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5 Powerful Intimacy Building Exercises For Couples

When a person builds a sturdy, high-quality house, a significant amount of time must be spent on the foundation.

The architect and builders carefully choose high-quality materials and pay close attention to the slope and size of the land as they lay out the foundation.

They must ensure that the base and understructure are solid and can hold the rest of the house built on top of it.

In contrast, a house built on a poor foundation risks developing cracks, thus impacting the rest of the house built upon it. This same principle could be applied to relationships too.

Relationships with strong foundations will thrive and protect the inhabitants within, while relationships with weak foundations will develop cracks and ultimately crumble.

Here you will discover the best intimacy-building exercises for couples that can provide a strong foundation for you to build a long-lasting relationship.

Understanding Intimacy

Intimate Couple Laying On Bed

Several key building blocks need to be present in a relationship’s foundation. 

  • Respect
  • Similar morals and values
  • Healthy communication patterns

One of the most critical building blocks is intimacy, which encompasses physical, emotional, and sexual intimacy. 

When a relationship’s foundation lacks intimacy, it is only a matter of time before the foundation disintegrates and the relationship falls apart.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy can be described as closeness that stems from touch and physical forms of human contact.

Physical intimacy does not necessarily imply sexual intercourse but is achieved through cuddling, hugging, or holding hands.

Couples can be physically intimate with each other without ever removing their clothes.

Physical intimacy can be accomplished through something extensive like a massage or a light brush against the skin.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy occurs from sharing personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

This type of intimacy develops when a person trusts their private thoughts to another.

These intimate details are not readily shared and often include a person’s fears, embarrassments, goals, and regrets.

Emotional intimacy occurs when two people connect deeply emotionally or when they truly “get” each other.

A couple with intense emotional intimacy knows precisely what makes their partner tick.

Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy is an intimacy that occurs through sexual encounters and experiences.

Sexual iis passionate and based on a couple’s chemistry and physical attraction toward each other.

Sexual intimacy makes partners feel attractive, sexy and wanted by their mates.

How Intimacy Needs Change Over Time

Levels of intimacy are fluid and can fluctuate several times throughout a couple’s relationship. 

Sometimes levels of intimacy can be high, while other times, they can be low.

Changes in intimacy can be related to life stressors, environmental influences, and biological factors. 

When a couple is in tune with each other on all levels of intimacy, they are happier, feel more supported, and are better able to cope with life’s stressors.

If your relationship is suffering from a downward swing of intimacy, don’t despair.

A couple can instigate an upward intimacy shift in several ways while improving feelings of connectedness.

Below are several exercises that one can do to increase the level of intimacy within their relationship.

Exercise #1: Sitting Close

Sitting Close Intimacy Building Exercise

The effects of physical closeness are firmly rooted in science.

Close physical proximity can trigger the release of pheromones, neurotransmitters, and kinetic energy.

How to Perform  Intimacy Exercises

The “Sitting Close” exercise builds upon this premise and uses physical proximity to trigger desire and closeness.

Depending on where a couple is in their relationship, they may choose to participate in this activity either fully clothed, partially clothed, or unclothed.

A couple can sit close together without touching or can sit our bodies feeling.

A couple may sit close in an embrace while holding hands or cuddling.

Why It Works

This activity targets all types of intimacy, as it may instigate communication or escalate into a sexual experience.

This activity can also be modified by incorporating rules like no talking or sex.

This modification will be implemented when a couple’s communication has completely broken down, or partners are not ready for physical contact, which might lead to something more.

In these troubled relationships, sitting physically close can be an excellent start to rebuilding trust and intimacy.

This exercise should be altered to mirror where a couple is in their relationship.

Exercise #2: Tandem Breathing

Tandem Breathing Intimacy Building Exercise

Deep breathing can be a powerful coping mechanism for many.

It can serve to de-escalate and calm someone who is feeling angry, anxious, or panicked.

Deep breathing can also promote awareness and encourage people to drown out background “noise” so that they can float.

Deep breathing is related to energy forces, spirituality, and balance and is often used in yoga, tai chi, and qigong.

How to Perform  Intimacy Exercises

In the “Tandem Breathing” activity, a couple aligns their breathing with inhaling in and exhaling simultaneously as if sharing one breath.

In this exercise, a couple sits facing each other with their foreheads gently touching.

The couple then maintains eye contact and breathes in tandem for at least 7-10 breaths.

If maintaining eye contact is uncomfortable, partners can keep their eyes closed during the exercise.

Couples must refrain from talking, conversing, or laughing during this activity.

Why It Works

This exercise highlights the importance of mindfulness and slowing down while enticing couples to be fully present.

The touching of foreheads promotes energy flow, primarily through the brow, which is the location of the “third eye chakra.”

The third eye chakra is the most powerful in the body and helps a person reflect spiritually with free thought.

This exercise can enhance ALL types of intimacies, as it incorporates physical touch and closeness with spirituality and non-verbal forms of communication.

Exercise #3: Speak and Listen

Speak and Listen Intimacy Building Exercise

As previously stated, communication is vital to the success of any relationship.

There are several different types of communication styles, including:

  • Assertive
  • Passive
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Aggressive

Assertive communication is based on respectful exchanges and clearly expressing one’s wants and needs.

Passive communication occurs when a person does not appropriately assert themselves, causing them to be walked over like a “doormat.”

Aggressive communication transpires when one behaves forcefully without regard for other people’s feelings.

Finally, passive-aggressive communication arises when a person appears overtly passive but speaks with aggressive undertones.

A couple must always communicate respectfully and assertively with each other.

The consistent use of other forms of communication will result in problems within the relationship.

Individuals need to be adept at expressing themselves through verbal and non-verbal communication. 

When there are toxic communication patterns and breakdowns in communication, a couple’s ability to work together and problem solve becomes significantly impaired.

In this situation, partners can become defensive, causing them to shut down together.

Like other communication-based exercises, the “speak and listen” activity encourages positive communication and helps couples practice speaking and listening skills.

How to Perform Exercise

One partner acts as the speaker, while the other acts as the listener.

The speaker is allowed to speak for five minutes without interruption on the topic of their choice.

It is not required for the speaker to discuss feelings or aspects of the relationship and, instead, can be an opportunity to share frustrations, musings, or general observations.

While the speaker is talking, the listener needs to give their partner complete attention while maintaining focus on the speaker’s words.

During the five minutes, the listener cannot assert opinions, contradict, or question.

Instead, the listener must focus on listening and truly hearing what their partner is saying.

It is one thing to listen and another to hear what someone else is saying.

Hearing allows a person to take in and process what their partner is trying to convey.

After five minutes, the listener is allowed to provide respectful feedback.

At this point, partners then switch places so that they can each experience both roles.

Why It Works

This exercise focuses primarily on improving emotional intimacy in a relationship as partners ultimately work on improving their communication patterns.

It allows couples to speak their hearts while feeling validated and heard.

Emotional intimacy builds when partners are vulnerable and can openly discuss their fears and insecurities.

This exercise also allows partners to show each other comfort, validation, understanding, and support.

Exercise #4: The Pleasure Exercise

The Pleasure Intimacy Building Exercise

Communication is also essential during sexual intercourse and other pleasurable activities.

People must carefully consider their partner’s facial expressions, gestures, and verbalizations.

Couples must find a way to communicate with each other both verbally and non-verbally about what they find pleasurable and gratifying.

How to Perform Exercise

The “Pleasure Exercise” is usually completed with both partners unclothed.

Partners are encouraged to maintain skin-to-skin contact to promote the release of oxytocin, or the attachment and bonding hormone.

Couples are also encouraged to use massage and rubbing techniques to promote relaxation.

During this activity, couples focus solely on their partner and what their partner is trying to convey.

This activity is similar to the “speak and listen” action but applies primarily to the physical and sexual realm.

Couples learn how to physically and sexually communicate while focusing solely on their partners’ wants and needs. T

The pleasure exercise uses the modality of touch to bring about gratification and fulfillment while also allowing partners to re-learn their bodies and their partners’ bodies.

Individuals focus on verbalizing what moves and types of touch bring about contentment while setting parameters and discussing physical boundaries.

Why Intimacy Exercises Works

This intimacy exercise allows partners to show gratitude and love via physical touch, sexual experience, and pleasure.

It also promotes respect within sexual intimacy in that individuals can verbalize what makes them feel safe and unsafe in the bedroom.

It also gives their partner a chance to respect the boundaries that they put forth.

After this activity, it is suggested that couples fall asleep unclothed, as science shows that sleeping naked tends to help a person to regulate cortisol levels.

Cortisol is related to the body’s fight or flight response and helps the brain to control mood.

Exercise 5: Leaving the Comfort Zone

Leaving the Comfort Zone Intimacy Exercise

Humans are creatures of habit and commonly resist change when presented.

Human beings like things to remain static and predictable, thus enhancing perceived feelings of control and predictability.

When one steps out of their comfort zone, whether forced or unforced, it automatically imposes a vulnerability.

A person no longer knows exactly what to expect, what to say, or what to do and needs to rely more heavily on their senses and perception.

How to Perform  Intimacy Exercises

In the “Leaving the Comfort Zone” intimacy-building exercise, couples decide to step out of their comfort zone to increase and showcase their vulnerabilities.

This vulnerability then sets the stage for openness, trust, and intimacy to be enhanced or developed.

Couples are encouraged to go on an adventure, take a vacation, do something they are fearful of, or make a significant life change.

Leaving one’s comfort zone allows partners to work together towards a common goal, thus putting them on the “same side.”

It also allows them to support each other while confronting fears and feelings of self-doubt together.

Why Intimacy Exercises Work

This activity forces partners to rely on and support each other during moments of uncertainty and stress.

Science also plays a role, as stepping out of your comfort zone can trigger the release of adrenaline, oxytocin, and dopamine.

These chemicals can simulate love and bonding and can induce pleasure and happiness. 

Additionally, the adrenaline that arises from fear can also increase one’s level of sexual attraction.

Wrapping Up Intimacy Building Exercises

For a house to be long-lasting, it must be built on a solid foundation.

A builder must use quality materials and invest time, effort, and energy into its construction to ensure that the house is built correctly and can withstand the test of time.

If a builder creates a house with a faulty foundation, uses cheap materials or cuts corners to save time, the place will be less likely to withstand internal or external forces.

Like a house, a relationship must be built from the ground up and start with a strong foundation.

All of the pieces to the foundation need to be present and carefully aligned to withstand the elements of pressure and stress.

Intimacy must be present, fostered, and cared for, as it is perhaps the most critical piece to a relationship’s foundation.

Photo of author

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS is a Licensed Professional Counselor in New Jersey, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance writer. Tracy has fourteen years of clinical and supervisory experience in a variety of mental health settings and levels of care.

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