- Intimacy in a relationship is more than just holding hands, kissing or sex.
- Intimacy is the sum of all things that make people feel close and connected. It includes anything from trust to physical contact to honest communication.
- A lack of intimacy is often a sign of underlying problems in a relationship.
Intimacy is an essential part of any relationship. Although it can mean many different things, it is best to think of it as the depth of trust, communication, openness, understanding and comfort that two people feel with each other.
Intimacy is a lot more than just holding hands, kissing or sex. What makes intimacy vital to a relationship is the closeness between two people, in all its many forms.
A decline in, or lack of intimacy can often be a sign of underlying problems in a relationship. Here are some common reasons why your relationship could be lacking intimacy.
Are you communicating effectively?
There’s more to intimacy between a couple than physical expression. At the very heart of intimacy between two people is the degree of comfort that they feel when communicating.
Open, honest, transparent and sincere communication is essential if two people are to be truly comfortable and understanding of each other. It’s not surprising then that problems with communication can lead to problems with intimacy.
One important thing to remember is that good communication is as much about listening as it is about what you say and how you say things. That means, for instance, that effective communication may at times involve not talking while the other person speaks, or using active listening techniques.
Is depression, anxiety or mental illness a factor?
Depression and anxiety are very common and represent the majority of mental health diagnoses in Australia. In fact, one in two people will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime and one in five will experience a mental health issue in a given year.
Depression or anxiety doesn’t merely make us feel sad or worried. These thoughts and feelings can distort our outlook and make stressful situations feel even distressing than they would otherwise be. Depression and anxiety can also make some people ‘lash out’ at loved ones, causing arguments, disagreements and resentment. When this occurs between two people, it generally damages connectedness and intimacy.
Is there recurring anger, resentment or mistrust?
It is normal for couples to occasionally disagree, but in healthy relationships, the dispute generally gets resolved and both people move on quickly.
Arguments that become painfully familiar, however, suggest that there may be underlying issues.
The cause of conflict may often be in unresolved frustration, anger, discontent or mistrust. Often, these concerns surface through seemingly small triggers. It may be that one of you didn’t do the dishes again or that the other didn’t take out the rubbish. Perhaps one of you goes through the other’s phone because they are insecure or mistrustful, or one person secretly spends or gambles without telling the other.
Before you know it, you’re arguing about all sorts of things — and as a consequence, time and energy that could have gone into closeness and intimacy is instead channelled toward hostility and other negative emotions.
Are kids the sole focus?
Kids are usually the highest embodiment of love and closeness. In fact, there is probably nothing more intimate than having children together.
Nonetheless, parenting is an incredibly tough job. From feeding and cleaning to stress and sleep deprivation, raising kids requires an enormous commitment in time and energy. Sometimes that need is so demanding that it leaves less room for intimacy between a couple.
Do out-of-home commitments or work keep you apart?
We all want to be successful in our working lives. In fact, feeling satisfied about the place where most adults spend 40 or more hours each week is a vital part of our happiness.
Our job is our livelihood and often a large part of our identity too. It’s understandable that work pressure or even the ambition to succeed can sometimes get out of hand. Unfortunately, that can disturb the work-life balance.
It’s difficult to be intimate if late hours or regular business trips keep you apart. Be mindful that intimacy could be affected if work creeps into your personal life even though you’re physically present at home. For instance, constantly talking about work with your partner, or answering work emails at all hours can create barriers to intimacy.
Help is available
NQ Connect counsellors can help you address some of the issues that create barriers to intimacy, by working through your feelings and discussing strategies to improve your connection with your partner. Call 1300 059 625 or visit nqconnect.com.au for online counselling.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.