As human beings, we’re hard wired to connect. In other words, we have a biological need to build close bonds with people! Even as a baby, we connect to our parents for warmth, food, security, and love. When parents meet those needs, bonds of closeness form called attachment. On the other hand, when a parent isn’t there to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs, the child may feel anxious and insecure about seeking help.
These same patterns follow us into our adult romantic relationships as well. When spouses respond with love and make themselves available for each other, they grow closer together. Not only this, but having a close relationship allows you to share intimate details and experiences with the one you love. This can be a big help during stressful times.
When people hear the word intimacy, they often think of sexual relationships. But intimacy is more than just physical! True intimacy includes emotional closeness too. Being close emotionally and physically are important and healthy aspects of any good relationship. And what’s more, this intimacy can lead to several health benefits.
Here are just five of the benefits of intimacy in marriage:
1. Intimacy Helps Reduce Stress.
Studies have shown that chronic stress can have a huge negative effect on the body, including insomnia, muscle pain, cardiac events, a weakened immune system, and irritable bowel syndrome. Thankfully, intimate relationships help reduce stress by allowing spouses to act as a buffer for stressful events.
2. Intimacy Counters Loneliness to Reduce Risk of Mortality.
Recent health studies have linked social isolation (essentially a lack of intimacy) with increased morbidity and mortality. And some studies have found that in addition to higher mortality, loneliness can also affect our thinking, sleeping, and mental and physical well-being. But staying close to your spouse can help reduce your social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
3. Intimacy Fuels a Better Sex Life.
Emotional intimacy can lead better sex in your marriage, which has health benefits in and of itself. Being authentic, open, and willing to listen to each other’s needs will really improve your sexual intimacy experience. Sexual intimacy also releases oxytocin (aka “the cuddle hormone”), which in turn brings you closer to your spouse.
4. Intimacy Helps Reduce Feelings of Anxiety and Depression.
Being sexually intimate with your spouse releases a burst of hormones that will improve mental well-being. But sex isn’t the only thing that releases the feel-good hormone of oxytocin! Studies have found that sharing an intimate act of decision-making or even a simple touch from our loved one changes our brain chemistry and our oxytocin levels. Then those increases help defend against the negative effects of stress.
5. Intimacy and Emotional Support Strengthens You.
Discussing issues with a close, empathetic spouse can be really comforting in times of stress. Your attachment bonds can act as emotional barriers to stress and provide you with security when you’re feeling vulnerable. On the other hand, when emotional insensitivity occurs in a relationship, this can often exacerbate pain.
How to Increase Intimacy in our Relationships
Clearly, being emotionally and physically close to your spouse does a whole lot of good. But just how can you increase that intimacy in your relationship? Here are a few ideas:
- Be open and honest with each other. Close relationships are built on a foundation of trust and openness. It’s important to share with your spouse the details of your life, both the good and the bad. As you’re authentic in sharing these details, you’ll be able to connect in ways that bring you closer as a couple.
- Remember that intimacy takes time. You have to spend time together and get to know each other if you want to be close. So spend time getting to know each other’s wants, needs, hopes, and goals. Put down your digital device and actually share with each other face-to-face. Spending electronics-free, quality time with each other will be worth it!
- Be accepting of your spouse and open to learning. Dr. John Gottman, a nationally recognized marriage therapist, says it’s important to be a friend to your spouse and accept them with their mistakes and weaknesses. Also, as you’re open to learning from your spouse, you can show more empathy and understanding. This will really increase that emotional intimacy with your spouse.
- Accept your spouse’s bids for connection. Gottman also talks about how important it is to turn toward your spouse as an anchor, which reinforces those bonds of closeness. When you respond to your partner with interest and enthusiasm in small, everyday moments, you build up an “emotional bank account” that helps the relationship weather conflicts. These bids for connection are powerful opportunities to connect with our spouse both emotionally and physically.
Having an intimate and close relationship with our spouse or loved brings many physical and emotional benefits. Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, increasing our sex life, and countering loneliness are just some of the benefits. Connecting with others can be a huge health benefit and comfort, so start working on your intimacy today!