Written by Lori Hollander | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When sexual intimacy fades, a couple’s effort to revive it can feel like a steep uphill battle. Many people spend months waiting for hormone test results, reading self-help books, or sampling creams designed to address the issue, but most are disappointed to find these efforts fruitless.
One might guess that couples who experience sexual intimacy difficulties will be more inclined to make extra time for kisses on the cheek or an arm around the shoulder.
While some certainly do, the pattern that I see even more often in my couples and sex therapy practice tells a different story. For a large percentage of couples, when sexual intimacy goes, often the lightest forms of physical affection go with it.
Even more interesting (and contrary to popular stereotypes), it is men who more often report that they most miss holding hands and snuggling. Why? Substantially more women than men report a loss of interest in sexual intimacy (studies report one in three women compared to one in seven men), so the person who wants more sexual intimacy is more commonly a man. And it is the person who wants more sexual intimacy who is usually especially upset by the loss of those sweet kisses on the cheek.
That higher desire person of the couple often feels trapped, hopeless, and/or rejected. He or she might say, “If she would cuddle with me on the sofa or lay close to me at night, things wouldn’t be as bad as they are. I wouldn’t feel so rejected.” A woman might say, “I wouldn’t be left feeling so unattractive,” and a man might say, “I would not feel so terribly guilty that I am continually looking for the next opportunity for sexual intimacy when I know it is the furthest thing from my partner’s mind.”
And here is where things get even worse. The push for even light physical affection from one partner actually serves to keep the couples intimacy problems locked in place. But wouldn’t it seem the opposite? Wouldn’t it seem that efforts to hold hands or put an arm around the shoulder would lead toward intimacy, not prevent it?
On the one hand, yes. It is true that without time spent holding each other, the lower desire partner may become even less interested in intimacy over time.
Tender moments with exchanges of sweet words and touches are helpful in regaining and sustaining desire.
But here is the catch: it only works if that tender moment is free of expectation.