Intimacy is one of the cornerstones of any relationship. However, despite its importance, directly talking about intimacy is often seen as awkward or embarrassing. Media reinforces this view with plots that frame discussing emotional or physical intimacy as something unnatural; we should be intuitive and let intimacy naturally occur over time. In truth, intimacy of any kind requires careful cultivation and effort.
This is especially true for physical intimacy. We often attribute lackluster love-making to some deficiency in body chemistry, when in reality a lack of open and honest communication is the source. We leave so much unsaid in the bedroom for fear of embarrassment or upsetting our partner that we actually impact our physical connection. After all, how can you be intimate with someone when you’re constantly repressing your thoughts and feelings?
1. Accept Vulnerability
Everyone has insecurities, and more often than not, these insecurities become a source of embarrassment or hesitation in the bedroom. We’re at our most vulnerable when naked, and if our insecurity is related to our body in some way, we can start to dread and avoid physical intimacy. This can negatively affect our partners who may attribute the change of attitude to something they did.
What we need to remember, is that all involved parties are exposing their vulnerabilities during sex. Our partners could be worrying about a lack of muscle definition or if you’ve noticed how their hair is thinning. If your response to this is, “but I don’t care about those things,” then you’ve hit the nail on the head, because neither do they. Next time you feel vulnerable, try asking your partner what they love about you and then return the favor. It’s can be easier to see what's great when someone else shows you where to look.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Laugh
Physical intimacy is incredible. It’s romantic, exhilarating, and a wonderful way to connect with your partner. What we often neglect to talk about is how sex can be funny. When we take sex too seriously, we put enormous pressure on ourselves and how we perform. No matter how many movies we’ve seen, there is no invisible audience we need to cater to. Sometimes feeling good requires us to look a little silly, and sometimes that can make us laugh.
Laughter acts as an excellent tension reliever and can completely change the atmosphere of the bedroom. More importantly, it brings us back to the moment and the person we’re having this experience with. Don’t use this time to test out some new comedic material, but if you have the urge to laugh, laugh. Laugh when things go wrong or because you were accidentally tickled or any other number of reasons. Just make it clear to your partner that they’re not the joke in the situation.
3. Talk More Not Less
Media is full of intense love-making scenes where partners are able to instantly read and understand each other’s body language without a single spoken word— but that’s because they read the script! We’re taught that we should instinctively know what our partners want, and we’re encouraged to keep quiet lest we spoil the moment with an awkward conversation. In reality, it can be difficult to anticipate and respond to a lover’s needs without verbally communicating.
Physical intimacy should have a constant dialogue. While you don’t need a full-on conversation, frequently check in with your partner, both to assess their needs and to communicate whether or not yours are being met. If this seems too tall an order while in the bedroom, try discussing after the fact. Sharing how you both felt as well as what worked and what didn’t will help make future sessions run more smoothly and intimate conversations less intimidating. After all, nothing is sexier than an affirmative “yes” and an enthusiastic “more.”
4. Meet Each Other Halfway
All too frequently, we tend to prioritize pleasing our partner over our own needs. While this may seem beneficial in the short run, eventually we have to tell our partners the truth which can result in lost trust, anger, or other fractures in the relationship. Physical intimacy should roughly be give-and-take. All couples vary in their sex drive and preference, meaning what is give-and-take for one couple may not be for another, but both parties should be equally satisfied.
Like most issues with physical intimacy, the solution to this problem is communication. We need to be honest with our partners, both for our own sake and theirs. Talk about what is and isn’t working for you. If they enjoy a certain position that leaves you lukewarm, come up with a solution together. We want to avoid turning physical intimacy into a transaction, so try to avoid compromises that trade one specific favor for another. If you can’t find a satisfactory and enjoyable solution, revisit the issue later and strike that particular activity from the list until both parties are enthusiastic about the result.
5. Learn Together
There’s a saying that “the couple that plays together, stays together.” This is especially true for physical intimacy. Many couples fear that as their relationship continues, they’ll become bored with each other or lose their spark. Introducing new concepts into the bedroom and learning what you like together as a couple can be an excellent way to revitalize your relationship. While they are definitely couples that take this to the extreme, don’t feel obligated to go outside of your comfort zone.
Start simple and explore your and your partner’s first film crushes and figure out together what you each found appealing. It’s important to remember that this entire process is trial and error, and just because you found something appealing in the media, doesn’t mean that it will transfer well to your specific relationship. This is the time for sharing your “I’ve always wanted to” scenarios and seeing what is compatible with your partner. Once you’ve become comfortable with the process, try referencing fewer PG forms of media and see what you have in common. Remember to prioritize consent; you and your partner always have the option to say no (even to just trying something).
Building physical intimacy will always be an ongoing process. As humans, we are always evolving and will always need to communicate openly and honestly with our partners. That being said, it gets easier with practice. Every time you open yourself up to your partner (and every time they open up to you) it becomes easier to share your feelings without shame and listen without judgment. Your partner and your love life will thank you for it.
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