see on the surface. From less snuggling, hugging, and kissing to less frequent (or nonexistent) sex, physical and emotional issues often go hand in hand. 

Barring medical issues, of course, the prevalence of physical intimacy is often related to the health of the relationship. Intimacy is a lot more than just sex, touching, kissing or holding hands.

Intimacy is also the extent to which someone knows the other person ‘inside out’, and the state of trust, commitment, and understanding in the relationship. In short, intimacy is the ‘connectedness’ between two people. This means that when there is a problem with (or a lack of) intimacy, it may indicate a deeper problem with the relationship.

Why intimacy issues happen

Men and women view intimacy differently. For men, it’s more about physically connecting, while for women, it’s more about an emotional connection. Helen Fisher Ph.D. explains that this is a “behavior that probably evolved millions of years ago when ancestral females spent days holding their infants up in front of them, soothing them with words.”

Depression, anxiety or other mental illness

Medical issues can cause intimacy issues. If left untreated, depression and anxiety can rob you and your relationship of connection. These issues should be addressed with a medical professional to review what treatments are right for you and your situation.

Communication with your partner through it all is key. Although it may be difficult to feel you can regain the intimacy you once had when you’re feeling as if all is lost, maintaining good communication throughout treatment ensures everyone knows what’s going on and helps keep your relationship strong.

Sharing your bed

Whether it’s the kids or your pets, sharing your bed can cause intimacy issues in your relationship. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy sex life when you and your partner don’t have a private space to call your own. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your children to share your bed on occasion, but try not to make it a habit.

Different sexual styles

Sexual needs and desires can change over time and that’s okay. But we need to talk to our partners when there’s something new we want or something we no longer desire. If our sexual needs are changing or we find ourselves feeling a lack of desire, this is a great time to have a conversation about it.

Keeping your partner in the dark about what we’re thinking and feeling can lead to intimacy issues. If you’re afraid to speak up, that’s a sure sign you really need to. There’s nothing wrong with feeling shy or even a little scared about expressing yourself. Society has done a number on us all when it comes to talking about sex, but the best way to get past it is to go through it. You and your partner deserve better and talking about what’s going on builds stronger relationships in the long run.

Withholding sex

This is a toxic tactic that creates a warped view of what should always be a loving act. Some couples use sex as a treat or reward and this is not okay. There’s an underlying issue involved that needs to be resolved by communicating.

The infidelity breakdown

Unfortunately, cheating happens, and when it does, it can cause serious intimacy issues. But it’s not an indicator that a relationship is over. Through communication and trust building activities, you can turn your relationship around and become intimate again. It takes time and a lot of talking, and you’ve got to know it’s worth it for you!

How to Overcome Intimacy Issues

Resolving intimacy issues very often requires both people to be open, honest, considerate, and non-judgmental. It also may require one or both people to allow themselves to feel vulnerable. To use a popular saying, the couple that plays together, stays together. 

Find interests that you both enjoy. It doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant or night out, it could even be just walking the dog together. Make plans and most importantly, stick to them. Get back to basics, remind one another what you love about each other by making an “I love this about you” list.

The most important part of working out intimacy issues is communication. Talking with your partner about what is at the root of the problem and working together to move forward will go a long way toward getting your relationship back on track. Here is a three-step process to help you get started.

Express it:

Talk about it with your partner. Whatever it is. Something isn’t working and you need to work through it so you can move forward and have the intimacy you desire.

Forgive It:

Whether it’s yourself or your partner, what has happened, has happened. In order to move forward, you must forgive it and leave it in the past.

Restart It:

You can’t change what happened in the past, but you’re responsible for your future.

Don’t let what is one of the best things to happen to two people, love for one another, fade away because you have got stuck on a solvable issue. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. You can resolve your intimacy issues together, with a little hard work and commitment.

Demeter DeLune

Demeter is a writer and sex positive blogger who’s been practicing what she preaches for longer than she’d like to admit. She’s the friend you have to warn your other friends about and channels that into her writing. She’s given advice all over the world, but still can’t get her cats to listen.

Discover more about her on her Twitter or website.