Intimacy Exercises For Couples: 7 Ways To Build Feelings Of Connection And Trust
Most of us desire relationships in which we feel safe, loved and cared for. Intimacy is a feeling of closeness and trust. There are different types of intimacy, including emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, and intellectual intimacy.
This article explores intimacy techniques and exercises for couples to facilitate emotional and physical closeness. Whether you're look to rediscover intimacy in your marriage or you're building intimacy for the first time with your partner, these exercises can help you rekindle those feelings of connection, love and trust in only a few minutes.
Even though these intimacy exercises are for couples, you can use them with other people in your life, too, such as friends or co-workers.
Get Familiar With Your Partner's Love Language
Designed by Dr. Gary Chapman, the Five Love Languages are ways people show and desire love and affection. Dr. Chapman noticed love languages after the same problems kept cropping up in his practice and in his own marriage. One partner would express a lack of intimacy and the other partner felt they'd done everything in their power to show intimacy. Learning communication skills that work with your partner is key in every relationship.
How can one person feel unloved while the other person feels like they're pouring their heart out? The explanation: both partners had a different default love language. The recognized love languages are:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Giving/Receiving Gifts
Let's say one partner's love language is physical touch, while the other person's is words of affirmation. Perhaps they hold hands under the dinner table, have sex regularly, and in general show physical intimacy freely. The person whose love language is physical touch feels satisfied with their intimacy as a couple, while the other partner still feels as though something is lacking because their love language, words of affirmation, is not being reciprocated.
The first partner might feel they're doing everything in their power to love the other person. Yet, they're satisfying their own love language, not the other person's. For the other partner to feel as loved, they would need to hear words of affirmation like, “I appreciate you,” “I enjoy spending time with you,” and so on.
Often, the problem is that we show love with our preferred love language and in most relationships, people have different love languages. Instead, we should try to show love in the way that the other person likes to receive it. Dr. Gary Chapman has a quiz to help you figure out what your love language is and what your partner's is. Once you get a hang of it though, you'll start noticing what love language the people around you are using.
Once you figure out your partner's love language (or their top two), you can start changing the way you display affection toward them. Yet, you should also consider taking a well-rounded approach. It can feel uncomfortable to go out of your comfort zone, but it could teach you a lot about yourself and your own love language. People's preferences can change as they change, and intimacy isn't a one-trick pony. We'll go over intimacy exercises for couples in all five areas. First up: acts of service.
Acts Of Service
This love language is all about giving your time to someone else and helping them in some way. They're often the ones who take the role of caretaker, so they appreciate when other people take care of them.
Here's a few acts of services you can do for someone with this love language:
- Make dinner
- Help them finish a project that's been weighing on them
- Clean up
- Run errands for them
- Prepare a bath
- Do something for them that they don't enjoy doing themselves
These are only a few examples of how you can show intimacy in marriage or a relationship. Everyone is different. Ask the person what would make them feel loved. Keep in mind that if this person hates taking out the trash and you agree to do it, you must follow through.
Also, you can combine love languages. This can be useful if your partner has two prominent love languages or if you're trying to be well-rounded in your intimacy. Making dinner is both an act of service and quality time if you give them your full attention throughout the meal. Giving a massage satisfies both an act of service and physical touch. Saying you'll do something because you love someone is considered words of affirmation. And once you do it, that's an act of service.
With relationships being a central part of our lives, try to get creative and figure out what your partner enjoys and watch how they give you love. That can be a big clue as to how they like to receive love.
This one can be tricky. What you might consider quality time might not resonate with your partner. For example, you might equate gardening with quality time, while your partner might see it as an unpleasant chore.
Sometimes you'll have to compromise. You may sometimes have to give your partner quality time through doing things you don't like as much as they do. However, communicating with your partner can be helpful in determining ways to have quality time that work for both of you. For example, if you both enjoy the outdoors, you can watch the stars together or go for a walk in the woods.
Quality time doesn't always have to be interactive either. You could soul gaze and stare into each other's eyes. You might both enjoy reading a book side by side or watching the sunset in silence. It depends on the person. Some people might consider watching T.V. quality time, while the other person prefers your full attention during quality time.
With that in mind, here's some quality time inspiration:
- having dinner together with no distractions
- going for a hike or nature walk
- talking about your dreams and fears
- watching your favorite show together
- going on a weekend vacation
- dancing in the kitchen
- having a picnic
- go to a painting/pottery/crafts class together
Quality time tends to be doing something your partner enjoys, free from distractions. If you have an extroverted partner, they might count going to the bar with friends as quality time. If this is your partner's love language, and you still have a lack of intimacy, ask them about it. Are your needs being met? Have you asked them about their needs?
Physical connection is often correlated with sex. Physical touch isn't all about sex, but it can be part of it depending on the relationship and individuals. However, sex doesn’t have to play into this love language if that’s what works best for you and your partner.
Even if you aren't sexually active with your partner, if one or both of you experience physical touch as a primary love language, below are some simple ways to meet these needs:
- hold hands
- long hugs
- back massage
- back scratch
- scalp massage
- a light touch, such as on the arm, as you walk by your partner
Doing tantric practices like breathing, yoga, and meditation with your partner can also be effective. Take deep breaths together and be present in the moment.
You can also use physical touch in your platonic relationships. Physical intimacy isn't only the physical acts themselves. You must communicate your desires and ask about theirs. More on this later.
This love language sometimes comes with the most negative connotations. For that reason, it's important not to condemn your partner if this is their love language.
It might be that they have fond memories of opening presents on holidays growing up. It might be that they enjoy surprises. Or perhaps they didn’t grow up with much and so gifts hold meaning for them. For a person who enjoys receiving gifts, that doesn't always mean it has to be material things. They might enjoy receiving tickets to their favorite band, or love receiving art from their children. You could get them a reoccurring box service. If they love to cook, you could get them a meal box that comes with the recipe and all the ingredients they need to make it.
Here are a few more gift ideas to consider:
- handmade items (painting, knitted scarf, letters, etc.)
- experience gifts (escape room, going out for dinner, etc.)
- their favorite dessert
As with any love language, ask what they'd like to receive and watch how they show love to others. You'll gain insights into what they like and want.
Words Of Affirmation
Words of affirmation are a way to express your praise, appreciation, affection and gratitude for someone with. A big example might be your wedding vows. They often contain what you like about your partner and your promises to them.
Weddings are full of examples of love languages in action:
- first look = quality time
- first dance = physical touch
- cutting the cake = act of service
- vows = words of affirmation
- rings = gift
The list goes on. This could be why people often say their wedding day was the best day of their life. Love, connection and intimacy are at the center of the wedding day. Sometimes people forget to keep that love going for the entire marriage.
To have intimacy in your relationship, start incorporating one act of love each day. If your partner's love language is words of affirmation, try these:
- handwritten letters and cards
- the classic, "I love you"
- saying "I'm grateful for you because…"
- renewing your wedding vows
- complimenting their achievements
- saying, "I love when you…"
- or, "Thank you for…."
Words of affirmation can be about your partner's physical appearance if that's what they like, but they shouldn't be all about that. Your partner may appreciate it if you give them more in-depth praise and compliments.
Again, these are just ideas to springboard you into intimate conversation. Intimate couples know that the person they married will change over time. We never fully know ourselves or each other, as we change many times throughout life. So be flexible. What might have made them feel loved at one point can change.
That's where the next intimacy exercises come in. They're centered on communication.
Learn How To Communicate Well
Even if you know your partner's love language and you're doing things from the list of exercises, it can still fall short. That's why communication is key. If the expressions of love are insincere or forced or don’t actually suit your partner’s needs or preferences, they won’t do much in the way of fostering genuine intimacy.
Be sure to express concerns with your partner, and be open to their concerns too. They're not telling you to hurt your feelings. They're telling you so that your relationship can improve and grow. Encourage that! This next exercise will help you create a framework for these discussions.
Formulated by Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD. and Harville Hendrix, PhD, dialoguing is a structured conversation with clear rules. It makes tough conversations easier because it's clear whose turn it is to talk. This can be vital for intimate couples because it makes you both feel heard and seen.
It's also helpful because it's harder to have a misunderstanding, as you'll see when we go through the five-step process of dialoguing. You might choose to dialogue if you had a big argument or if you have the same fights repeatedly. Once you get used to it, you may find that you want to dialogue before an argument even happens.
Step one: Ask to dialogue. Once you or your partner ask to dialogue, it's important to either have the dialogue in that moment or set a specific time that you will dialogue. Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process, but it can help foster a happy and intimate relationship.
Step two: Choose who will talk first, or you can decide that whoever asks to dialogue always gets to talk first. Whatever works for you. It doesn't matter because this process makes sure you both get equal time.
If your partner is going first, your job is to listen without interrupting them. Be compassionate and try not reacting to their words. Just listen. Allow them to keep going until they say they're finished. If they look like they're pausing to add more, be patient. If they forget to say, "that's all" or let you know they're finished, you can ask, "Is there more?" Otherwise, keep listening until they're ready to stop. You might consider taking down some notes as they talk and ensuring that you write down your own thoughts you’d like to address beforehand.
Step three: Repeat back everything they said. Don't add your own commentary, just summarize what they said. This step is critical because you might have misconstrued something. Instead of misunderstanding and holding a grudge, you'll get clarity on what they meant. You'll have a turn to respond soon. Once you've relayed everything you remember, say, "Did I miss anything?"
Step four: Your partner will add to or change what you said in your recap. Then you repeat it back to them one or two more times until you're both on the same page. When there's no more to repeat, ask, "Is there more?" If they say no, move to step five. If they say yes, listen and repeat these last comments and move to step five.
Step five: Now it's your turn to speak your mind. Repeat steps one through five, except now it's your turn to talk and their turn to listen. You can respond to things your partner said. Or you can add any details you thought were important about the situation that your partner didn't address. There's no time limit. Say everything you need to say (this is where the aforementioned tip of writing things down ahead of time can come in handy). Once you're finished, let your partner know by saying "that's all" or something to that effect.
You can cycle through the steps as many times as necessary. Sometimes all you both needed was to feel understood. Being heard and getting someone's undivided attention is hard to come by in our distracted world and can feel very validating.
Dialogues typically take longer than a regular discussion or disagreement, but they can get to the core of the problem by helping both of you understand the other's point of view. This will save you time in the long run because you won't have the same fights repeatedly. If you don't have time for a full dialogue when the argument happens, set a specific time when you do.
Inspired by her desire to meet new people and have meaningful conversations, Kalina Silverman started a movement. She began meeting strangers and skipping the small talk. Instead of asking them about the weather, she went straight for what she calls "Big Talk." She asked, "What would you like to do before you die?"
This one question alone led her to deep and personal conversations. They told her things they may not have told some of their closest friends because she had the courage to ask one question. And just as important, she listened.
On her website and in the Make Big Talk community, you can find a lot of big talk questions. Even if you've already gone through the entire list of questions, do it again every few years. You might be surprised by what's changed about you or your partner over the course of your life together.
Here are a few of them:
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- If money wasn't an object, what would you do?
- What's your biggest fear?
- How are you really doing today?
These questions can uncover relationship problems you may not have recognized before. Talking about them is the first step to acting and making things better. Even if no red flags come up in these conversations, you may feel closer to each other. Intimate couples know how to listen and make the other person feel heard.
Relationships take time and effort. Intimacy takes time to be built and rebuilt. Here is the list of exercises again to boost your intimacy:
- Observe how your partner gives love and replicate what you see
- Talk to each other about your love languages and what makes you feel loved
- Do one thing every day to show your love based on their love language(s)
- Incorporate acts from all five love languages to add depth
- Set times to dialogue when conflicts arise
- Make time for deep discussions about your fears, dreams and desires
- Ask deep questions you've already asked your partner every few years to see what's changed
We are never finished learning and growing, and neither are the people in our lives. Welcome and respect that change by checking in with them. What may have worked to grow your intimacy at one point, may not be enough now. People aren't static, so your relationship shouldn't be either. Use these suggestions to incorporate deeper communication, love languages and surprises into your life.
If you think that your relationship might benefit from some outside, non-biased help, Reain offers online relationship therapy for both couples and individuals. Sessions are one on one, convenient, and customizable, able to be held via phone, video chat, or secure instant messaging anywhere you have an internet connection and feel comfortable.
Additionally, research indicates that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of conditions and concerns, including aiding relationships. A 2022 study on relationship counseling held via video conferencing found that therapeutic alliance (the degree of trust and comfort between client and therapist) did not differ between online and in-person therapy. Additionally, the study “indicated improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and all other outcome scores over time” that were comparable to those of couples who received in-person therapy.
If you’d like to improve the intimacy in your relationship and think that you might benefit from online therapy, Regain therapists are available whenever you’re ready.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Improve Physical Intimacy In A Relationship?
If you want to improve physical intimacy in a relationship, there are several different connection exercises for couples that you can try with your partner. Intimacy in a relationship is not something that just appears out of nowhere: it needs to be consciously built and tended to throughout the course of the relationship.
One way to feel connected and improve intimacy in a relationship is to do a connection exercise involving eye contact. This is also sometimes called soul gazing. Basically, you commit to spending a length of time looking into your partner’s eyes, typically for at least a minute or more. This prolonged eye contact is a great way to establish intimacy, open vulnerability, and can help couples to build a more intimate connection.
Another great connection exercise is an extended cuddle time. This means that you set aside a length of time just to cuddle and embrace. While this is a physically intimate act, it doesn’t need to be sexual. This connection exercise should focus on a way to reconnect with your partner physically. This way, you can feel connected on a level that isn’t purely sexual. This sense of connectedness can often run deeper than a sexual desire and can provide a healthy foundation for greater intimacy to be built upon.
How Do You Build Intimacy With Your Partner?
Intimate relationships are something that must be built and maintained. If you want to build more of a connection in an intimate relationship, you can try some connection exercises for couples. One great connection exercise is to simply listen. You can listen together to the world around you for a set amount of time, or simply listen actively to what your partner is saying. When you listen, hold eye contact with your partner. This is a way for couples to build intimacy because it taps into their sense empathy and vulnerability. It can be easier to reconnect with your partner when you’re committed to healthy communication and seeing things from each other’s perspectives.
How Do I Get Intimacy With My Husband?
In order to build intimacy with your husband, both you and your husband will both have to commit to working towards this goal together. It’s always a perfect day to start working towards intimacy together, but it’s also a team effort that can take quite a bit of time. This is the first thing you need to realize when you’re wanting to get intimacy with your husband.
If you want some professional help once you’re both agreed and willing to work towards deeper intimacy together, you can consider working with a relationship coach or therapist. A relationship coach will be able to help you through some connection exercises for couples. These connection exercises for couples will encourage you and your partner to find new ways to express intimacy to each other and help you to build up trust and communication in your relationship.
What Causes A Lack Of Intimacy?
Lack of intimacy usually springs from a breakdown in trust and communication in a relationship. This is true of relationships that were once intimate but are now experiencing a lack of intimacy. Another explanation for a lack of intimacy can also be that the relationship is still new and hasn’t had the time and experience to develop that intimacy. Remember, intimacy requires trust, lots of communication, and time to develop. Additionally, things like stress, mental health, and physical health can all impact intimacy.
What Are The Four Types Of Intimacy?
Intimacy is often broken down into four categories. They are:
Experiential intimacy: It could be as simple as watching a movie that you both love together and enjoying the other person’s reaction, all the way to the intimate bond formed when two people have similar big experiences in common.
Emotional intimacy: This involves being able to be open and vulnerable with one another regarding your emotions. It can be as simple as being there for your partner when they tell you they’ve had a bad day or having candid conversations about things like mental health.
Intellectual intimacy: This refers to the connection in a relationship where you feel free to express all of your opinions and ideas.
Sexual intimacy: This describes the intimacy of having sex or doing sensual things with your partner. Sexual intimacy relies on feeling safe to express your desires, including when in close physical contact with your partner. While it can involve physical touch, not all physical touch is sexual intimacy in a relationship. Likewise, not all sex or sensuality is sexual intimacy.
How Do I Talk To My Husband About The Lack Of Intimacy?
If you want to discuss the subject of intimacy with your husband, the best way to do it is honestly, calmly, openly, and with listening ears. Remember, while it is important to articulate your own feelings about the intimacy in your relationship, it’s equally important to hear your partner’s side as well. This is because building up intimacy in a relationship will require openness, compromise, and work from both of you.
So, go into that conversation with a list of the things that you want to mention, maybe a few questions to ask your partner, and plenty of time and willingness to listen to and understand their perspective. This kind of active listening and intentional communication is already a step in the right direction if you’re looking to fix a lack of intimacy!
What Are The Signs Of Intimacy Issues?
One of the most glaring signs of a breakdown in an intimate relationship is when you avoid talking to your partner. You could be avoiding a specific subject or topic, or you could be avoiding talking to them at all. Whatever the case, this is a big issue in an intimate relationship. Intimacy building relies on trust, non-judgment, and open lines of communication. When you or your partner avoid talking, this is a sign of a breakdown in one or more of those three key elements which are necessary for couples to build intimacy.
Other signs could include not spending time with one another, not engaging in sex if that was previously part of your relationship, not recognizing or honoring one another’s love languages, or simply not feeling emotionally or physically connected with your partner.
Can A Marriage Survive Without Intimacy?
This is a question that a lot of couples ask when they’ve noticed a dip in the number of times per week they’re spending time together, doing romantic things for one another, or having sex. The answer depends on the marriage, as each relationship is different and has different needs. Keep in mind that intimacy includes emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, sexual intimacy, and more.
Part of what can make marriage attractive in the first place for many people is the idea that someone is committed to them, even though they know all about them, including their faults and annoying habits. This kind of connection and commitment requires intimacy if it’s going to be a healthy and happy marriage. If you feel that your marriage has no intimacy, though, that’s not a reason to leave it or give up!
The bad news is that some marriages can’t thrive without intimacy. The good news is that intimacy can be practiced and improved if both partners are willing to work together on it! You and your partner can practice connection exercises for couples. These connection exercises for couples will help you to build and restore the intimacy in your marriage. The connection exercises for couples will also be a great step towards improving your marriage in general. Some marriages thrive on emotional intimacy, but are just fine without sexual intimacy – it all depends on the needs of each partner.
How Do I Get More Intimacy?
To get more intimacy in a marriage or committed relationship, there are several connection exercises for couples that you can try out. Most of them can be done at home a couple times per week. Each connection exercise usually involves a series of activities that will bring you closer physically and emotionally to your partner. These connection exercises for couples often include physical, though often non-sexual, touch as a means of expressing any of the four types of intimacy. They also encourage using words and explanations to dig deeper into the intimate relationship. Using these connection exercises for couples a few times a week and being intentional about building a more intimate relationship with your partner is the most reliable way to get more intimacy. We’ll explore them more below.
What Are Some Intimacy Exercises?
To build a connection with your partner, try one of these simple marriage intimacy exercises:
Soul gaze: to do this, sit facing your partner and look into each other’s eyes. It may feel awkward at first, but over time, it can increase feelings of relaxation and closeness. Aim to practice this exercise for four to five minutes several times a week.
Prolonged cuddling exercise: devote thirty minutes to cuddling with your partner to enhance physical intimacy.
Three things communication exercise: alternate asking your partner questions and having your partner ask you. Examples of questions include ‘What three do you want to do together this month?’ or ‘What three books are your all-time favorites?’ These conversations allow you to keep learning about each other as you both grow and change throughout the course of your lives.
For additional support with intimacy issues in your marriage, consider seeking out the support of a marriage and family therapist who can assist you and your partner in addressing these challenges and moving towards a more fulfilling relationship.
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