It’s no secret that a mismatch in intimacy levels and sexual desire can be an issue for a relationship. However it is important to realise that sex and intimacy are not the same thing.
Intimacy is a far greater, all encompassing feeling that involves trust, vulnerability and the ability to feel truly comfortable around someone. When individuals in a relationship feel that intimacy is lacking, they will often try to fill this void by seeking out sex. As many couples will soon realise however, this is not a viable solution. Sex and intimacy should be confused, and instead care should be taken to foster intimacy first.
We’ve spoken to one of Melbourne’s leading sex psychologists to get a deeper understanding of intimacy issues within a relationship. Below we have outlined some of the key issues that can lead to intimacy or sexual issues.
Intimacy in its most basal form, stems from healthy communication. Individuals will often seek out intimacy in an attempt to be heard or understood. We will often tell our couples to practice this by having set time where they can communication openly. They should share feelings, experiences, passions and anything else that could be contrived as making one feel quite vulnerable.
Healthy, honest and ongoing communication will nearly always lead to an increase in intimacy and will even likely appear in places you didn’t expect it. If you’re struggling to do this on your own, seeing a counsellor or psychologist can help get the ball rolling.
Another common problem we tend to encounter, are unresolved issues that stem from the actions of individuals in a relationship. This may be due major obvious issues such as cheating or abuse, however we find is more commonly attributed to feelings involving lack of appreciation, trust or general resentment.
The seemingly minor actions we do, day in day out, make a huge difference in a relationship. Sure – being faithful, kind and providing for your family is great, but it’s important to continue to make time and ensure your partner feels special. Small things, like actually listening to their day, leaving cute thank you notes or messages, unannounced thoughtful gifts or any other small (seemingly meaningless) sacrifices you can make, will go a long way.
In terms of more major unresolved issues, it is vital that they are resolved in a manner in which both parties are happy. Even seemingly innocent issues, left unresolved can turn into massive fights, so it’s important to reach out and get help when dealing with anything that feels too overwhelming to do on your own.
Work (and Money)
Work is the real elephant in the room when it comes to intimacy issues. Work is often overlooked as an intimacy problem, because work is simply a ‘necessary’ part of life. So necessary that it often becomes ones primary focus. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with prioritising work at times, couples must ensure it does overtake their lives completely.
We have found it common for couples in long relationships, to prioritise work, simply because they may be bored in the relationship and work gives them more of a supposed purpose. But care should be taken, as once you fall into this trap, it’s easy to see where feelings of resentment and lack of appreciation start to come into play. If your partner doesn’t feels as though work is always coming first, it should come as no surprise that their general feeling of being intimate around you naturally drops as well.
Most individuals justify putting work first, with the word ‘money’. And although this is obviously important, it ranks incredibly low on what individuals actually value in a healthy relationship. We also understand that having a job, is generally a fantastic thing, and an essential part of life – but why not make time for both. Try to show your partner that you are willing to make sacrifices and try to effectively manage expectations.
By managing expectations your partner is more able to cope with your work prioritisation. For example, if you think there’s a chance you’ll have to work late on Thursday, tell them more than a day in advance, and even suggest that you will go out for dinner and drinks on Friday instead. This seemingly small act will go a long way.
Childhood trauma is also another common factor that can have significant affects on your current relationship. Even trauma that may even seem insignificant or foggy, that has been left unresolved, can often have debilitating effects on your levels of intimacy or sexual desire.
If you believe you belong in this category it is important you bring it up with your partner and perhaps visit a professional psychologist together. At times you may feel as though this type of trauma can not be rectified, but psychologists are equipped with a broad range of skills that can often help individuals and couples get through this.
Psychologists know better than anyone, just how complex intimacy and sexual problems within a relationship can be. However it’s worth noting that more couples feel there is a lack of intimacy in their relationship, than those that don’t. So rest assured, asking for help is nothing to be embarrassed about.