What comes to mind when you hear the word intimacy?
Some see intimacy as a matter of physical connection and inherently sexual.
For others, intimacy is about mental connection, a bridge between differences and the recognition and celebration of what we share.
How we think and talk about intimacy is affected by a wide variety of factors, such as:
- the way we have been raised to think and talk about it;
- the quality of experiences we’ve shared with others;
- the way we’ve learned to conceptualize it through our formal and informal education; and,
- the way we think about ourselves and our relationships.
We are likely to have different takes on intimacy, and the ways we understand it affect the ways we approach it in our relationships.
For this reason, the first exercise for intimacy needs to be understanding what it is for us and our partner. Before starting any of these exercises, it is important to emphasize that all of these exercises must be consensual. Review them together before starting and ensure you are both in agreement with moving forward.
Exercise 1: Understanding Semantics, Experiences and Expectations around Intimacy
The goal of this exercise is to better understand your own and your partner’s view on what intimacy means and the ways it affects your approach to working on it in a relationship.
Here’s what to do:
Each partner should take the time to reflect on the following questions:
- What do I think when I hear intimacy?
- What does it mean for me to be intimate with someone?
- What is the opposite of intimacy for me?
- How many people is it possible for you to be intimate with?
- What is necessary for intimacy?
- What do I do when I am intimate with someone?
- What is the relationship between intimate and erotic for me?
- Is intimacy the same as love?
- If partners want to work on intimacy, they should focus on…
It may be useful to take notes of your thoughts. It will be easier to recall them in a discussion afterwards.
Once each partner has given the questions some thought, get back together to discuss your answers.
If you have answered differently, that is okay (and expected) – there is no one, unambiguous definition of or approach to intimacy. Your goal is to look for ways to include each other’s understanding of intimacy into one shared idea that is larger than each of yours individually.
This exercise is the foundation for all the others. The chances are, when you have a better understanding of each other, you are likely to think of your own ways to deepen intimacy.
Just in case you need some inspiration, we offer a few other ideas that can fit into different conceptualizations of intimacy.
Exercise 2: Discuss and Discover What Makes Your Connection Unique
The idea behind the exercise is to recognize, acknowledge or discover all the things that make your connection unique.
Here’s what to do:
Think about the following questions and share your thoughts with each other.
- How do you feel when you are together?
- What are the things you love about your relationship?
- What makes your relationship different from other relationships in your life?
- How do you experience yourself in this relationship?
- What does your partner mean to you?
- What do you love about your partner?
- What makes your partner unique to you?
- What are the activities you most enjoy together?
Make room for exploration, too:
- What are some things you would like to try together?
- What would you like to share with your partner that you have never shared before?
- How would you like your partner to experience you?
- What parts of your partner would you like to be granted access to?
If you or your partner(s) are struggling with answering these questions – give them some time.
That does not mean that your relationship is not good or strong. Sometimes it’s hard to put feelings and thoughts into words. A person can feel insecure about the way their words come out.
Do not rush this conversation or put on the pressure of expectations. Try to be patient with each other.
Exercise 3: See, Not with Your Eyes, but with Other Senses
Visual input can sometimes block the information coming from other senses. We tend to rely a lot on what we see in forming impressions.
There can be so much pressure and expectations around looks. We may feel self-conscious, tempted to hide from our partner(s), or we may rely too much on our looks as a tool of seduction.
The idea behind this exercise is to include other senses while connecting sexually.
Here’s what to do:
Lie or sit next to each other. Your key tool in getting to know your partner’s body is touch. You can start off naked or in your underwear/lingerie or whatever swinger outfit makes you feel good.
Turn off the lights.
Imagine that you’ve never touched your partner’s body. Mindfully notice the sensations of their skin, listen to the sounds of their breathing and their voice.
It is important that you do not rush. The goal is not sex, but intimacy. It is being close to each other both physically and mentally.
Stay curious about what you may find. Imagine that there is a whole new, undiscovered territory in front of you. When we rely on the visual aspects of our experience, we may feel as if we’ve all done it before. When we are deprived of that input, we learn to see with other senses. We may find ourselves lost in the unknown, which heightens the eroticism.
Ask your partner:
- How does this feel?
- Could you guide my hands to where it feels good for you?
You may also let your partner know:
- This feels so good. Your hands are very gentle.
- But also – I feel insecure when you are touching this part of me.
It is important to acknowledge that, once we are in uncharted territory blindfolded, we may cross some boundaries. It’s important to create a space in which partners feel comfortable communicating their discomfort, knowing that they will be heard.
Exercise 4: Introduction to Personal Red-Light District
Sharing your fantasies can be such an intimate experience.
It is a way of recognizing the many sides of ourselves as sexual beings. Fantasies allow us to be creative in exploring new exciting roles that we are unable to experience in other areas of life.
Here’s what to do:
First off, each partner should take the time to explore their fantasies on their own.
To help the process, contemplate some of the following questions during your individual explorations:
- What turns you on?
- If you watch porn, what scenarios make you feel aroused?
- What are the most erotic experiences in your life?
- What is on your erotic bucket-list?
When you get back together to share, it’s important to first set the stage and some ground rules.
Choose the setting in which to share. Set the stage for the experience.
- At home or in the cafe or a restaurant?
- Dimmed lights?
- With or without alcohol?
- Dressed for a date?
- After sex?
It’s up to you. Some couples might prefer to have this discussion in private with no worries about being overheard while others may find it thrilling to have a “naughty” conversation in public. Some people may find it easier to share fantasies with other people close by as visual aids or as a sort of buffer, knowing that the presence of others will hinder any actual sexual activity during the initial sharing.
You can discuss the rules that are comfortable for you. Here are a few examples:
- No passing judgments. Partners listen intending to understand, not to judge or disapprove.
- No interruptions. Each partner shares knowing they have their partner’s full attention.
- Sharing a fantasy is not a consent to turn it into reality. At this phase, sharing is about imagination, not action. (If it turns into a consensual erotic experience, great!)
- Partners do not push each other into sharing. Partners share at the level at which they feel comfortable.
The partner who shares should:
- Talk about the fantasies in as much detail as possible and focus on what makes the fantasy so appealing to them.
The partner who is listening should:
- Listen to hear and understand. Acknowledge the partner’s courage to share.
Take turns in sharing and make sure that there is equal space for both/all the partners to share. At the end of the exercise, thank each other. If you feel comfortable diving deeper, share how it made you feel to talk or listen.
Exercise 5: Rediscover Kissing
A kiss is a powerful means of connection. It is to be cherished and explored – not just as a foreplay or aftermath of sex.
Here’s what to do:
Devote time for just kissing.
It’s important that there are no sex insinuations – the goal is to experiment with connecting in a different way.
(This does not mean that the erotic will be missing. In fact, sometimes when the pressure of sex is off, we find arousal in places where we don’t expect them. Let’s not forget that temporary abstinence can be such a boost to erotic.).
Experimenting means trying out different things to discover how they feel. How you experiment is up to you.
Here are a few examples:
- Ask your partner to kiss you in a certain way. Give them a cue to how you want to be kissed:
Or any other way you can come up with. Your partner is likely to interpret your cue in their own way. It may be playful to show them what your interpretation looks like.
- As a continuation of the exercise above, you may add the parts of the body you want your partner to kiss.
- A playful kiss on the left side of your neck.
- A hot kiss on your back.
- A seductive kiss on your lips.
- A tender kiss on your thigh.
- A warm kiss on your ______
You can be as creative as your heart desires.
- You can make this a game. Write adjectives and body parts on paper, fold them and put them in separate bowls. l. If you feel playful, you can add other categories (such as duration: 5, 10, 20 seconds or 3 minutes). Then take turns in pulling out papers from the bowls. The element of not knowing what you’ll pull out of the bowls can make the entire experience more exciting and fun.
- You can also play around with types of kisses: French kiss, American kiss, single lip kiss, lizzy kiss, Spiderman kiss, nibbling kiss, chin kiss, and many others. If you are reading this and thinking what kind of kisses are these – great! It means that you have something to explore. Google types of kisses or ways to kiss to discover more!
We hope you do!
Remember that we may differ in how we interpret intimacy. Yet, it seems like a very act of it to work towards bridging the gaps in the way we understand it. Embrace the playfulness and creativity in exploring what it means for you and your partner(s). If you are looking for more intimacy exercises check out the free videos in Cupid’s Corner.