A couple on a beach comforting each other as they learn how to improve intimacy in a relationship.

When learning how to improve intimacy in a relationship, what should you focus on? How do you build a deeper connection with your partner?

To improve intimacy in a relationship, you need to attune to your partner’s feelings, connect physically and emotionally, and invest in each other’s dreams. Staying curious about your partner and continuing to date years into a relationship can also improve your connection. 

Keep reading to learn more about building closeness.

How to Build Intimacy With Your Partner

Learning how to improve intimacy in a relationship starts with building trust. Below are six steps towards building intimacy, from becoming attuned to your partner’s feelings to cuddling and touching each other gently after sex

Step 1: Become Attuned to Your Partner’s Feelings

To establish trust, you must “attune” to your partner. Attunement is about being fully emotionally and mentally present and demonstrating a genuine interest in understanding their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. 

Attunement begins with attentive listening—actively paying attention to what they are saying without interrupting or forming judgments. Next, empathize with their feelings and try to see things from their perspective. Nonverbal signs of empathy, such as nodding or maintaining eye contact, can enhance this understanding. The third element of attunement is turning toward them, indicating full engagement in the interaction, both physically and emotionally. Lastly, respond with sensitivity and validate their feelings.

For example, if your partner is telling you about a tough day at work, you might say, “That must have been tough. I understand why you’re upset.” You can emphasize your concern with eye contact or by touching their arm or leg. If they seem like they want to talk about it more, ask open-ended questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “What’s your next step?” 

The Importance of Attunement in Creating Secure Attachment

Attunement is as important in parent-child relationships as it is in romantic relationships. Attuning to your child will help you develop a strong, secure bond. In the context of parenting, attunement involves responding to a child’s emotional needs in a way that’s sensitive, supportive, and consistent. Studies show attuned parenting practices are linked with better emotional regulation and social competence in children. 

To attune to your child, practice actively listening to them without distraction, acknowledging their feelings without immediate judgment or dismissal, and engaging with them both physically (through comforting gestures) and verbally (with empathetic responses). For example, when a child is upset, an attuned parent might say, “I see you’re really upset about this. It’s OK to feel that way.” This approach not only validates the child’s feelings but also teaches them to understand and manage their emotions effectively.

Step 2: Keep Dating

Never stop dating your partner, even after years of being together. Have at least one designated date night per week. This practice not only breaks the monotony of your daily routine but also ensures you prioritize spending time with and continuing to get to know your partner.

(Shortform note: A 2012 survey by the National Marriage Project revealed that couples who prioritized a weekly date night were about 3.5 times more likely to describe themselves as feeling “very happy” than couples who had less-than-weekly date nights. Studies suggest that date nights strengthen relationships by improving communication, introducing novelty, lowering stress, and increasing feelings of romantic attraction and commitment.)

As a practical tip, you can try the six-second kiss, where you should kiss your partner for at least six seconds every time you separate or reconnect as a simple yet powerful way to maintain intimacy.

Does The Six-Second Kiss Really Work?

While no isolated study specifically validates the power of the six-second kiss, John Gottman’s research underlines the significance of positive interactions, showing that a ratio of more positive moments to negative ones predicts marital satisfaction. A six-second kiss is an example of a meaningful positive interaction that contributes to a healthy relationship dynamic.

Also, physical affection, including kissing, triggers the release of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” fostering bonding and closeness. This physiological response supports the idea that practices like the six-second kiss increase emotional intimacy.

Moreover, Gottman’s research highlights the importance of “rituals of connection”—intentional acts that maintain the relationship’s bond. The six-second kiss serves as a simple, effective ritual, providing a deliberate moment of connection amidst life’s busyness.

Step 3: Experiment in the Bedroom

When it comes to the bedroom, mixing things up and experimenting can ensure that sex doesn’t become routine. This may involve changing sexual positions or rhythm during intercourse. Sometimes your partner may enjoy slow, gentle rhythms or other times a faster pace. Different positions can also stimulate different areas, increasing pleasure.

(Shortform note: While experimentation can keep things exciting, not everyone likes to shake things up. Shifting sexual norms have empowered people to experiment with different types of sex that may have previously been considered taboo, however some argue the newest sexual revolution has unintentionally fostered a culture of “vanilla shaming.” Vanilla sex often refers to traditional sex, or sex devoid of any kink and fetishes. Some argue that an unintended side effect of the sex positive movement is that people who prefer traditional, so-called “vanilla” sex, feel judged or stigmatized. By creating a dichotomy where “vanilla” is viewed as lesser, there’s the risk of replacing one oppressive norm with another.)

Step 4: Stay Connected After Sex

Intimacy doesn’t end when sex is over. Staying connected post-sex, through cuddling, gentle touches, or loving words, can enhance sexual satisfaction and deepen the emotional bond between partners. This ties back to the idea that pleasing your partner sexually isn’t just about the physical act but also about emotional connection and ongoing intimacy.

(Shortform note: The authors of The Man’s Guide to Women say that to continue having good sex in the future, you should cuddle, talk, and spend some time together after your session. While staying connected is important and you don’t need to hop out of bed immediately, experts note a few more post-sex tasks that are necessary if you want to have good sex in the future. 1) Clean up—wash your hands, genitals, and any sex toys you used. This will prevent possible infections that can make sex painful. 2) Go pee—this flushes out bacteria that may have entered your urethra during sex and can cause uncomfortable infections. 3) Wear loose clothing—tight clothing can create a moist, warm environment where bacteria like yeast thrive.)

Step 5: Stay Curious

Stay curious about your partner. Complacency and taking your partner for granted are significant pitfalls in a long-term relationship. Instead, continually strive to understand your partner’s evolving thoughts, feelings, dreams, and perspectives. By staying curious, you demonstrate to your partner that you value her as an individual and are genuinely interested in her personal growth and experiences. This sustained curiosity can lead to a richer, more fulfilling relationship where both partners feel acknowledged and valued.

(Shortform note: One of the best ways to practice curiosity is through active listening. In Co-Active Coaching, the authors outline three levels of listening, the last of which is the most effective in building intimacy. Level 1, internal listening, is when the listener is focused on their own thoughts and feelings instead of being fully present or engaged with the speaker. Level 2, focused listening, is when the listener is fully present and engaged with the speaker, paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Level 3, the most effective level of listening, is global listening. At this level, the listener isn’t only listening to the words being spoken but also to the emotions, values, and intentions behind those words.) 

Step 6: Invest in Each Other’s Dreams

A long-lasting relationship depends on both partners’ willingness to support and encourage their partner’s ambitions and aspirations. You can always offer words of encouragement and affirmation. There will also be times when you may need to take on more responsibility in your home life to allow your partner time to build a business plan, take an important meeting, or explore a new passion. And always take advantage of opportunities to celebrate your partner’s achievements, with a home-cooked meal, flowers, or a small celebration with family and friends. 

This kind of emotional and practical investment demonstrates that you value and respect your partner’s individuality and personal growth. It also fosters a supportive and encouraging environment in the relationship, making your partner feel understood, appreciated, and loved. 

(Shortform note: While it is important to support your partner, Rollo Tomassi, author of The Rational Male, argues that your support of your partner should never come at the expense of your own aspirations. Rollo advocates for people to cultivate their own “mental point of origin,” which involves prioritizing their own needs and aspirations. Tomassi asserts that one can be supportive of a partner while still maintaining a focus on personal goals and self-improvement. He stresses that your identity shouldn’t be overly influenced or altered by your partner’s expectations or societal pressures to conform to certain relationship roles.)

Ultimately, when it comes to a relationship, all you can do is love, seek to understand, and continuously learn about your partner. This process will strengthen your connection with your partner, and as an added bonus, often leads to self-discovery and personal growth as well.

(Shortform note: In his seminal work I and Thou, philosopher Martin Buber contends that human existence is fundamentally relational, and it’s through relationships based on mutual openness, presence, and authenticity that we access deeper levels of being. Buber would argue that it’s through these “I-Thou” relationships that we transcend our isolated self, encountering not only the true essence of the other person but also discovering the unknown facets of our own selves, thereby fostering profound personal transformation and growth.)

How to Improve Intimacy in a Relationship in Six Steps

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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