Updated: Mar 14
One of the biggest issues I see in people who come to me for support is a disconnection in physical and emotional intimacy with their partner. Couples get to a point where there can be the fear of physical and intimate touch leading to sex, and where one partner can feel shut down and fearful of touch with the hidden agenda of it becoming sexual.
The person asking can feel a huge sense of rejection and that they are no longer loved or important. They may have a tendency to tip toe round their partner in other areas of the relationship for fear of being seen as pushy and too much. For those who are not wanting to accept the advances of the other person, their journey can be slightly different and may relate to my experience.
My journey around this was that at the beginning of a relationship I was enthusiastic around sex and intimacy and as time went on lost interest. When my partner made advances I remember an element of shut down. Of pulling back and withdrawing. This isn’t unusual for women and men can experience it too. I talk about this from a woman’s perspective here.
The reasons for shut down can be varied and can range from:
Not feeling seen/heard/valued in the relationship
Saying 'yes' when you mean 'no' and feeling resentment around that - in and out of the bedroom
Losing your sense of self and identity in your relationship
No longer feeling desirable
A disconnection from pleasure in all areas of your lives and not just the sexual part
The fear of performance
The fear of vulnerability and intimacy and what that might ‘mean’
Getting bored and not knowing how to express that
The difficulty is recognising it beginning to happen and taking action early on. Most of us, including myself those many years ago, don’t. I remember believing that I was no longer interested in sex. That I wasn’t really a sexual person and I thought that maybe I was even asexual.
However, what I came to learn in my own journey was that the key ingredients to my turn on were:
How I felt about myself
How safe I felt in the sexual container to be myself and be held in that
To trust my partner I needed to hear their ‘no’ so I could trust their ‘yes’ - in and out of the bedroom
Open communication and vulnerability so I could share all of myself and be accepted and loved - including my wounds
Removing the goal of orgasm and a return to pleasure, play, curiosity and fun (I have never personally experienced issues with orgasm but felt that the goal of orgasm itself wasn’t fulfilling)
Connect to pleasure, play and curiosity in all areas of my life and not just in sex
Finding the desire for myself from within rather than looking for it externally
Some of the above required my own work to do for myself and by myself - which I will share below. Other elements required a willing partner to experience that growth with. A partner who was excited to explore connection and intimacy and take the relationship to the next level.
In my experience the themes of many couples in situations similar to the one I experienced were that they:
Have lost their way in physical touch and would like to learn to reconnect
Want to learn communication techniques for greater vulnerability, intimacy and connection
Are stuck in a cycle of asking and rejecting around sex and don’t know how to get out of it
Want to open up a discourse about where they are at in their relationship and intimacy in a container that feels safe and held
Would like to use their sexual energy and turn on in non-sexual ways
And there are many avenues to explore that are both communication and touch based to bring you back together as a couple, or to ensure that as a couple you can maintain the fire in the relationship that you start off with. What my current partner and I do to keep our connection and intimacy alive is:
Communication exercises for vulnerability and so that we can both feel seen in the relationship
We practice intimate practices such as eye-gazing and soul-gazing to see each other with a new gaze
Touch practices to reframe what it means to share physical connection
We do non-sexual genital massage as a way of healing our sexuality. We remove the sexual goals of orgasm (for me) and erection (for him) and learn to honour each other’s bodies in a sacred way
We take part in sensuality practices to heighten our experiences with the senses
We set the intention to connect to our wild and primal selves to ignite the animal and instinctual self so that we can learn to fully let go
We play around with sexual energy and turn on to experience valley and full body orgasms and orgasm without ejaculation to expand our possibilities for pleasure.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about working with me as a couple around Connection & Intimacy here
Other articles which are supportive around this topic are: