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Smiling African American couple lying on carpet and communicating.

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It’s the beginning of July, which means it’s the start of the Summer Sex Challenge! And no one is more excited about it than my husband. He’s been like a big kid for almost a month—is it July yet, is it July yet? Ok, well, actually I’m pretty excited too. It’s going to be quite an interesting month. I’m so happy you have agreed to do this with me:)

But before we dig in, a bit of housekeeping…

  • I have enlisted the help of some amazingly awesome experts to help us overcome our inhibitions to really shake things up in the bedroom. If you ever have a question that you want to ask me or any of the experts, feel free to post it on my facebook page. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you can email me and I’ll post it on the page so that you can benefit from the experience of the group as well as our experts.
  • The goal of the Summer Sex Challenge is not just to have more sex, but also to have great sex. So let’s focus on quality of sex more than the quantity and I’m sure we will have much more fun!

Ok, so exactly what is intimacy? Can you have intimacy without sex? To get answers to these questions and more about building intimacy in your relationship, I talked with CEO and Relationship Therapist of XoXo Therapy Marissa Nelson. Marissa specializes in individual, couples and sex therapy.  After an in-depth discussion about everything from communication to location, here’s what I learned:

8 things you should know about building intimacy in your relationship:

1.  The definition of intimacy

Before we talk about building intimacy in your relationship, let’s first define it. The definition can vary depending on whom you ask, but Marissa describes intimacy as a personal feeling that typically involves intimate closeness, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. “I think a lot of people would consider it to be a connection. It’s the wanting. It’s the bonding. The shared experience and just being able to be each other’s space, and to share your life together in a very companionate, compassionate and passionate way,” says Marissa.

Marissa also sheds light on the different types of intimacy. “I think a lot of times when people talk about intimacy they mean sexual. I think that there’s emotional intimacy as well. Which is the nonsexual touch, the kissing, the holding hands, the watching Netflix together on a rainy day, just being able to be in each other’s space and enjoy each other’s company,” Marissa explains. “Friendship, that’s an essential part of intimacy. The companionate relationship is part of intimacy. When you have children and you go out on a family day and you’re watching your partner be a father or a mother, that is bonding. That is intimate.”

2.  You can have intimacy without having sex

Intimacy and sex are mutually exclusive—it is possible to have one without the other. “Trust me, I see a lot of people in my office, that they are okay with not having sex, but find that they have a very deep, strong and intimate connection. So sex isn’t necessarily defining the intimacy within the relationship,” says Marissa.

But to some, sex is a very important part of the relationship. According to Marissa, “Sex is a huge component for a lot of people. We are a sexual being. We want to be connected to someone else. It is an expression of body and pleasure and sensation, all of that stuff. So yes, it makes sense that for a lot of relationships—especially to feel that sense of bonding—that sex is an important part of that.“

TRY THIS:  Have a conversation with your partner about how you view intimacy in your relationship. Gaining a clearer understanding of the difference between sex and intimacy can help you determine what you are craving in your relationship and how you can meet each other’s needs.

 3.  Stress is a desire killer

Just about every ailment you can think of is linked to stress.   But how does it connect to sexual desire? According to Marissa, stress lives in the hippocampus—the part of the brain that houses anxiety. “In order for us to really be able to surrender to orgasm and the sexual experience, the hippocampus should not be hyper aroused.” In other words, thinking about the kids, your meeting at work, and everything else on your mind, take you away from being completely present which can leave you feeling unsatisfied and not wanting to have sex as often.

TRY THIS:  Make some noise! Marissa suggests letting your partner know when he touches you in a way that is extremely pleasurable. She also suggests practicing mindfulness—the art of being present—in and out of the bedroom. “So many times, even in our sexual experience and daily lives, we’re there, but we’re so disconnected. When you find that you are in the moment, and your mind is just scattered, you have to consciously say, ‘I am paying attention to the sensations that are happening in my body’?” Looking into your partner’s eyes is also another way to connect. Even if you close your eyes, pay attention to where is he touching. Are you feeling an explosion from the inside out? Be able to recognize it,” says Marissa.

SEE THE FULL LIST AT MY BLOG, HERLIFEINSPIRED.COM, BY CLICKING HERE.

With a big heart and a personality to match, Simone Jones Tyner aims to inspire others to live with style, passion and purpose. On her blog, Her Life Inspired, she shares parenting advice as well as recipes, DIY ideas, fashion tips and a peek into her personal life. By day she runs a marketing and event planning company, TRUE, where her love of details and straight lines are put to good use. But her most important job is being a wife and mother to a precocious little girl, Journey. Check out her blog at www.herlifeinspired.com and follow her on twitter @herlifeinspired.

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