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How to build intimacy in your relationship

Intimacy is essential to your healthy romantic relationship. Learn how to connect with your partner.

Intimacy is your sense of closeness with your partner, and it’s a key component of successful romantic relationships. You can build it by sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, and through physical touch. The level of shared intimacy in your romantic relationship makes it different from other relationships too. Many couples report greater relationship satisfaction when they share intimacy, while others tend to seek therapy when they lack intimacy.

So, how do you build intimacy in your relationship?

  • Communicate with your partner. Positive communication leads to higher levels of intimacy. It builds when you discuss your own vulnerabilities, and your partner listens and strives to understand your experiences. This can be challenging for Warfighters who train to not share information. To work through this, practice being assertive and a good listener. Intimacy builds when you share things that are deeply personal and your partner listens, honors, and respects what you’re saying.
  • Choose the “right” time to talk. An important piece of good communication is timing—and knowing when your partner is able to fully listen. Asking your partner, “Do you have some time to talk?” can help you determine that “right” time to talk things over. If distance makes it hard to find time to talk, written communication can be very effective if it’s assertive and received with respect.
  • Enjoy time together. You also can build intimacy by spending time doing mutually enjoyable activities. Experiencing new things with your partner can create a shared sense of intimacy as you encounter obstacles and solve problems together.
  • Explore physical touch. Sex and physical touch make your romantic relationship unique. To build intimacy, talk about your sex needs and listen to your partner as well. Sharing physical intimacy helps couples feel close and connected.

Intimacy builds over time and through multiple experiences, so it requires an ongoing investment from you. And remember it’s common for couples to experience peaks and valleys of intimacy levels in their long-term relationships. Visit HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section for more information on how to build intimacy in your relationship.

Posted 29 May 2017

Deployment injuries, sex, and intimacy

How does a couple keep their relationship strong through separations and deployments? How can deployment-related injuries affect their sex life? Learn how spouses and partners can help.

Service members returning from deployment often have a difficult time being intimate with their partners. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, Agent Orange exposure (Vietnam era), and chronic pain all can affect sexual functioning and relationships. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans and service members with PTSD likely have at least one sexual problem. In addition, changes in sex hormones (such as thyroid-stimulating hormone, testosterone, and estrogen) might appear after a TBI, which can negatively influence sexual functioning. There also is continued encouragement for DoD and VA to communicate about sexual concerns with wounded service members and veterans. Read more...

Sex, sexuality, and intimacy resources

HPRC has a new section about sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Read up on articles, FAQs, and other resources to help maintain intimacy in your relationship.

Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.

Be sure to check out the Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And if you have other questions or suggestions about content, contact us using our Ask the Expert feature.

Intimacy after an injury

Combat injuries such as PTSD and TBI can impact your ability and interest to be sexual with your partner. Two fact sheets provide more information and suggestions.

Being able to be close and sexual are key aspects of intimate relationships. Warfighters struggling with PTSD, TBI, or other combat injuries may be surprised to find that injuries can impact their ability to have sex, derive pleasure from sex, or be intimate by connecting emotionally with their partner. Or conversely there might be too much emphasis on sex (engaging in or talking about it inappropriately).

To learn more, check out these two fact sheets from the Uniformed Services University: “Reintegration and Intimacy: The Impact of PTSD and Other Invisible Injuries“ and “Physical Injury and Intimacy: Managing Relationship Challenges and Changes.” Both include suggestions for how to improve intimacy.

To learn more about other specific mental-health conditions, check out HPRC’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention section. Also check out HPRC’s section on Relationship Enhancement.

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