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The word ‘intimacy’ can be a tricky one. For some people, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about intimate connection is holding hands; while for others, intimacy may be all about the x rated. Whether you want to feel more connected when you cuddle or experience greater variety and try using a vibrator, we are going to give you our top tips for creating connection. It also wouldn’t be a Hello Hormones piece if we didn’t highlight how hormones may have a role to play when it comes to involving intimacy with a partner.

Lucky for you you’ve got part one and part two when it comes to intimacy. If you’re looking for inspiration on feeling more emotionally connected to your partner, keep scrolling. If you’d rather skip to the hot and heavy, head over to our part two, where we give you our run down on getting things going under the covers.

The short answer to this is yes, but without sounding too much like a relationship status, it’s complicated! Let’s start with the body bit. When it comes to getting close to others, our hormones actually play a really big role in helping us feel aroused and connected to a partner. The hormone testosterone for example, is linked to generating feelings of arousal in both men and women. It also helps with our overall sex drive too. During periods in our life where this hormone is in shorter supply (such as during perimenopause and menopause) our bodies will notice the difference. We may find ourselves struggling to get in the mood, or find we are less physically responsive when we are connecting with someone.

It’s not just in phases like perimenopause or menopause that our hormones experience changes though. During our monthly cycle, when we are pregnant, or even when we change a lifestyle habit, our hormones respond. If you think about how much you may struggle with change, your body is kind of like that too – even if we know it’s for the best in the long run, our bodies are not always big fans.

The example I often like to use here is starting a new medication such as an antidepressant. Even though it may be a great step for your mental health, it can also have a big impact on your ability to feel aroused, or make the experience of actually having sex less enjoyable.

Of course, intimacy is about more than just sex; it’s also about feeling close to someone and feeling like that person understands you and wants to engage with you. Lot’s of us can experience a bit of a cycle here. When we lose that desire to physically connect (be that because of hormones or something else), it can have an impact on the way we feel about a partner. In this sense, what may have started as a shift in your hormones may become something more related to intimacy over time. Unfortunately, there is no amount of testosterone that can fix feeling frustrated by a lack of connection. While hormone therapy (HT) could be an important part of the intimacy process for some people, for others, the work may be around getting back to basics with your partner, both in the bedroom and beyond.

Again the answer to this one is complicated too! While it’s wonderful we are all so unique as individuals, it can make meeting in the middle over intimacy a little more challenging. Maybe you love to cuddle in bed, but your partner feels this causes claustrophobia? Or, perhaps you feel most in the mood when watching a movie, but your partner likes to keep things quiet? The key thing to get back to here, is common ground and this can only happen with communication.

Lots of us know that finding time to talk is important, but when it comes down to making the time to connect, life gets in the way. If you’re a parent and you have kids to feed and get ready for bed, the idea of taking time to talk may fill you with dread. This is why you need to make the experience manageable.

When talking to a partner about intimacy think about:

  • Scheduling a time in every week to do this.
  • Keeping that commitment, even if it feels like things are going really well.
  • Writing a list of talking points you want to check in about beforehand.
  • Communicating your wants and needs around intimacy, no matter how silly they feel.
  • Providing feedback on the things you like about your partner, as well as things you may feel frustrated by.
  • Thinking about one intimacy activity to try each week with your partner.

Sometimes we can get distracted by what’s going wrong as opposed to what’s going right. Taking the time to provide positive feedback to a partner is really important. Ever heard that expression you can catch more flies with honey? Well this one fits pretty well here!

The clue here is in the name. Intimacy exercises are all about creating connection with a partner. While everyone is different and some of these may not work for you, they will give you something to get started with. Aim for once a week, but if you find it’s having a positive impact on you and your relationship, try a few more out when you can.

Soul Gazing

This one is well known for a reason. Research shows that eye contact helps us to feel connected with one another. While setting a timer isn’t exactly sexy, try to aim for a good 60 seconds or more here. Standing or sitting opposite to your partner, meet their gaze and try to connect to how it makes you and your body feel. If you want to hold hands or include physical touch during this exercise, even better. If you struggle with eye contact you can start out with shorter periods of time and build up from there.

Get curious

For some of us, the idea of being the center of attention is enough to send us running for the hills. In reality though, while public speaking may not be your thing, most of us want to feel seen and heard, particularly by a partner. Asking some probing questions can be a great one here. Whether it’s a favorite childhood memory, or an activity your partner has always wanted to try – get to know them. It will help you to connect more to their understanding of who they are, and give you great ideas for how to help your partner feel seen and supported. Not sure what questions to ask? We’ve got you covered!

Date night

Lots of people (particularly those in long term relationships) struggle to find the time to have a date night. When you factor in the cost of a babysitter, going out to eat AND getting ready to leave the house, date nights can actually make you feel more stressed than sexy. This is where the communication part comes in. A date night doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t even necessarily have to involve leaving the house (although this really does help!) Take it in turns to plan a date night and agree to only be accepting of what you or your partner has organized. If money is an issue, look at getting creative. Maybe you could have a picnic in the living room, or go to a free community event together. The key is to get back to feeling connected.

Get gratitude going

Research has actually shown that practicing gratitude daily is good for our health. Listing things we have to be grateful for is not only good for boosting our brain though, it can help get our intimacy on track too. At the end of each day, try finding three things to tell your partner you like about them, however big or small that is. It could be something they did that day for you, or something about the way that they look. It doesn’t matter, the key is to get that part of you that looks at the positives firing. It can be a good reminder of what led you to your loved one in the first place.

Plan your perfect

While you may feel like you know everything there is to know about your partner, this exercise can be a great way to get intimate. List out a perfect day for you from beginning to end and then have your partner do the same. Try and ask questions at the end to get to know the ins and outs of everything that’s been said. Think about if there are ways you can prioritize parts of their perfection in the things you do together. Listen openly and try to make sure you don’t get critical of the things they say, even if it rubs you the wrong way! Instead, think about how you can ask curious questions that lead to connection.

The important thing to remember is that practicing intimacy doesn’t come naturally to most of us. We can thank 90s and 00s chick flicks for making us feel like if it isn’t Hugh Grant in a book shop, we still have some hunting to do. While I’m not here to stomp on your floppy haired fantasy, it also turns out you’re more than “just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”, you’re a badass intimacy entrepreneur that can do more than ask – you can do!

It’s fair to say that intimacy exercises may not be enough to fix a relationship that no longer makes you happy. However, they can be a great place to start if your heart is still in something and you want to try to get back to closeness and connection with a partner.

Taking time to talk can seem simple, yet it’s often something couples come to dread. This means we often bury our problems, stay quiet, and forget that communication requires commitment. If you are struggling to talk to your partner about how you feel, or the idea of taking part in some of these intimacy exercises makes you clam-up, you can also explore talking with a third party. Lots of people choose to go and see a relationships therapist and find it really helpful in bringing them closer together with their partner. Sometimes, there can be an issue with getting things to ‘land’ properly and a therapist can often do some of the heavy lifting for you here. It’s also not an indicator that your relationship ‘isn’t working’. In fact, it can be the very opposite. Many couples see going to talk to a therapist as part of the leg work in maintaining a happy healthy relationship, so don’t let fears of what people will think get in the way of exploring an option that may be helpful in building intimacy.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating that in some cases, hormones may well be impacting your ability to connect with others including those outside of your intimate partnership. Take some time to have a look in our hormone hub. Not only will this help you figure out if how you’re feeling is because of your hormones, it will also offer some solutions you can explore.

Got an intimacy tip to add to our list? Head over to the get in touch page and let us know your top tip!

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Lauren Redfern Lauren RedfernFebruary 1, 2024

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