5 Tiny Things That Kill Intimacy In Marriage

How to get the spark back, and keep it.

Last updated on Feb 05, 2024

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In a new relationship, things often start hot and heavy. But they eventually end up in the all too familiar pattern so many committed couples find themselves. Intimacy has become less frequent, less interesting, too routine, uninspiring, or even a chore. Does any of this sound familiar?

While it’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll maintain the same level of curiosity and excitement present at the start of a new relationship, you are also not doomed to the cliché lackluster love life that is too frequently characteristic of the long-term committed experience. So what gets in the way of your ideal — passionate, stimulating, and fun — intimate relationship with your partner


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Here are 5 tiny things that kill intimacy in marriage:

1. You don't have enough time

I’m a city girl. For me, that means my 9-5 is rarely 9-5, and that’s not even considering my commute. I’m fortunate to have a predictable Monday through Friday schedule, but my partner’s work schedule doesn’t align with mine. Neither does his circadian rhythm. I’m a lark. I get up early because I’m most productive in the morning and that’s the only time I have for me. He’s an owl. Try as he might, he can’t get to bed before midnight, and that would be early for him.


We haven’t even talked about personal pursuits (I’m an entrepreneur and he’s an artist), family responsibilities, social engagements...and sleep! This city girl thinks there’s too much to manage daily. I imagine the content of rural life to be different, but I wonder if the time challenges aren’t similar. Even if it’s strictly work and family that fills the time (doubtful), as human beings, we seem to reliably find a way to keep our plates full.

You can’t expect to maintain the level of curiosity and excitement present in a new relationship. You’re also not doomed to the cliché lackluster love life that can be characteristic of long-term relationships. Still, in a long-term committed relationship, we’ve gotta make time for physical intimacy. If one or both of you are busy, or your schedules don’t sync up easily, here are some things you can try:



  • The intimate connection doesn’t start when you get in the bed. Jamie Long, Psy.D. in Psychology Today suggests 12 30-second ways to connect when you have busy lives.  Practicing any of these quickie methods throughout the day could lead to extended connection when you settle in for the night.
  • Having strategies for intimacy may make it seem less romantic. But you know what’s not romantic? Not being intimate! Ben Kassoy, in an article reprinted by the New York Post, suggests some practical strategies for just making it happen: compartmentalizing, compromise, communication, and hard work.

Samantha Rodman, Ph.D., in the Huffington Post, shares some fun and practical ways to think outside the box so you can get into the bed…together, including turning off the TV for starters.


2. You don't have enough energy

Intimacy requires energy. That’s just physics. According to a Woman’s Day article, being intimate burns 144 calories per half hour. That’s more calories than a person of average weight burns running a mile. How would you feel thinking about running a mile at the end of your day? Here’s what that looks like for me: up at 4 am to work on my business (mental energy) and maybe fit in some exercise; get ready for my hour-long commute to work; work a nine-hour day solving problems and dealing with people (mental energy); race out of the office to begin my hour-long commute home; then figure out what to eat before I pass out at the end of the day.

I don’t have children. I don’t prepare dinner for a family. My extra-curricular commitments, like volunteering or community responsibilities, are currently quite low.  And I am wiped out at the end of every day. How about you? However, if connecting physically with your partner on a somewhat consistent basis remains a priority, you can try a few things:

  • Carl Honore in his TED Talk, "In Praise of Slowness", suggests we slow down. And I have to admit that when I read the title, it sounded impossible to me. But as I watched, I felt like he made some compelling arguments worth seriously considering, even for an achiever like me.

This can be a real struggle for me, but I’ve personally seen some success with making healthier dietary choices and engaging in regular exercise. Not only do I feel more energetic when I’m on point with my health and fitness, but I also feel more desirable and my drive is noticeably stronger.

  • You can also try smiling! In the TED talk "The Hidden Power of Smiling", Ron Gutman cites research that shows smiling is more powerful than chocolate in terms of making us feel good. Considering smiling’s impact on well-being and longevity, it’s worth a try.

RELATED: The 4 Types Of Intimacy Every Happy Couple 


Waning interest in intimacy can be frustrating for both you and your partner. I recently spoke with a single girlfriend who has been dealing with a lack of libido for more than a year.  As she talked about it, I was surprised that her doctor wasn’t offering any real solutions and implied a lack of desire for intimacy is not significantly impactful. I agree that it’s not life-threatening, but it certainly can be quality-of-life-threatening.



According to a 2018 study, there may be multiple physical and mental health factors that might be associated with a lack of interest in being intimate: poorer health, difficulty walking up stairs, long-standing medical conditions, depression, STDs, and dysfunction. Interestingly, in this study menopausal status was not shown to be statistically significant nor was circumcision in men.

While physical and mental health factors might require intervention by a medical professional, there may also be several relational factors with much more accessible solutions. Relationseveralrelated to a lack of interest in intimacy included: having young children, a lack of satisfying intimacy due to differing preferences, a lack of intimacy, difficulty talking about intimacy, and the belief that people want less intimacy as they age. If you’re dealing with a lack of interest in intimacy, addressing some of these relational factors might improve your circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • The study suggests care for young children affects women more than men potentially due to an imbalance in child-rearing responsibilities. Cori Howard suggests a 50/50 split may not be achievable for every couple. But, a better balance of parenting duties might lead to better balance in the bedroom.
  • Coping with different intimate tastes can create friction. Kaylan10 suggests several steps to deal with incompatibility, including seeking a middle ground.
  • The study seems to indicate a lack of intimacy (or self-pleasure) led to a decrease in desire for women, while the reverse seems to be true for men. For women, that might mean that it can be particularly important for us to keep the mojo flowing. Intimacy for One was written by Betty Dodson who has remained intimately active well into her eighties.  We all may have a thing or two to learn from Betty.
  • Let’s face it, talking about intimacy can be awkward. Call it a cultural issue, a religious issue, a social issue, or a psychological issue. Whatever the issue, sometimes couples need help. One creative way to open the door to communicating about intimacy is to talk about someone else’s intimacy. Read a spicy book or magazine together as a passageway to talking about your desires, fantasies, or needs. Nancy Friday’s female fantasy series can be a fun place to start.
  • Talk about what intimacy means to you as you age.

RELATED: If Your Relationship Has These 7 Components, You're Experiencing True Intimacy

4. You don't have enough knowledge

In my early 30's, I was frustrated intimately. I was married and in love, passionately connected, yet unsatisfied. And it wasn’t from a lack of effort or interest. I just didn’t know what my body needed to be satisfied. And worse, I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I wasn’t even aware there was quality information available. The natural progression of trial and error in my twenties had failed me. Despite what they say, the practice does not make perfect. Then one day, the light was turned on. 

I walked into the Love Boutique in Santa Monica, CA. The sales associate spent 20 minutes with my girlfriends and me explaining one toy. That 20 minutes transformed my entire love life. No longer was intimate satisfaction an unattainable mystery. If you’re active and interested, but your intimate engagements aren’t fulfilling their promise, there’s hope:

  • When I was training to sell adult toys many years ago, the Guide to Getting It On was my favorite resource. Comprehensive, entertaining, and inclusive, this can be a great resource to explore together.
  • Check out the TED playlist, Talks full of weird facts about intimacy. It’s guaranteed to be fun, entertaining, and as always informative and thought-provoking.

5. You don't have enough goodwill

In a long-term committed relationship — even the best of them — things aren’t always roses and sunshine. Disagreements happen. Life circumstances create stresses and pressures. Finances. Child-rearing. Professional setbacks. In-laws. The list goes on and on. Sometimes, you’re not feeling warm and fuzzy toward your one and only. 

Physical distance only exacerbates the challenges you’re facing. When those patterns repeat, the strain on your relationship compounds. The weight of those pressures can have consequences for intimate relations. Sometimes you’re just not feeling warm and fuzzy toward your one and only. It’s important to have effective strategies to navigate difficult times. 

  • Learning how to compromise effectively can make a huge difference. The key is to figure out where your wants and needs overlap and complement each other so that you can create agreements where you both feel like you're getting the better end of the deal. The article includes a free negotiation preparation worksheet.
  • Laying some ground rules for conflict can not only build trust and safety but also create an environment in your relationship that allows for conflict and connection at the same time.
  • Some of the conflicts in your relationship might stem from a lack of understanding of how men operate and how women operate. There's a plethora of information available to provide more clarity about what's important to men and women, and how to work together to create peace in your relationship.

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Tanya Finks is a dating and relationship coach who helps people date intentionally, build collaborative romantic partnerships, and foster fulfilling physical intimacy.