If I didn’t know it before, my Houston marriage counseling clients have taught me that sex is a hugely important part of a healthy relationship. Sex can help to make couples feel connected, and when that part of the equation isn’t quite working, it can cause lots of relationship issues.

The thing that I usually tell couples who are having difficulties is that, if they want to improve their sex life, they have to get intimate. At first, many of them just look at me confused – after all, isn’t that what they’re trying to do? Isn’t sex “getting intimate”?

While of course sex is intimate, there is a huge difference between intimacy and sex. With sex, it’s a pretty clearly defined act that involves two people coming together physically in ways that you learned about in middle school health classes. Intimacy, though, is so much more than just sex, and it’s important that you don’t confuse the two or you’ll really be facing some relationship issues!

Houston Marriage Counseling: What Is Intimacy?

Intimacy, by definition, is having a close, affectionate personal relationship with another person. For couples, sexual intimacy (sensual, not necessarily just genital touching) is just one. Other kinds of intimacy include verbal and emotional intimacy – and many intimate actions often involve several at once.

Verbal intimacy is opening my mouth and using language to expressing thoughts to your partner, getting them out of your head.  Emotional intimacy is the same thing, but letting your partner know your honest emotions, too.  “I am mad at you because…”  “I felt hurt when you…”

So intimacy can include many things beyond sexual contact like:

  • Holding hands
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Talking
  • Sharing

If you think for a few seconds, you’ll likely be able to double or even triple that list. Intimacy just means being close, and taking the time to show that you enjoy being close. Beginning to see why I suggest getting intimate before you get intimate?

When couples are experiencing relationship issues related to problems in the bedroom, it is often because they’ve stopped taking the time to really show each other that they care in the million small ways we use early on in a relationship. Sex, over time, has become shorthand for intimacy, a way to say, “see, this is how I really feel.”

Unfortunately, without continuing to engage in all of those little intimate moments that enabled us to get to that big intimate moment in the first place, the luster of sex fades over time because it starts to mean less. When you notice this happening in your own relationship, take time out for some of the small stuff – you’ll be surprised by how much it really does help.

If you and your partner continue to experience difficulties after trying to reconnect in this way, it might be worth talking with a professional. Houston marriage counseling is always ready and willing to help.