Sex and intimacy reinforce each other: sex can lead to more intimacy and intimacy can mean better sex. Of course you can have one without the other; friendships can be astonishingly intimate and sex with a stranger can make up in excitement and novelty what it lacks in emotional closeness. But if you want to keep a long-term sexual relationship active and interesting, you need to work on improving your level of intimacy. The easiest way to start the improvement is simply to have a conversation.
Many couples from previous generations didn’t talk about sex beyond asking, “Shall we…?” and possibly “Was that all right?” Thankfully it’s now common – or even expected – that you will talk to your partner about your needs and desires. Yet many couples restrict their conversations about sex to physical descriptions of what they like to do or what they’ve never tried. Even conversations about sexual fantasies tend to be about positions or locations or partners rather than about feelings. But sex in a long-term relationship is much more than simply a physical act. Here are six questions you can use to start a conversation to boost your level of intimacy.
If you were unable to have sex, how would you express your feelings for each other? This helps you and your partner to think about which feelings you express through sex. Is it always about desire and longing? What about compassion and sympathy? Where does make-up sex after an argument fit into this? Are there any feelings that you don’t express in your sexual relationship? Why not (and how do you express them)? If you can think of other, inventive ways apart from sex to show love and desire, why don’t you do them as well? You may discover that your partner doesn’t associate the same emotions with sex that you do – which is the start of another intimacy-deepening conversation.
What’s a sexy piece of music (and why)? This helps to get away from sex as a mainly tactile and visual experience. It’s easy to describe a person as sexy but unless you’re thinking of their voice you’re likely to be basing that on their appearance. Talking about music reminds you that great sex involves all your senses. What makes music sexy? Is it the lyrics, the rhythm, the way it builds? What would each of you include in a playlist to turn each other on?
What makes you and your partner jealous? Couples often avoid talking about negative feelings like jealousy, but it’s a normal part of attraction. If you were never jealous of another person getting your partner’s attention or affection, that might suggest you didn’t care. Being jealous isn’t the same as being possessive or controlling. This has nothing to do with whether you’re confident that they love you or that they are faithful. It’s another way of talking about desire. It’s OK to acknowledge that sometimes you feel that way; not talking about it is much more damaging to intimacy.
Which mistakes in your relationship have you learned the most from? Everyone learns through experience, and nobody has ever had a genuine, intimate relationship without messing things up once in a while. Talking about how you’ve learned from mistakes helps you to reflect on how you’ve grown together and prevents you from holding a grudge. You can’t bring up your partner’s previous bad choices to punish them if the conversation is about how you’ve learned and grown together. If there are things that are hard to forgive or move on from you should acknowledge them, but remember that the best way to leave the past behind is to do so together.
If you had to give yourself a score out of ten as a lover, what would it be? This is a question that’s easy to answer flippantly but hard to respond to honestly. Everyone wants to believe that they’re satisfying their partner. Nobody wants to be described as a terrible lover. But nobody is going to be a ten out of ten on every occasion, so what’s your honest opinion about yourself? If you don’t rate yourself highly, would it be better or worse if your partner agreed with your score? How would you improve your mark out of ten, and why haven’t you done it yet?
What do you love about your partner that has nothing to do with their body? Not their appearance, not their voice or they way they walk or how they smell, but their character and their personality. What little things do they do that makes you fall in love with them all over again? You might discover that the non-physical things your partner loves about you aren’t what you’d expect, or aren’t even what you consider a positive quality. If you discover there are things about your personality or attitude or approach to life that your partner loves but you’d never realised, how might that change your approach to physical intimacy and sex?
Intimacy is about emotional closeness; being open and trusting with your partner is as essential for improved intimacy as it is for satisfying sex. Learning more about your partner’s feelings and attitudes and being honest about your own helps your relationship to grow. Talk about your desires, fantasies, kinks. You may open up a whole new world of sexual satisfaction. Perhaps you and your partner share the same desire for roleplaying, sex toys, or other sexual outlets. If you can have conversations about sex that move beyond which positions you like, then you can build a foundation of intimacy that supports a phenomenal sexual relationship.