How to Be More Sexually Intimate With Your Partner

couple in bed

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Sexual intimacy involves engaging in sexual actions with someone with whom you feel connected.

What Is Sexual Intimacy?

One definition of sexual intimacy is both partners feeling like their sexual relationship needs are being met in the relationship.

Note: it is possible to have one but not the other (sex but not emotional intimacy or vice versa), but sexual intimacy typically involves feeling both.

Learn how to be more sexually intimate—with your partner (and yourself!) through strategies such as scheduling sex, being more direct in asking for what you want, and taking time for self-pleasure.

How to Be More Sexually Intimate

Many couples get nervous when they've lost that sexual spark and intimacy, but it is a relatively common feeling—especially the longer you've been in a relationship—and there are plenty of ways to bring that spark back.

Get Into Self-Pleasure

Being sexual and being sexually intimate aren't just related to foreplay and intercourse. Taking time to learn on your own what you like can help you in partnership, as well.

"Be comfortable with your own pleasure, and not just masturbation, but rather learning your own pleasure through exploring things, such as audio erotica or reading erotica," says sex therapist Candice Cooper-Lovett, Phd, LMFT.

"If you don’t know what you’re looking for, start with curiosity and erotica books," says Cooper-Lovett. "They may also give you ideas on things to do with your partner."

Not to mention—masturbation can help you feel empowered and help your mental health. And self-pleasure also doesn't even have to involve touching your genitals or an orgasm. It can include just touching and getting comfortable with your own body.

Schedule Sex

You put other fun things on your calendar, like a date with your partner or a class you want to hit at the gym—why wouldn't you put sex on there, too?

"A lot of people feel like sex always has to be spontaneous, but sometimes you might have to schedule it," says Cooper-Lovett. It might feel corny, but sometimes it doesn’t happen otherwise. In fact, it may even keep the sex more top-of-mind by having it on your calendar.

Experience Things Together

Because emotional intimacy is a part of sexual intimacy, too,it's important to foster sexual intimacy through activities that are outside of the bedroom.

"Have experiences that will bring you emotional intimacy," says Cooper-Lovett. "For example, if you both like to travel or go to the theater, doing things like that can turn people on."

Especially if you've been in a relationship for a long time, doing things outside of your normal everyday activities can be refreshing. Plus, something like seeing your partner master a new skill or wear something different can be sexy.

Have Outercourse

You might have known it as "dry humping" as a teenager, but outercourse (sexual activity that is not penetrative sex) can be a great way to ease yourself back into more sexual intimacy. Additionally, outercourse can be a way to build up some sexual tension by you and your partner getting turned on without going as far as intercourse.

The definitions of what comprises outercourse are broad, so use your imagination. This can also be a chance to dip your toe into things you might want to try as a part of intercourse but you want to build trust with your partner.

Put It In Writing

Cooper-Lovett says she loves the idea of something like talking dirty through text messages. "It's easier if you're texting to say what you want," she says. "Often, we can have a hard time expressing what we want out loud and it's easier in writing."

Research shows that more than 50% of adults engage in sexting and many perceive it as a fun way to initiate contact with their partner.

Characteristics of Sexually Intimate People

Knowing what some of the characteristics are of sexually intimate people can help you see what you may want to incorporate into your life versus some characteristics you may already embody.

Sexually Intimate People
  • Feel physically and emotionally safe

  • Feel as though they are having their needs met

  • Clear in communicating needs and wants

  • Can be sexually intimate without being physical

  • Feel safe in their own bodies

Sexually Disconnected People
  • Turn to sex to numb emotions

  • Having sex when intoxicated

  • Have a hard time saying no to sex

  • Use sex to manipulate

  • Lack boundaries

Benefits of Being More Sexually Intimate

Building sexual intimacy can bring couples closer emotionally, as well as the following benefits:

  • Improved mental health: Research done on couples who were sexually active during COVID-19 lockdowns showed that those who were more sexually active showed less anxiety and depression than those who weren't.
  • More emotional intimacy: Improved sexual intimacy can bring couples closer, but emotional intimacy does not always translate into sexual intimacy.
  • Higher levels of relationship satisfaction: An unsatisfying sex life often increases tension within couples, but a sexually intimate relationship leads to higher levels of overall relationship satisfaction.
  • Better sleep: After a good sweaty sex session, who hasn't slept a little better? The increased oxytocin that comes from orgasm helps you drift off to sleep more peacefully.

Potential Pitfalls of Being Less Sexually Intimate

You’ve just read about the reasons to be more sexually intimate—here's some of the potential pitfalls of less sexual intimacy.

  • Negative feelings about sex: This can lead to an avoidance cycle where if you're not enjoying sex—why would you want to have it? This only magnifies the problem.
  • Reduced immune system functioning: Yes, a lack of sexmay lead to more colds!
  • Vaginal atrophy: A lack of sexual intercourse or masturbation can result in less blood flow to the vagina, which can lead to atrophic vaginitis,which may include painful sex, urinary tract infections or incontinence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I be more sexually active?

    If you want to become more sexually active with your partner, one of the best ways to begin is to schedule sex. As unromantic as that may sound, it’s a surefire way to know you’ll get it in. But be realistic about a time that will work for you—don’t schedule morning sex if you’re always oversleeping and rushing to get the kids ready for school. 

  • How can I bring intimacy back into a relationship?

    If you’ve lost your physical intimacy, odds are, you might have lost some emotional intimacy as well. Start by making an effort to really reconnect with your partner. Check in with them—see how they’re doing.

    Talk about your needs and what is and isn’t working for you right now physically and emotionally in your relationship and what you need from your partner/what your partner can do. 

  • How can I ask for more intimacy?

    If you feel like you’ve lost that loving feeling, it may feel absolutely terrifying to consider bringing that up to your partner(s). What if they’re not feeling the same way? However, odds are, they are feeling it too. If you’re wanting to bring up introducing a particular kink, speak up. “But be inclusive and transparent,” says Dr. Cooper-Lovett. “If one of you isn’t comfortable with the idea of it, try meeting in the middle. 

A Word From Verywell

If you are in a relationship where you feel like you’ve lost that sexually intimate connection with your partner—know that you’re not alone. Nearly 50% of people report feeling this way, particularly after they have been in a relationship for a long time.

Trying some of these tips may be helpful—and consider a physical for you and/or your partner if you’re really struggling with being more sexually intimate. One of you might be dealing with depression and/or some type of health issue.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. What is the definition of abstinence & outercourse?

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By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.