Healthy long-term relationships take work and effort, long after the move-in date or the exchanging of vows. Intimacy in long-term relationships is a combination of physical, emotional, mental & spiritual closeness and connection that you develop with your partner(s).

Esther Perel is a world renowned expert on relationships and sexuality and she says, “newness sparks desire.” At the beginning of a relationship there is more intimacy and desire due to newness. In long-term relationships couples often become too routined when it comes to intimacy and sex. Although there is great authenticity in how long-term couples feel comfortable with each other, it is helpful to intimacy if there is some level of privacy (for example, some couples do not go to the bathroom in front of each other).

Below are 6 exercises to build more intimacy and connection:

1. Conversation starters
Below are some helpful questions to spark deeper conversation with your partner(s) about sex and intimacy

  • Are there activities or ways to touch you that I have forgotten? Can you give me a refresher?
  • What makes sex more romantic and passionate for you?
  • What do you think were some of the best, most romantic times we’ve had? What can we do to have more romance?
  • What type of foreplay do you like the best? What doesn’t work for you? Is there a part of foreplay you’d like us to work on?
  • How important is it to you to have an orgasm when we have sex?
  • What helps you feel emotionally safe and connected in bed?
  • What helps you open up emotionally and physically to sex?
  • What makes sex more satisfying for you?
  • When do you feel more unsure or uncomfortable during sex?
  • What can we each stop doing and start doing to improve our intimate connection?
  • Regarding intimacy, what do you need more of and less of?

2. Extra-long cuddle
Choose a time, whether at night or in the morning, and spend time cuddling for at least 20 minutes. To start, try this 3 times a week, with an intention to build up to daily cuddle time.

*Physical closeness is one of the hallmarks of bonding. The pheromones, kinetic energy, and chemical reactions that happen by just snuggling with your partner creates the sense of connectedness necessary in healthy relationships. Not only does this work to build sexual intimacy, it also works to create emotional intimacy.

3. Breathing connection exercise
Sit facing your partner and lightly touch your foreheads together with your eyes closed. Take a deep and intentional breath in tandem. Aim for at least 10 tandem breaths together.

*This exercise creates closeness because the experience of touch aligned with breathing brings up natural feelings of connectedness through shared energy exchange. This exercise can tap into primal resources and a spiritual connection

4. Soul gaze
Sit facing your partner and look into each other’s eyes, imagining that the eyes are the window to their soul. At first this might feel awkward, yet as time goes on, this exercise becomes relaxing and meditative. An addition to this exercise is doing it with music. Try to soul gaze for at least 5 minutes (about the length of a song) several times a week. Try to eliminate talking during this time.

*This type of exercise slows things down within our busy lives. This exercise can help you relax and regroup together.

5. Two things
Use this exercise weekly (or more often). Ask your partner a two item question. Some examples are:
“What 2 things do you hope to do together that we haven’t tried?”
“What 2 things do you want to eat for dinner this month?”
“What 2 things are you most insecure about?”
“What 2 things do you want to do together this week?”

*This exercise enhances your bond with your partner through increasing communication skills and provides knowledge of one another’s thoughts, feelings, and interests you might not normally share.

6. Two ears, one mouth
This is an active listening technique. Try this exercise a few times a week for 5 minutes. As your partner talks or “vents” on a topic of their choosing, actively listen and hold space to fully hear their experience. After 5 minutes, rephrase back to your partner what you heard about their feelings, thoughts, hopes, and story. Then switch roles as listener and speaker.

*Active listening enhances communication and your ability to truly understand your partner’s world. It also helps you and your partner feel heard and understood. Active listening involves …

  • Facing your partner and being mindful of your facial expressions while they are speaking.
  • Putting your phone away so that it cannot distract or interrupt you.
  • Giving minimal encouragers e.g. “mm hmm,” “yeah.”
  • Focusing on what is being said and not what you are going to say in response. If you are having trouble focusing on what your partner is saying, try repeating some of the words they are saying in your head.
    Below are 6 intimacy building exercises couples can do specifically before bedtime:

    1. Go to bed together
    Although some couples do not go to bed at the same time every night, it is important to prioritize going to bed at the same time at least a few nights a weeks to increase connection. 

    2. Keep your phones away
    Not only is keeping the phone away great for your relationship but having zero electronic light is also beneficial for your sleep hygiene. Prioritize connection with your partner for some time before sleep – talk about the day, your feelings or anything else on your mind.

    3. Sleep naked
    Sleeping naked has health benefits – it regulates cortisol (stress hormone), is good for genital health, and improves skin quality). Additionally, it allows you and your partner to have more skin-to-skin contact, which results in the release of oxytocin (a hormone associated with love, trust, and relationship intimacy).

    4. Massage each other
    Massaging each other is a great routine to keep. Imagine if you’ve had a tough day and are being pampered by your partner with a loving massage. Whatever your reason, massage is a great tool for enhanced relaxation and connection before bedtime.

    5. Show gratitude
    You know what creates a negative overtone to your relationships? – Criticism. Replace criticism with gratitude and see what difference it makes for your intimate connection. Thank your partner for something they did that day and/or share what you admire and appreciate about them.

    6. Share humor
    Humor is so important in a relationship. Remind each other of an inside joke or funny memory. Laughing together releases endorphins, the body’s feel good hormone.


    Below are some of our favourite intimacy resources:
    Books Come As You Are
    Fierce Intimacy
    Podcasts Come As You Are
    Sex With Emily
    Shameless Sex
    Where Should We Begin
    Netflix Show How to Build a Sex Room

    We hope these exercises bring you, your partner(s) and your relationship(s) much connection and intimacy.

    Written by: Hadley Mitchell, R. Psych
    Map Psychology Solutions
    [email protected]
    (587) 330-2999

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