How To Restore Intimacy And Connection In A Struggling Relationship

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How To Restore Intimacy & Connection in a Struggling Relationship

This is a question that baffled me when I started working in this field.

Many women would say to me: "What do I do when the feelings in a marriage are gone?" Or men I work with to save their marriage would share: "When a marriage is over to one person, can you get it back?”

I wanted to know why, when the feelings in a marriage are gone, can they be restored with focus and effort? The good news is that they can. The problem is there are 3 main reasons that stop couples from reconnecting, which I will explain in this article.

Most people if asked: "Is intimacy in a relationship important to you?" My answer is "Yes! Absolutely yes!"

Yet, I found that individuals and couples don’t even focus on it when they think the marriage is over!

Individuals need intimacy. It is one of the basic human needs according to many psychologists and wellness experts. This is supported by Anthony Robbins who studied universal human needs and one of the basic 4 needs is a need for love and connection.

Dr. Steven Stosny claims that intimacy is also crucial to normal human functioning and can help ward off depression and aggression and calm anxiety.

A relationship needs intimacy. Otherwise, it will slowly wither and die. Sadly, I see this time and time again when individuals or couples come to me with their marriage in a crisis.

There is always a breakdown in intimacy. Divorce statistics support this and the lack of intimacy and connection is often to blame.

What amazes me is that if we all value intimacy in a relationship and recognize it as important for a lasting loving close relationship, then why aren’t couples able to restore it in relationships once it has been broken or lost?

There are 3 main reasons why couples struggle to get back their intimate connection when a relationship breaks down. Here is how you solve those intimacy issues:

1. Men and women view intimacy differently.

One of the key reasons why heterosexual couples find it hard to get intimacy back is because men and women have different views of what it means to be intimate. 

Having helped countless couples save their marriage now, I often ask men and women separately what being intimate means to them. On average, here are their answers (of course, there are always exceptions).

For men, intimacy is:

For women intimacy is:

  • An emotional connection
  • Sharing important issues
  • Listening to things about their husband’s day
  • Being able to cry about emotional events and experiences together
  • Being emotionally aware when feelings are hurt
  • Knowing one another’s hopes and dreams

Men tend to associate intimacy as being physical, which includes touching and sex. For women, it is more about talking intimately face-to-face.

Helen Fisher Ph.D. claims that this is a "behavior that probably evolved millions of years ago when ancestral females spent days holding their infants up in front of them, soothing them with words."

She, too, found that men often regard intimacy as working or playing side-by-side.

2. Fear of intimacy.

Fear of intimacy plays a huge factor amongst couples struggling to restore intimacy or even establish it in the first place. Fear of getting hurt and being vulnerable can block emotional sharing and trust in a relationship.

Fear of rejection can stop a relationship from being physically intimate again. Fear of failure or disappointment can prevent us from sharing our desires, dreams, hopes, and expectations, so we settled for less. 

Fear of abandonment can prevent someone from being truly engaged. Fear of being engulfed and losing yourself in a relationship is another common reason men and women avoid intimacy.

According to Hal Shorey Ph.D. from Psychology Today, fearing intimacy and avoiding closeness in relationships is the norm for about 17 percent of adults in Western cultures.

Whilst we have these fears, most marriage counselors don’t address these fears. Instead, they suggest "talking about your problems" over and over again which often ignites more fear.

always avoid having a couple sit together and go over the past problems. In order to save a relationship, you need to focus on establishing the connection and looking to the future. What works is practical guidance and support on how to move forward and be intimate despite these fears.

3. Failing to recognize the 7 core areas of intimacy. 

Many of us stick with our own blinded view of intimacy and fail to recognize that for a lasting, fulfilling, and close relationship, we need more than one type of intimacy to be present.

Here are the 7 types of intimacy I have identified in the most successful marriages.

  • Self-Intimacy: In order to have a positive close relationship, we need to have a good relationship with ourselves, to know what makes us happy, what we desire in a relationship, and to know ourselves, deeply. This is key as it enables us to overcome any blockages or fears to intimacy. It starts with self-care.
  • Emotional Intimacy: Expressing from your heart your true desires and pains, learning to be vulnerable — this helps you to connect like never before.
  • Conflict Intimacy: Being able to stay connected while exploring differences is key to a healthy relationship. It is all about respect and remaining respectful during any disagreements.
  • Affection Intimacy: Showing you care by words, physical touch of a non-sexual nature, and thoughtful gifts.
  • Sexual Intimacy: Opening up intimately, feeling safe, desired, and cherished.
  • Dream Intimacy: Couples who have shared dreams and support each other reach their own individual goals and dreams are able to maintain connection and remain closer.

As you can see, there are many different factors that contribute to a deep connection and intimate relationship and when supporting couples to reconnect, it is important to look at all aspects.

I hope this has been useful and you have some ideas for how you can increase your connection.

Nicola Beer is a Marriage Transformation Specialist and Founder of Save My Marriage Program. To book one of her free ultimate connector consultations, e-mail her at with the subject title "Free Ultimate Connector Consultation. If you haven’t already, read the 7 Secrets to Saving Your Marriage and get your FREE Report.

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This article was originally published at Save My Marriage Program. Reprinted with permission from the author.