- Relying solely on verbal communication misses an opportunity to connect more fully.
- Intimacy deepens when partners engage in playful touch.
- Expanding your comfort zone rekindles joy and connection.
By Becky Makous
Many couples struggle with vanishing intimacy, feelings of boredom, routine, and reduced sexual connections over time, sometimes leading to thoughts of breaking up or taking other steps to bring intimacy and connection into their lives. There are a multitude of reasons for relationship breakdown, but what follows is a discussion of one that is frequently overlooked.
Couples present with all kinds of relationship and sexual mismatches: differences in libido, different erotic desires, wanting guidance in how to open up their relationship, overcoming infidelity, and shame around sexual identity. There are many tools for communicating better, finding compromises or win-win scenarios with sexual differences, and getting closer to a vulnerable and connective relationship. However, most of such tools overlook an essential and relatively attainable ingredient to have a strong sex life.
Most people focus on communication when trying to improve their intimacy and closeness. While there are many excellent communication tools out there to deepen connection and build emotional safety, sometimes talking and being too “heady” can further lead couples away from building physical intimacy and closeness.
This tip is meant to be experiential and become more embodied, and move you and your partner away from your head and down into your body. There is so much wisdom in the body, which is often overlooked and ignored at best, disdained at worst.
The Power of Physically Playing Together
The number-one overlooked way for couples to connect is to physically play together. Sometimes sexual intimacy can feel heavy or intimidating to initiate for fear of rejection. It can become a negative feedback loop in which rejection leads to resentment, which leads to more inhibition. Because of such a feedback loop, the idea of sex gets more intimidating and difficult to break out of. Playing together takes the pressure off of physical intimacy and brings partners back to the body—and to fun! Try to create space for physical play together once a month at an absolute minimum, better once a week or more if you can prioritize it.
5 Ideas for Playing Together to Build Intimacy
- Hiking or working out together. Sweating together and creating an endorphin-boosting shared experience can be a fun and playful way to nourish your bodies and reconnect. This could involve trying out a new workout class together or hiking to a nearby peak or nature area.
- Yoga. This is a great way to decrease your stress and slow down your nervous system (which is a valuable pathway for feelings of sensuality to reawaken). Practicing pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a terrific way to reconnect to your body, even just on its own.
- Dancing. Classical dance like ballroom or tango can be a fun way to physically connect with your partner, or, better yet, just shake your booty to some tunes you both love. You could also try slow dancing in your living room if that’s more your speed. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try out a contact dance class to bring more play into your dancing
- Snuggling and caresses. You could try experimenting with different kinds of touch on one another, like light and slow feather-touch or deeper firmer holding touch. Try 15 minutes of experimenting with touch to see what each of you likes, without any expectation of going anywhere else. See what kind of touch feels best to receive and what kind feels best to give. Notice how different parts of your body react to the touch. Bonus points if you find some overlooked erogenous zones.
- Wrestling or pretending to be animals. If you’re ready to take it to the next level of playfulness, to decrease your inhibition you could try wrestling together or pretending to be animals. It could feel silly at first, but this is a great way to get out of your head and into your body, reconnect with your partner, and have fun. See what kind of animal you’d be drawn to, and try to fully embody it with sounds and body movements. Then, see how your animals play together.
Start with one of these strategies to make space for playfulness and connection with your partner. Take the pressure off of yourself to get anywhere, and try to notice without judgment what comes up between you.
The playful ideas outlined here will likely lift your mood and bring you and your partner closer. As you feel more comfortable and playful around each other, inhibitions and judgments should begin to dissolve, bringing more joy to your intimate interactions. Self-observing embarrassment starts to melt away giving space to a joyful connection.
Many of my relationship-coaching clients happily report a shift in their relationships, away from criticism and focusing on each other’s flaws and toward more intimacy, connection, and affection.
Becky Makous is a sex and relationship coach who works internationally online and has experience supporting expats, polyamorous individuals, and the LGBTQ community. She is currently in a Counseling Psychology master's program in the Netherlands.
Jakubiak, B., & Feeney B. (2016) Affectionate Touch to Promote Relational, Psychological, and Physical Well-Being in Adulthood: A Theoretical Model and Review of the Research, Personality and Social Psychology Review.