Relationships are diverse, and no two couples are alike. However, there are common intimacy and communication issues that arise for many committed couples. One of the obstacles of improving intimacy and communication is finding a safe place to be vulnerable and feel comfortable talking about those issues. Most of us weren’t raised with parents who talked openly about sex; therefore, when couples begin feeling lonely or frustrated with their sexual concerns, they don’t know how to communicate it without feeling embarrassed or guilty. Below are common problems and my suggestions for beginning that conversation with your partner:
- The passion is gone. Couples complain about feeling more like roommates than lovers and long for the days when they couldn’t wait to be together. Instead of blaming your partner for not initiating intimacy or romance, suggest the two of you talk about what makes you each feel desired. For some couples, that will be watching an adult show or having a massage together. For other couples, that’s planning an exotic vacation away from the kids to get back in touch with each other. Even simple efforts like wearing new a perfume or cologne or spending more face-to-face time talking (and less texting time) can increase intimacy and emotional connection.
- My partner doesn’t know what I want in the bedroom. A common complaint is, “My partner doesn’t touch me the way I want to be touched.” Couples spend more time talking about the needs of their car, the restaurant they’re going to, or their pet than they do their sex life with their partner. Many partners won’t tell each other what they like because they feel embarrassed or ashamed and worry about their partner’s judgement. If this is someone you’re committed to and care for, it’s important you tell them openly what and how you like to be touched.
- My partner and I are emotionally disconnected. This is the number one problem of couples. They are usually couples that have been together for a long time. They nurtured children and took care of their elderly parents, but they stopped touching, stopped having sex, and feel lonely or isolated. Humans need an emotional connection, and when the person you share your life with no longer touches you or notices you, it’s extremely painful. This couple needs to begin touching again, holding hands, scheduling time to spend together as a couple, and get back in touch with each other. This problem contributes to the loneliness epidemic we are currently seeing in committed relationships.
- Chronic illness or painful sex. When a partner has a serious illness, it’s important that their partner understands they may feel scared, insecure, and undesirable. However, they still need the emotional support from their partner and intimacy. Sharing intimacy with them by cuddling, soft massages, and holding their hand makes them feel loved and close to you. In the case of painful sex, it’s important that you seek medical attention. Many sex therapists work with urologists, internists, and gynecologists. There are many medications and therapies that can help your pain subside. Talk to your partner and embrace the importance of shared intimacy rather than blaming or rejecting your partner.
- Sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction can signal health issues, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or a hormone imbalance. Side effects from necessary medications can complicate sexual performance as well. Psychological causes include anxiety, stress, and financial or work concerns. Past trauma can also cause sexual dysfunction. Medications can work for medical issues, but therapy is needed when the causes are psychological. A team approach is the best approach to improving intimacy and sex. Working together to encourage each other will help both partners feel accepted, desired, and sexual. The partner of someone struggling with sexual dysfunction becomes part of the treatment team because their response to their partner during intimacy helps determine their partner’s success.
Sharing your concerns about your sex life is a discussion healthy couples should have frequently. A marriage has many components, but the most sacred is that of shared intimacy. Don’t let life get so busy that the last restaurant you ate at or the newest app replace talking about your sex life with your partner.