Couple kissing in a field

The importance of intimacy in relationships

Intimacy, including sex, is a wonderful part of a relationship. Improving this area of your life can feel absolutely perplexing, but in fact armed with a little knowledge, you can be on your way to having a more satisfying and fulfilling intimate relationship.

Masters and Johnson were sexuality pioneers, and proposed a fairly rigid recipe for “successful sex” that has confused everyone. The wider and more flexible your definition of intimacy and sex, and the order in which one does things… the happier and more satisfied you and your partner will be.

The Human Sexual Response Cycle

Masters and Johnson’s four-stage model of physiological responses to sexual stimulation is called the “human sexual response cycle,” and consists of the excitement phase (initial arousal), plateau phase (at full arousal, but not yet at orgasm), orgasmic phase, and resolution phase (after orgasm).

The above may work for some, and they can still have a really great time. However, for others the experience is not quite so ordered. The work of Shere Hite, and John and Julie Gottman suggest a much broader and more flexible approach.

Be like a porcupine

John Gottman says the man should be more like a porcupine! A male porcupine can do some serious damage to himself if he does not ensure the woman porcupine’s quills are down before he has sex. So he goes around the front of the woman and strokes the sides of her face for ages with his little forelegs then he goes around the back and checks if her quills are down. If not he will go back to her face and keep slowly stroking her face! Eventually her quills are down and they are both in the mood!

There is one question when asked gently and authentically that is a great lubricant to the sexual experience. “What do you want me to do?”

The importance of having an intimate conversation

The Gottmans suggest that in addition to having a flexible attitude to sex (rather than following a rigid recipe) there are ways of having an intimate conversation that can then lead to acquiring a detailed knowledge of your partners sensuality and sexuality including:

  • Feelings and Intimacy
  • Masturbation
  • Orgasm
  • Libido
  • Initiating and declining/deferring sex
  • How one feels about one’s body
  • Hand and Mouth movements
  • Stimulation of specific parts of the body
  • Fantasies

We often think we know what our partner wants, but often it is not until we ask the specific questions that we learn exactly what they want and need.

It is also important to establish a custom or habit for initiating and refusing sex. If a couple has an established or pre-agreed ritual for proposing or saying no to sex, you are less likely to feel devastated by your partner not being in the mood for sex.

Get help to improve the intimacy of your relationship

If you’re looking to improve the quality of your relationship, Briony Barton provides relationship counselling specifically in the areas of intimacy. Contact Briony today.

(C) 2012-2013 by Dr John M Gottman and Dr Julie Schwartz Gottman. Distributed under licence by The Gottman Institute
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