Can You Have A Healthy Relationship Without Intimacy? Experts Weigh In
There are many things that can strain a couple's relationship, and parenting is undoubtedly one of them. Adding children to your lives can greatly impact the status of your relationship, as well as the time and energy you have to put effort into it. One of the first things to fall can be you and your partner's physical intimacy, and sometimes, emotional intimacy is quick to follow. It often feels like you're both just trying to get through the day, but even if you're working well together as household managers, can you have a healthy relationship without intimacy?
According to The New York Times, there is definitely a feedback relationship in most couples between happiness and having sex. Essentially, happy couples have more sex, and the more sex a couple has, the happier they report being. Keep in mind that sex is only one form of intimacy, The New York Times mentioned, and that some couples are fairly happy (and intimate) even without sex. But Ann Dewitt, marriage and family therapist from Oregon, doesn't believe that a healthy relationship can survive without intimacy, whether it's emotional or physical or both. She tells Romper, "It seems like intimacy is kind of the definition of a healthy marriage relationship. I see people trying to do it, and they might be able to co-exist effectively, but it is not what anyone would aspire to or hope for."
In fact, the 1993 study cited in The New York Times article did find that people in sexless marriages were more likely to have considered divorce than those in sexually active marriages. Whether that reason is because the lack of sex is a signal that all intimacy in a marriage is over, or that emotional intimacy dwindles due to the loss of physical intimacy, is less clear. The two seem to go hand-in-hand in most healthy and happy marriages.
Sexless relationships aren’t something for couples to aim for, agreed Everyday Health. However, for some couples, it can be perfectly OK, as it doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship lacks love. In the end, it's just the two of you who matter in the relationship, and if both are happy, then the relationship is still successful. Relationships are something unique to each couple — something that is created together. Due to natural differences of preferences and needs amongst people, healthy relationships can be seen in a variety of ways. But, if one person in the relationship is unhappy with the amount of intimacy, physical or emotional, then there will likely be a problem.
As Elle mentioned, rejection has a host of consequences, including frustration, depression, feelings of rejection, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem. The common assumption is that, inevitably, the unsatisfied partner will stray, and 26 percent of married or partnered people do.
Intimacy is about closeness, Healthy Women noted. It's about being together, and about creating and maintaining a relationship. There are many ways to do this, and many ways to repair that aspect of your relationship. Touching, holding hands, finding new shared interests, and talking can help you and your partner reconnect, and begin to rebuild intimacy.
"Intimacy can be a challenge depending on the stage of a couple's life together," Dr. Carly Snyder tells Romper. Having a new baby frequently places stress on relationships due to physical and emotional aspects of the postpartum period. Illness, financial stress, and family responsibilities can all affect intimacy and closeness. "However," says Snyder, "it is important for couples to focus on their bond, and physical and emotional intimacy is part of this connection."
Even healthy, long-term relationships are bound to have dips and peaks depending on your stage of life. What's important is to not compare your relationships with others' — each relationship is unique to the people in it. Examining the needs and preferences of you and your partner can help you both decide where you are happy and what you can work on. If both partners are happy with the levels of intimacy within the relationships, then all seems well. But, if someone is unhappy in some aspect, it is worth talking it out to see where compromises and efforts can be made.
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