Do you feel like there’s a lack of intimacy in your relationship? Have days where you feel unattractive, tell yourself you’re not good enough, and generally struggle with those negative thought patterns? If so, the two may very well be linked. When you no longer share the closeness and affection you used to enjoy with your partner, it can feel very lonely.
So, what can you do to turn things around? Let’s look at some common issues you might be experiencing, how they affect you, and how you can overcome them.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is the state of being close to someone. The word ‘intimate’ is often used to imply sexual intercourse, but that’s not always what it means.
It’s pretty self-explanatory, but physical intimacy can cover a whole range of physical contact, from holding hands, kissing and cuddling, and of course, sex with your partner. It feels great, because it raises your oxytocin levels (also known as the ‘love’ hormone). Physical intimacy is really important in sustaining a romantic relationship, largely because it promotes feelings of attachment and trust. Which in turn, strengthens emotional connection.
Emotional intimacy is so much more, bringing a deeper level of connection to the relationship. Feeling very close to your partner can bring a real sense of trust, belonging, and kinship. Making you feel safe, secure, and loved. If you’re not feeling these things with the one you’ve chosen to spend your life with, it’s time to look a little deeper.
How do you know if your relationship lacks intimacy?
If you’re reading this post, there’s a fair chance you’ve noticed that there’s not a lot of touching going on between you. This can have a knock-on effect on your emotional connection and leave you feeling distant and generally not communicating very well with each other. If you’ve noticed a lack of affection, and generally feel disconnected from your partner, it’s probably time to do something about it.
How lack of intimacy can affect your relationship and self
Lack of intimacy between you and your partner isn’t just a problem for your relationship. Us women are sensitive creatures, and we crave physical and emotional intimacy. When there’s a lack of affection, lots of negative feelings including detachment, loneliness, and sadness can flare up.
A long-term lack of intimacy and affection can eventually impact your self-esteem. And if you struggle with negative thoughts about your appearance, you might also be faced with body confidence issues. Similarly, you may begin to wonder if your partner still loves you, and doubting how someone feels about you can cause those unhelpful thoughts to spiral.
Feeling isolated and lonely
If you can’t talk about how you feel, and feel disconnected from your partner, you can end up feeling isolated and lonely, and like you’re the only one in the relationship that feels like this.
Feelings of depression
When self-esteem hits low, and you feel isolated and lonely, it can manifest into a state of depression.
The more you drift apart from each other, the harder it becomes to talk about how you feel. Before you know it, you’re communicating in 1-word responses, not talking about what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, and forgetting to tell each other important things. Where you were once one couple, you’re now two islands, distanced from each other with a sea of negativity and doubt keeping you apart.
What causes lack of intimacy?
Lack of intimacy doesn’t come from nowhere. It kind of creeps up, manifests itself over time. Here are some common issues that may contribute to the lack of intimacy in your relationship.
Stress has a terrible effect on the body, both physically and mentally. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of mental health issues. When you or your partner are under stress, you just don’t have the headspace for intimacy. Your mind is constantly distracted, craving some quiet time. It’s not uncommon for a person under stress to withdraw within themselves and not realise that they are stressed.
Mental health issues
Anxiety, depression, stress, paranoia, and low-self esteem (amongst other issues) can wreak havoc on your relationship. The person suffering with mental health is likely stuck in a negative thought loop. Perhaps your partner is scared of rejection because they have their own doubts about how you feel about them. If either one of you is feeling bad about yourselves, negative thought patterns can keep you stuck and stop you from reaching out.
Long-term relationships and marriages need work. Even the ones where the first flushes of love have lasted longer than most. Habitual co-existing can eventually become a place of comfort and contentment, and the initial excitement you had in the beginning fizzles out. Complacency can result in laziness and no longer bothering to make the effort, often without even realising.
Life is hectic. You both have busy work schedules. Perhaps you have kids (often a passion killer), and just don’t make time for each other like you used to.
What to do if your relationship lacks intimacy
If your relationship lacks intimacy, it’s not the end of the road. But it is time to do something about it.
Work on your self-esteem
While lack of intimacy can affect your self-esteem, how you feel about yourself can also affect how you interact with others. Remember when you first fell in love, how you felt on top of the world? Because you felt loved? It’s the same at the start of every relationship.
But you can’t rely on someone else to give you those feelings forever. You need to love yourself first.
When you truly love yourself and can appreciate you for who you intrinsically are, you carry yourself differently, and radiate that love towards others. So work on your own self-esteem, big yourself up, and notice how you feel more confident and affectionate towards those you love.
Talk about how you feel. Use ‘I’ statements. Instead of saying ‘you make me feel like you don’t fancy me’ (this kind of talk triggers a defensive response, as it’s putting the other person at fault), say ‘I feel like you don’t find me attractive anymore.’ or ‘I miss cuddling and holding hands with you.’ Tell your partner how you feel; it’s entirely possible that they feel exactly the same way and are wondering if you still find them attractive and/or still love them.
Make physical contact
Never underestimate the power of touch. As human beings, we’re wired for affection. Touch calms the nervous system, slows our heartbeat, lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol (that creates stress). It also has a positive effect on your immune system, so cuddles are good for your health! And making that physical contact with each other can help to strengthen your bond. Plus, don’t forget that all-important feel-good love hormone, our friend oxytocin!
Make time for each other
Making time for each other in a marriage or long-term relationship is essential – it’s important to remember why you got together in the first place. Hopefully, you still enjoy each other’s company, and find each other physically attractive. Perhaps you always used to make each other laugh, or finish each other’s sandwiches (Frozen reference there for anyone who hasn’t seen it!).
Whatever the reason, you have something in common, and if you want to last the distance, it’s really important to make your relationship a priority and reverse that lack of intimacy.
So go on, give your partner a cuddle, book a date night, and open the lines of communication. Remember that it all starts with self-esteem, so start with working on yourself, too.
Here are 7 ways to boost your self esteem that you can start with now, for free:
Hey I’m Natalie, Supporting women like you on their road to self-acceptance and building their self-esteem is – as cliche as it sounds – my calling.