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How to Keep Intimacy Alive in a Relationship

by Melody Causewell

Relationships can become difficult to maintain as feelings of connection and excitement begin to wane. Intimacy issues may be related to disconnection between couples as well as a decline in sexual activity. Feelings of attachment may affect sexuality, and vice versa. By connecting through shared interests, improving support, having more sex and decreasing stress, you can improve feelings about your partner and your whole relationship.

Embrace Shared Interests

A 2008 article in the "Journal of Marriage and the Family" suggests that what couples do in their spare time can have a dramatic effect on their feelings about their marriages. Researchers noted that couples who shared leisure activities during their first year of parenthood reported more love and less conflict than those who did not. By spending time together engaged in mutually enjoyable activities, couples feel more connected to one another, thus improving feelings of intimacy.

Be Affectionately Supportive

The journal "Psychosomatic Medicine" reports that in one study of 38 cohabiting couples, those with higher perceptions of partner support from warm contact -- which included hugging -- showed higher blood plasma levels of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding and attachment. Frequent affectionate support that raises hormone levels and provides a sense of connection may improve intimacy and overall marital satisfaction.

Find Ways to Have More Sex

Although lack of sexual desire in relationships is often cited as the cause of intimacy issues, sex may improve positive feelings toward one another. WebMD notes that sexual activity increases the hormone oxytocin, which strengthens bonds and may lead to deeper intimacy responses. Orgasm and the related endorphin release may provide stress relief as well as improvements in feelings of connection. Increasing the frequency of sexual activity may decrease marital dissatisfaction by bolstering feelings of attachment.

Decrease Stress

Research published in the "Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease" found that increases in stress increased the frequency of sexual issues. After controlling for factors such as overall relationship quality and psychological symptoms, a 2006 study found that internal stress levels -- as opposed to external stressors such as work-related issues -- influenced sexual desire in women and men. The more able individuals were to cope with stress effectively, the lower their levels of sexual dysfunction were. These findings suggest that individual stress management should be addressed when trying to improve sexual intimacy between partners.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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