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Marriage Counseling: How to Cope When You and Your Partner Prefer Different Ways to Be Intimate

couple being intimate in a field

Sex is one of the most common reasons couples argue or get divorced.

In a perfect world, every couple would be equally matched in their desires. Unfortunately, many couples are out of sync in one or more important ways, no matter how much they love each other. Sex is one of the most common reasons couples argue or get divorced. Fortunately, your relationship doesn’t have to suffer if you and your partner have different preferences about ways to be intimate. Here’s how to find the middle ground.

Talk about It

Communication is key in all aspects of marriage, but especially when you have a mismatch in sexual desires. If your partner expresses that he wants to spice things up, you need to find out if that means he wants to do kinkier activities or if he just wants to try something new. Feeling comfortable enough to communicate openly with each other is one of the most significant steps in learning ways to be intimate. If you can’t talk openly, marriage counseling can help.

Take Time to Truly Connect

If you’re like most couples in Houston, your lives are non-stop busy. Between hectic work schedules, long commutes, and kids’ activities many nights of the week, it can be hard to find time for the two of you. Intimacy is not only about connecting physically: you need to connect emotionally as well. 

Set aside time for the two of you to be together and to get back in sync. The longer it has been since you’ve had a really deep, emotional connection, the more challenging it may be. The good news is that with a little bit of persistence, you can find that connection again. When you do, it creates an emotional intimacy that often leads naturally to physical intimacy.

Watch Out for Resentments

When either partner feels like their needs aren’t being met, there’s fertile ground for resentment to grow. Let your partner know that they are being heard, even if you are uncomfortable with some of their requests. If you are already feeling resentful of your partner, that is almost certainly spilling over into the bedroom as well. The best way to manage your resentment is to (calmly) talk about the things that are bugging you—preferably before they become a big deal. Resentments are the biggest roadblocks to intimacy.

What is your relationship attachment style? Take this quiz and find out.

Compromise

It isn’t essential that the two of you have the exact same interests in the bedroom. There are many ways to be intimate, none of which are more definitively “right” than others. It’s important not to shame your partner for their preferred expression of intimacy. A common scenario in many couples is that one partner prefers to express intimacy through sex, while the other prefers to express emotional intimacy through talking. Both partners can get what they want when these desires are out in the open.

If you prefer to connect through talking and spending time together, you may find yourself more willing to indulge your partner’s physical needs when your own needs have been met. But remember that you still have the right to maintain your own boundaries. Your intimate life should never take on a transactional tone. (If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you.) You absolutely have the right to say there are some things you just don’t want to do. In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect your limits.

Stay Focused on the End Goal

It’s not a bad thing that you and your partner each have different ways that you prefer to express intimacy in your relationship. Just remember that you are both on the same team and there are many ways to be intimate. Your partner is still the same person you initially fell in love with many years ago. Focus on trying to make him or her happy and, hopefully, they will do the same for you. Being different keeps your life together more interesting.

For more, read this article on fun little things you can do for your partner every day.

Click here to learn more about relationship counseling, or contact one of our counselors in Houston at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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