- A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looked into the role of nongenital intimacy in couples.
- Regular kissing and cuddling are linked with sexual arousal and relationship satisfaction.
- True intimacy secrets are simple to apply to everyday life.
- Instead of waiting for special occasions, create moments of connection on a daily basis.
Peter and Julia were a couple in their early forties looking for intimacy secrets. They came to me for counseling, feeling the lack of sexual connection. Their frustration was growing and casting a shadow on their life together.
As their stories unfolded it became clear that they lost their intimacy. “We never kiss,” complained Peter. “Whenever he wants sex, he comes to me, and expects me to magically get in the mood,” Julia added.
Everyday signs of affection, such as kissing and cuddling, are the intimacy secrets couples forget about. But research shows that they can boost sexual arousal and relationship satisfaction.
New Study Sheds Light on Intimacy Secrets
Sex is a cornerstone of most romantic relationships, yet we have limited understanding of how arousal and intimacy work. The bulk of available research focuses on individual sexual responses instead of between couples. In addition, most studies have been conducted in lab settings.
A recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study takes a more innovative approach. Researchers wanted to get a sneak peek into the daily lives of couples in their natural environment.
They applied a method called ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and asked participants to submit reports about sexual arousal, relationship satisfaction, and their emotional states using a mobile app.
Here’s what they discovered.
Intimacy Secret #1: Kissing and Cuddling Are Critical
Most couples who took part in the study frequently engaged in nongenital intimate activities, even many times a day. Those kisses and cuddles were not merely expressions of love — they led to sexual arousal, too.
The study revealed some gender differences in sexual response. Both women and men reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction if their individual sexual arousal during moments of intimacy was high.
For the female participants, however, a comparable, high level of arousal within the couple also mattered. These findings are in line with the belief that the interpersonal aspect of sex is more important for women than for men.
Intimacy Secret #2: Women’s Relationship Satisfaction and Arousal Are Linked
Scientists tried to find out whether everyday, sexy moments translated into more relationship satisfaction. And the answer is yes — but only for women.
If both partners had similar levels of sexual arousal when smooching, women felt a greater sense of relational happiness.
Intimacy Secret #3: Arousal Contributes to Overall Happiness
Another goal of researchers was to understand emotional states in intimate relationships. To do that, they measured positive affect (the sense of being happy, healthy, optimistic, and attractive) in connection with kisses and cuddles.
Male participants showed greater positive affect if they and their partners responded to intimate exchanges with high levels of arousal. For women, their own increased sexual excitement was the decisive factor that contributed to well-being and good mood.
Everyday Intimacy Tips for Couples
When I started working with Peter and Julia, I had to remind them of the importance of intimacy for couples. I told them they couldn’t expect a fairytale sex life at the click of a button. “Your hot, romantic evening starts at the breakfast table,” I told them.
Here are more couples’ therapists insights that will help you bring intimacy back to your relationship.
Make the Mundane Special
Almost all James Bond films end with the handsome spy enjoying a romantic interlude with his bombshell “Bond girl.” Hollywood consistently feeds us images of carefree endings, but real life is different.
Somewhere between rushing to the grocery store, making dentists’ appointments, and school carpools, partners forget they are two people in love. And love demands tender attention.
Don’t wait for your once-a-month date night or wedding anniversary to show your partner how much you love them. Create magical occasions as often as you can.
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- A morning treat. Sneak out early on a Saturday to get fresh croissants from their favorite French bakery and treat your honey to breakfast in bed.
- A happy memory. Brighten their workday by sending a text or audio message, recalling the highlights of your first date or that amazing trip you took to Thailand for your engagement.
- A musical interlude. When you’re both working from home, start your lunch break by playing that favorite salsa playlist and taking a few minutes to dance and laugh together.
Schedule Communication Maintenance
Think of your relationship like a classic car. It’s been around for a while, but it still feels great to go on adventures in it. To make sure those wheels keep on rolling, you need to do regular maintenance. In a relationship, good communication is what helps maintain a sense of happiness.
Remember how when you first met, you could spend hours just talking, getting to know each other? Anything from politics to the meaning of life and the existence of aliens . . . you were hungry to talk and connect.
Intimacy grows when couples communicate on a deeper level. Go beyond the division of household chores and arguing who drives the kids to school tomorrow. After a long work day, grab a glass of wine and dare to ask your partner about their wildest dreams. Who knows, maybe they can still surprise you?
Revive the Lost Art of Kissing
Peter and Julia’s road back to satisfying sex life and harmonious relationship started with a kiss. The couple realized that they had taken sensual kisses off the menu.
Once they began to rediscover their lips, they remembered how much they enjoyed smooching in their early years. Soon enough, their kissing sessions brought them back to the bedroom.
Time to bring the French kiss back! Replace the morning peck on the cheek with a two-minute meeting of mouths. And if you’re too tired for sex at bedtime, a long kiss will get those love hormones flowing; you’ll fall asleep feeling content.
Investing in Intimacy Pays Off
If you’re tempted to say, “I don’t have time for intimacy,” think about what may happen if you don’t make it a priority. In today’s hectic world, intimate moments give us a sense of security and belonging. And research shows that nongenital intimacy is beneficial for couples’ sex lives and happiness.
The biggest intimacy secret lies in its simplicity. You don’t need to rent a fancy yacht and take your wife to the Bahamas. You can create magical moments of connection every single day without much effort. The return for your investment is great — a loving relationship for years to come!
The Ultimate Intimacy Secret: Good Sexual Health
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Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.