Women will often say that they want more intimacy in their
marriage. If you’ve had feelings like this, I want to give you something to
Typically, when a wife complains about a lack of intimacy, she means that she and her husband are not having deep and candid conversations about things like each other’s true feelings, thoughts, and dreams.
However, intimacy can take different forms in a marriage. Some men — especially those with a more traditional upbringing— have an easier time with nonverbal intimacy than with building intimacy through conversation.
Paths and Roadblocks to Intimacy
When your husband seeks intimacy more physically than verbally, it’s easy to misunderstand his motivations. You may think things like, “It’s all about sex for him” and assume he’s only seeking you out to fulfill his own desires. Usually, the truth is more nuanced. Yes, he’s probably enjoying sex. However, he’s also seeking connection and intimacy with you in a way that just feels more comfortable for him.
When you seek intimacy through conversation and he seeks it through physical connection, neither of you is wrong. You just need to see that these are two different paths to feeling closer, and find a way to honor both.
To set the stage for more intimate conversations with your husband, make sure there’s an atmosphere of safety and respect in your marriage. Listen when he talks. (Put down your phone!) Be curious about what’s going on with him. And don’t micromanage or criticize him — would you want to open up to someone who is constantly getting after you?
Enhancing Nonverbal Intimacy
In addition to deepening your connection through conversation, appreciate the various forms of nonverbal intimacy in your marriage and look for ways to increase that too. I’m not just talking about sex. You could also…
Offer physical comfort.
Reassure or encourage with a squeeze of the shoulder or a gentle touch.
Hold eye contact.
Hold each other.
Wink and smile.
Gently caress his face, hair, or arm in a cherishing way.
Sit close to each other.
Speak quietly and lovingly.
Lean on each other.
Reach out and hold hands.
Give him a pat on the butt.
Walk arm-in-arm, holding hands, or arm-over-shoulder.
On their own, these gestures will bring the two of you closer together. They could also make it feel safer for your husband to risk opening up to the intimate conversations you’ve been longing for.
A Minute of Silence
I want to leave you with one of the most vivid reminders of the power of nonverbal intimacy that I know of. Perhaps you’ve heard of Marina Abramovic’s work “The Artist is Present” in which she sat across from strangers and shared a minute of silence with them. That’s intimate enough itself! But when Abramovic’s ex-love sits down, look at how much passes between them before they even speak a single word.
As Abramovic shows us, there’s nothing more powerful than the connection between people. Make it a priority to constantly build your connection with your husband, whatever form that intimacy takes. My book, Strong Women, Strong Love, can give you more ideas on how to stay close no matter how busy and hectic your lives are.
You know that look in his eyes or that certain touch. He’s feeling amorous. But you’re just not in the mood for sex. Everyone feels like saying no to sex sometimes. But it’s important to do it in a way that respects your partner’s feelings and that maintains the overall health of your relationship.
Some Myths About Sex and Marriage
It might ease your mind to know that there are some common misperceptions about sex and marriage. The big one is that there’s some “magic number” — the amount of sex you’re supposed to be having. That’s not just true. The number of times you have sex in any week, month or year isn’t important. What is important? That both of you are satisfied with the amount of sex you are having. Frequency of sex varies a lot among happy couples.
We also tend to have a very limited definition of what sexuality can be in a relationship. If you aren’t doing “the deed,” it doesn’t mean that your marriage isn’t sexual. A sexual connection is about more than intercourse. It can also mean holding hands, feeling an emotional bond, making loving contact or sending sexy texts. At times in a marriage where intercourse naturally wanes — such as after the birth of a child — it’s good to have this expanded vocabulary of sexual acts to draw on to keep your bond strong.
Be Honest about the Underlying Cause
Sexuality is an important part of your marriage. If your desire is misaligned with your husband’s, start by looking for possible causes.
There could be a physical reason you’re just not in the mood for sex lately. Health issues, medications, hormonal changes, aging … they can all put a damper on your libido. Consider getting a checkup if you suspect a physical cause for your lack of sexual desire.
Your lack of desire might also have an emotional component. You might be bringing some other issues into the bedroom. If, say, you’re super-resentful that he doesn’t do more around the house, it’s hard to feel too frisky. It’s important to deal directly with the problem that’s dampening your desire.
Or you could just be plain exhausted by the frantic pace of our lives today, so you stop having sex as often. Unfortunately, the less frequently you have sex, the less likely you are to want it (use it or lose it). If your sex life has fizzled out because you’re busy and tired, try scheduling some time to get intimate when you’re not so worn out. This doesn’t sound very romantic, but it actually works.
If You Do Need to Say No to Sex
When you do turn your husband down, communicate what’s going on with you. For example, “I’m exhausted after these past two days at work” or “I just can’t stop thinking about my mom’s illness right now.” He needs to know that he’s not the reason you’re not in the mood for sex. It’s also helpful to suggest another time the two of you can possibly connect sexually.
Taking a pass on sex will feel a lot less charged if your husband isn’t the only one who ever initiates it. If he’s always the one who has to risk rejection, he could just stop asking. Make the first move sometimes.
Consider Saying ‘Yes’
Sometimes you really, really are not in the mood for sex. When it’s just not happening for you, don’t hesitate to say no. But sometimes your mood might be more “eh” than “no.” Or maybe you know that you tend to get more into things once sex gets started. If that’s the case, consider giving him the thumbs-up. But this should not become the pattern in your relationship.
For more advice like this, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love. I wrote it to help busy couples enhance both physical and emotional intimacy.