3 Tips for Improving Intimacy in Your Relationship
Talking about your sexual history can be a great way for you and your partner to communicate about your sexual likes and dislikes. This type of directness also helps to improve intimacy and reduce shame around being sexual. You should also be clear about any concerns about sex or specific situations you would like to avoid.
You can initiate this conversation by getting curious about your partner’s life before you. Ask them questions, make sure you listen without judgment, and you can then do the same.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, disclosing information to your partner about the experience can be helpful, but only do this if you are comfortable talking about it. You do not need to provide specific details; in fact, it may be more helpful to modestly share information about the past situation. A positive, supportive reaction from your partner can counteract the harmful effects of shame.
Use sensate focus to improve sexual intimacy in your relationship
Sensate focus is a technique that helps to improve intimacy between partners and help reduce shame and anxiety around sex. This is done simply through the act of touching your partner and having them touch you.
Step 1: Non-genital touching
In this step, you should freely explore your partner’s body by slowly and gently running the tips of your fingers across every inch of their body (avoiding genitals) then switch who touches and who receives.
Step 2: Genital (and breast) touching
Next, the partner doing the touching should focus on genital touching. The receiving partner can give feedback to the toucher by guiding their hand, pushing down on their hand to indicate more pressure, etc. Get creative in how you and your partner can communicate non-verbally. Again, be sure to switch who touches and who receives.
Step 3: Add lotion
Doing this gives the skin a different texture and encourages further exploration. You may also try a scented lotion or oil to stimulate more senses.
Step 4: Mutual touching
At this point, both partners can begin to touch each other simultaneously. You can use your hands, mouth, and tongue. Try things you’ve never done before – if you don’t like it, encourage your partner to change what they’re doing.
Step 5: Sensual intercourse
Finally, you and your partner can engage in intercourse. The goal of this step is NOT to have an orgasm (although it’s totally okay if you do!!), but rather, the goal is to feel connected to your partner and find what feels good for you.
Practice mindfulness on your own and/or during sexual interactions
Practicing mindfulness alone has been found to reduce shame and increase acceptance of traumatic events.
Here’s how to get started:1
- Take a seat – If you are sitting in a chair put both feet on the floor and rest your hands on your lap. If you are sitting on the floor, find a comfortable position
- Set a time limit – Start with just 5 minutes. You can always build this up, but do not force yourself to engage in this for too long the first time.
- Notice the different sensations in your body – Are your shoulders by your ears? Are you clenching your jaw? Try to notice any areas of tension and give yourself permission to relax them even if it’s just for the 5 minutes of mindfulness.
- Feel and focus on your breath – Imagine you’re sending your breath into different areas of your body. It may be helpful to inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and repeat.
- Notice when your mind wanders – The whole point of mindfulness is to let your mind wander, and you simply observe the thoughts. Imagine a stream of water where your thoughts are leaves floating down the stream. Some move faster than others; nonetheless, just let the thoughts float by without judging them
- Kindly invite your mind back to your breath – When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Speak to yourself the way you would someone you love and bring your attention back to your inhales and exhales.
Using mindfulness while you are having sex can help you stay present in the moment and actually leads to a more enjoyable sex life (with more orgasms!!) and subsequently, higher relationship satisfaction.11 The key is to focus your attention on whatever is bringing you pleasure.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The feeling of your partner’s fingertips on your skin
- Your partner’s breathing pattern – you may even match their breathing
- Focus on what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. Engage all your senses
Are you ready to involve your partner by practicing sensate focus or discussing sexual likes and dislikes? Or would you rather take an independent approach and try mindfulness for a couple minutes? These options can be a great way to start cultivating a more positive relationship with yourself, your partner, and sex.