The secret’s out – people like having sex, and the days of banned bedroom talk are long gone. In a world overrun with busy work schedules, late-night dinner meetings, and “hook-up” apps, it can sometimes be tricky to strike the right balance in your relationship. So, just how important is intimacy? Well, we were curious, too, so we turned to the experts for some valuable insight on communication, intimacy, and the many benefits of sex.
1. Intimacy fosters closeness
Most experts will agree, intimacy is not only important, it’s essential. A major component and powerful force within any romantic relationship, intimacy plays a huge role in a person’s emotional connection with his partner, enabling us to bond on many levels. According to Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love and assistant professor at UCLA School of Family Medicine, “Both males and females experience increased doses of pleasurable, bonding hormones, and these neurochemicals foster an increased sense of closeness.” Without intimacy, how close are we, really, to our significant other?
2. Sex has major health benefits
It’s the best (or at least the most enjoyable) workout you can get, and just when you thought the “Big O” was the greatest finale to your post-date night, love-making session, think again! According to the experts, a person who has a gratifying sex life has more to look forward to than just walking around with a huge grin on his face. Of such health benefits, Dr. Kat Van Kirk, Licensed Marriage and Sex Therapist and author of The Married Sex Solution: A Realistic Guide to Saving Your Sex Life, says, “These include improved cardiovascular and immune system functioning, better mood, and reduced prostate cancer risk for men.”
While romping around between the sheets usually puts a person in a (much) better mood, it can also help us improve in other areas. Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and clinical consultant to Caron Ocean Drive, says, “A healthy sex life will translate into a healthier, happier, better performing person. From a purely physiological standpoint, more sex means our brains dump more delicious hormones into our system. These hormones keep us humming along at a higher pitch. These include oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. They reduce anxiety and depression and empower us to be out in the world as more assertive and confident beings.”
3. Communication is key
Open and honest communication with your partner is an important step in establishing an intimate connection. We’ve all been there – that moment when you say one thing, but your partner hears another, occasionally resulting in what could be the next world war. When navigating the muddy waters of divulging our deepest thoughts and feelings, it’s imperative we remember to be direct, always choosing our words wisely.
As Dr. Stan Tatkin reminds us, a seemingly simple word can mean various things to different people, which can lead to miscommunication. A person might think he’s being clear when discussing intimacy, but his partner might assume he’s referring to emotional intimacy, when he is in fact talking about sexual intimacy. Expressing what turns us on makes us vulnerable, so it’s also important to feel safe when having these conversations (and leaving prejudices at the door).
4. Make your own intimacy rules
As Rebekah Beneteau, Sex, Kink and Intimacy Coach and Educator, points out, there’s not just one definition of a “healthy sex life.” It all depends on a couple’s personal desires, wants, and needs. One couple’s idea of a satisfying sex life and that of another might be polar opposites. According to Dr. Stan Tatkin, many partners do not complain about their sex life because they want more or less of it, rather they become dissatisfied because they’re comparing what they consider to be healthy with what our culture considers to be healthy. Don’t be afraid to bring up your wildest fantasies, even if they’ve been dubbed socially unacceptable by society.
5. Laugh, listen, and repeat
While intimacy is an undeniable, absolute, and essential component in any romantic relationship, it’s important to also remember that it’s OK to take a step back from the severity of the situation. According to Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach, establishing a better line of communication begins with learning to listen deeply, and then reflecting back what is heard. Incorporating this simple habit into conversations with your partner will ensure messages are properly received.
“Intimacy is to a relationship like high octane gasoline is to a high performance sports car. It provides the fuel that keeps it going through the twists and turns of life. It also propels it forward and keeps it from getting stuck in ruts.” – Dr. Paul Hokemeyer