Improving Intimacy: The one element every couple needs

Problems with physical intimacy are rarely something that bring couples to see me for marriage counseling, yet it often comes up within the first one or two sessions. The difficulty with eroding intimacy is that it is a complicated blend of physical and emotional connection and for many couples in crisis, they don’t even know where to start to fix the problem.

Over the course of a marriage, it is not uncommon to have times where external factors such as a new baby, medical issues, opposite work schedules can impact intimacy. Sometimes there are deeper issues – untreated medical or mental health issues, an addiction, affairs. However, for couples that report a decrease in intimacy without an obvious cause, there is often one underlying factor.


You might read this and think, “Are our problems really related to trust issues? We haven’t felt sexually connected in months, but it’s not like either of us have cheated.”

When we think of broken trust in relationships, we often associate it with an affair or pornography addiction. The problem is we view trust in terms of infidelity, but it is much larger than that.

Trust is an integral, daily part of your relationship. It is the sense that you can trust your partner to react kindly throughout the day. That you can trust that your spouse will leave the frustrations of work at work, instead of sulking for the rest of the evening. It is a deep sense that you can trust your partner to handle difficult conversations about money, sex, or parenting with grace instead of defensiveness.

The difficult thing is that even if there are not trust issues around physical intimacy per se, problems with trust in other areas will impact a couple’s sex life as well. Unfortunately, couples often minimize the role of emotional connection as part of sexual intimacy, but Ephesians 5:31 reminds us that, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (ESV).” True intimacy is more than a physical act. It is the joining of two souls where we literally become one flesh.

Many Christians limit their conversations to only focusing on sexual sin, yet it is crucial that we identify the elements that contribute to a healthy sex life. One where both partners feel connected and fulfilled, one they can bare their whole selves – slightly overweight, stretch-marked, and starting-to-sag – and know that their partner will be complimentary and loving, not mocking, distracted or dismissive.

So if you find yourself shying away from your partner, ask yourself: do you really trust your spouse? Not just in terms of their faithfulness. Do you trust their reactions, their commitment, their love? Sometimes, trust issues develop because your partner has been untrustworthy in the past, other times it may be the result of your own insecurities. When adults have parents that have had affairs, they often share that they have difficulty trusting their spouse, even if there is no infidelity.

If you are unsure what is causing your mistrust, meet with a counselor or a pastor. They will be able to help you identify the source of your unease so that you can work on rebuilding trust and intimacy with your partner.

Perhaps you are in the opposite position. You find that your partner is retreating and rejecting advances more and more. Make sure that you ask yourself honestly: are you acting in a trustworthy manner? Can your partner trust you to listen when they are struggling? Can they trust you to handle difficult discussions with grace and humility as opposed to anger?

If the answer is no, focus on changing your behaviors and rebuilding trust with your partner. Demonstrate kindness consistently, so at the end of the day, they can trust that you will embrace intimacy with them with that same kindness.

If you are struggling with intimacy in your relationship, know that it is not hopeless. With a little counseling and some honest conversations, many couples will overcome declining intimacy and report a stronger, more connected marriage. It just takes a little work. 


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