The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy.
~ Richard Bach
We can all agree that intimacy is at the base of every healthy romantic relationship. But how do we create it? How do we cultivate intimacy so that the relationship doesn’t energetically deflate over time, but rather evolve and elevates as the years pass?
When we human beings share a life with another human being, a lot happens. There are peaks and valleys of ecstasy, devotion, the mundane, the grotesque, the downright infuriating—but always at its center burns the vibrant core of love.
Below are a few of such peaks and valleys that you and your beloved may encounter over time, and suggestions for how to transform them into long-term intimacy.
This may seem obvious, but sleeping is one of the most intimate acts two people can perform together. When we sleep, we are at our most vulnerable. It takes a lot of trust to share that vulnerability. Even though we sleep everyday, couples should not take for granted how important it is to engage in this activity together.
The next time you share your bed with your partner, take a moment to acknowledge—if only silently—the comfort of having that person next to you all night long. Sex is a great way to communicate, but sleeping together lends an even deeper sense of intimacy between individuals. Enjoy it.
Tell Me What You Want
One of the biggest mistakes we make in bed is sadly a well-intentioned one. We’ve all been there at one time or another. Perhaps with a new lover or a lover who is so sweet and attentive…but he or she is doing it (whatever it is) wrong. Perhaps her touch is too hard or soft or he’s touching in the wrong area. And what do we do? We make encouraging noises anyway.
I hate to be the one to point this out, but there are no points for effort in sex. If you want a good sex life, you must say what you need…as well as what you don’t.
Next time our lover isn’t quite getting it right, it’s our responsibility to let them know. There’s no need to bark out orders (no one responds well to that). Instead, stay in the moment of intimacy and suggest that s/he can be softer/harder or gently guide them to the right area. If we don’t, we’re only encouraging our partner to continue, as one male friend of mine calls it, “bad behavior.”
Remember, your lover wants to please you. But he or she is not a mind reader (unless you’re very, very lucky). By helping your partner understand your body, you’re doing both of you a big favor!
P.S. I Love You
Here’s a simple way to keep intimacy in your relationship: leave love notes. My parents used to do this every morning before they left for work. Maybe that’s excessive for you, but even once in a while it’s a nice treat.
Write a quick, “I love you” or some sweet message and leave it in a place you know your lover will find it: backpack, refrigerator door, gym bag, pillow…get creative.
If you had great sex the night before, leave a thank you note. You get the idea. (One woman I know left a note for her lover that said, “Thanks for the spinal adjustment.” Humor is a great way to say I love you.)
Don’t worry if you’re no Shakespeare; it’s not so much what you say as that you took the time to say you’re thinking about him/her.
Can’t get away on a romantic holiday? Take a bath.
Turn your bathroom into a sensual hideaway with candles, incense and chilled champagne.
Fill a hot tub full of bubbles or soothing, scented oils. Sit together in the tub, one partner leaning back against the other. Take turns washing each other with a soft washcloth.
Keep the attention away from sexual areas for this experience, and focus instead on the parts of your lover’s body you may not normally pay attention to: elbows, underarms, hair, nape of neck, belly, ankles, feet…
Bonus Tip: Don’t speak for the entire length of the bath. Use body language instead.
To be sexually intimate without having sex is a wonderful way to keep a relationship healthy. A titillating way to accomplish intimacy is to share fantasies. This can be daunting, since many of us worry others may think our desires are strange.
Here’s a tip: There’s probably nothing you can dream up that hasn’t been thought of or even done by millions of others since the history of sex began.
What’s important is that you establish an atmosphere of safety and respect when you share your fantasies with your lover.
As you speak, pretend you’re telling an erotic story. Be specific about what turns you on in each aspect of the fantasy.
As you listen, shut off your own desires for now and be receptive to how your lover is getting turned on. It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other in a way others never will.
When Desires Don’t Match
In some cases, the individuals that make up a couple have different sexual drives. The stereotype is that men are more sexually driven than women, but for some couples, the opposite is true. Men tend to be able to disassociate sex and intimacy, whereas for women the two are linked.
An example of how this manifests itself is that men will often want to make love in order to end an argument, but women cannot bring themselves to have sex until after the argument is resolved.
Understanding these differences between men and women is helpful, but you and your partner need to look at your individual needs and desires. This applies to heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships.
If desires conflict more often than not (being out of synch once in a while is inevitable), talk to your lover and listen to what s/he has to say. Do your best to find a compromise in your cycles of desire.
For example, if one partner has a lower sex drive, ask him/her what are the times that s/he feels most turned on. Pay attention to when these moments arise and suggest sex at these times by easing into it with light flirtation or physical closeness.
Why do women (and some men) fake orgasm? In general, there are two reasons: They do it when sex has gone on too long and/or no orgasm is imminent. Also, women and men who feel inadequate because they cannot orgasm, often fake climax in order to fit in. In both cases, there’s a common denominator: It’s a lie.
In reality, there is no excuse for faking an orgasm. It only serves to propagate an unhealthy sexual relationship. Sex is a form of communication, and further, a healthy sex life needs communication.
Ask yourself: Will the world end if you simply tell your lover that you don’t think you’ll have an orgasm this time? And if you’ve never had one, wouldn’t you like to?
Your lover is your partner. S/he wants you to experience pleasure. And if that isn’t the case, do you really want to be with him/her in the first place?
Orgasms can be a tricky subject to broach, but take the leap. Talking to your lover respectfully and honestly is the key to a long and happy sex life.
If you and your partner lead busy lives, sex may become just another thing on the To Do List. Whenever you both have the time to become intimate, pay it the respect it deserves. In other words, unless the moment dictates otherwise, don’t leap right into sex.
Take a few minutes for mutual meditation beforehand. It’s easy: Sit opposite each other, close your eyes and breathe together. Clear your minds of the day’s events and focus your attention on your partner and the pleasure you would like to give him/her. Some couples also like to connect physically during this exercise by holding hands or even leaning forward and placing their foreheads together.
Mutual meditation is a wonderful way to help your minds catch up with your bodies, creating a more fulfilling act of love.
Intimacy with our partners is just one of the ways we can experience what it means to be fully human. In its way, it is a prayer of thanks for the blessing of our lives. Embrace it tightly. Happy loving!
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Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Video Still
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