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5 Powerful Intimacy Building Exercises All Couples MUST Know

When a person builds a sturdy, high-quality house, a significant amount of time needs to 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 that it has the capacity to hold the rest of the house that will be built on top of it.

In contrast, a house built on a poor foundation runs the risk of developing cracks, thus impacting the rest of the house that is built up 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 which can provide a strong foundation for you to build a long lasting relationship upon.

Understanding Intimacy

Intimate Couple Laying On Bed

There are several key building blocks that 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 intimacy, emotional intimacy, 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 and rather, can be 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 can result from 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 on a deep emotional level, or in other words, when they truly “get” each other.

A couple with strong emotional intimacy knows exactly what makes their partner tick.

Sexual Intimacy

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

Sexual intimacy is passionate and based on a couple’s chemistry and physical attraction towards 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 the course of 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.

There are several ways that a couple can instigate an upward shift of intimacy, while also 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 strongly rooted in science.

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

How to Perform Exercise

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 with their bodies touching.

A couple may choose to sit close in an embrace, while holding hands, or by cuddling.

Why It Works

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

Additionally, this activity can be modified by incorporating rules, such as no talking or no sex.

This type of modification would be put into place in situations where a couple’s communication has completely broken down, or if partners are not ready for physical contact that might lead to something more.

In these types of troubled relationships, sitting physically close can be a good start to re-building trust and intimacy.

This exercise should always be altered to mirror where a couple is at 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 be utilized to promote awareness and to encourage people to drown out background “noise” so that they can focus on the present.

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

How to Perform Exercise

In the “Tandem Breathing” activity, a couple aligns their breathing so that they are inhaling in and exhaling out at the same time, 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 choose to keep their eyes closed during the exercise.

It is important for couples to refrain from talking, conversing, or laughing during this activity.

Why It Works

This exercise highlights the importance of mindfulness and slowing down, while also encouraging couples to be fully present in the moment.

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

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

This exercise can be used to enhance ALL types of intimacies, as it incorporates physical touch and closeness with spirituality and with 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 on clearly exerting 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 regards to other people’s feelings.

Finally, passive-aggressive communication arises when a person appears overtly passive, but is really speaking 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 forms of 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 all together.

Similar to other communication based exercises, the “speak and listen” exercise encourages positive communication and helps couples to practice the skills of both speaking and listening.

How to Perform Exercise

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

The speaker is given the opportunity 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 their full attention, while maintaining focus on the speaker’s words.

The listener is not allowed to assert opinions, to contradict, or to question during the five-minute period of time.

Instead, the listener must focus not only on listening, but on truly hearing what their partner is saying.

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

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

At the conclusion of the five minutes, the listener is given an opportunity 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 are ultimately working on improving their communication patterns.

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

Emotional intimacy builds when partners are vulnerable and able to talk openly about their fears and insecurities.

This exercise also gives partners the opportunity to show each other comfort, validation, understanding, and support.

Exercise #4: The Pleasure Exercise

The Pleasure Intimacy Building Exercise

Communication is also extremely important during sexual intercourse and other pleasurable activities.

People need to pay careful attention to 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 encourage relaxation.

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

This activity is similar to the “speak and listen” activity, 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.

The pleasure exercise uses the modality of touch to bring about gratification and fulfillment, while also giving partners an opportunity to re-learn their own bodies and the bodies of their partners.

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

Why It 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 are provided with a chance to 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.

At the conclusion of 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

Human beings are creatures of habit and commonly resist change when it is 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 Exercise

In the “Leaving the Comfort Zone” intimacy building exercise, couples make the decision to step out of their comfort zone in an effort 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, to take a vacation, to do something they are fearful of, or to make a major 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 It Works

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

Wrapping Up Intimacy Building Exercises

In order for a house to be long-lasting, it must be built on a strong and 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 house will be less likely to withstand internal or external forces.

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

All of the pieces to the foundation need to be present and carefully aligned so that it can 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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