Seven Tips For Having More Intimate Sex

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Do you feel that your romantic relationship has fallen into a sexual rut or that your intimate sex positions with your partner aren't promoting feelings of deep emotional intimacy? Are you hoping to explore each other's bodies and increase closeness during your sexual experiences? Are you struggling with body image issues, sexual trauma, or other health issues that make emotional intimacy and mutual pleasure difficult for you?

You might be experiencing sexual intimacy concerns if you answered yes to any of these questions. Having more intimate sex may influence your emotional connection with your partner inside and outside the bedroom. Communication and openness are two possible skills to develop to improve intimacy. 

Read on to learn potential ways to improve not only sexual intimacy but other types of intimacy in your relationship.

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1. Define what sex means to you

Each partner can bring a distinct viewpoint on sex into the romantic relationship. This opinion or attitude towards sex may have formed from their own unique life experiences. Some people might feel unbothered by being unclothed, exploring their partner's desires, or experimenting with new sex positions. On the other hand, some individuals may not know how to effectively talk about their sexual desires and preferences to their partners until later in life. Others may struggle with focusing more on the physical than the emotional part of sex.

To prevent a possible sexual dysfunction in a relationship, define what sex means to you and your partner before sleeping together. Ask your partner the following:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • What is something you would try?
  • What is something you dislike?
  • What are your sexual boundaries?
  • What sexual activities would you never be comfortable with?
  • Do you have a safe word or want to establish one?

Having a clear conversation about needs before sex can help you and your partner understand each other and avoid potentially harmful or difficult moments together.

If you or your partner aren’t sure about your responses, you may consider seeking the help of a certified sex therapist to further communication. This option may be valuable if one or both of you has sexual trauma or self-esteem issues.

2. Communicate your concerns openly 

If you are having challenges with intimacy, communicate these to your partner outside the bedroom. Active listening and honesty are proven to improve relationship satisfaction during communication. Find a comfortable location to converse that is not a sexual environment. Reduce distractions by focusing on the conversation.

Be as honest as possible. If you don’t tell your partner what you need, they may not understand what is wrong. If there’s an aspect of your relationship that you need to change to promote feelings of safety, bring this up. For example, you may make statements such as:

  • “I don’t feel safe when you wake me up to have sex.”
  • “I need a safe word so that I feel safe stopping the sexual activity when we’re in the middle of it.”
  • “I want us to hold hands, kiss, and cuddle more before sex.”
  • “I don’t feel emotionally loved or cared for outside of sex, making me not want to have sex.”
  • “I have sexual trauma from my past and want to go to therapy before we have sex again.”

After you’ve brought up your concerns, leave the floor open for your partner to bring up any of theirs. If you find that conflict continues, you may decide to reach out to a couples sex therapist for support.

3. Embrace new experiences together

Couples whose sex lives may start to feel “boring” or “rare” may turn to new sex toys, positions, or consensual non-monogamy to increase excitement or connection in the bedroom. Although exploring new sexual fantasies can be exciting, focus less on the external aspects of these new items or desires and more on how you experience them together with your partner's body.

Be vulnerable and open to new emotional connections through these new pathways. You can also come up with new sexual activities that promote closeness. Possible ways to try this may include:

  • Discussing your experiences with a new toy or position

  • “Dirty” talking or words of affirmation during sex

  • Sensual touching or mutual masturbation

  • Giving each other a massage before sex

  • Longer foreplay to enhance orgasms

  • Trying sexual positions that increase physical closeness

  • Breathing together

  • Prolonged eye contact (eye gazing)

4. Take things slowly when you need to

You may feel the desire to slow things down for the sake of your well-being. Slowing down might mean scheduling time when talking about your sexual wants and needs. According to the Journal of Sex Research, some people may require more time and patience in a conversation about sex, and several discussions over time may feel more comfortable.

You may also take things more slowly when you are in the act of sexual intercourse. Consider focusing on the present moment and not on the end goal of achieving an orgasm or doing everything “right.”

Sex is often pleasurable for both parties, so if an area feels stressful or scary, it may be time to take a break and converse. If you’re having difficulty bringing this up, a couples therapist may be beneficial.

5. Build an erotic “love map” together

An “erotic love map” is an exercise to explore your partner’s preferences and desires in the context of your relationship. As you build this love map, try to ask specific questions about their needs and wants in bed, fostering a sense of intimacy. You can draw your love map on paper or write it down in a journal, especially for women who might find this format more comfortable.

Start with these questions as you build a comprehensive list tailored to your unique relationship.

  • What felt good last time?

  • What are your greatest turn-ons?

  • What feels fulfilling to you?

  • Are there any areas we should come back to at a later date, such as a desire to explore anal play or another position?

  • What do you need to make sex more intimate?

  • What didn’t feel good last time?

Sex and intimacy do not always go hand in hand. Allowing yourself to become vulnerable when talking intimately about sex may effectively bridge the gap between the two terms.

6. Eliminate distractions

With so much going on in the world around us, it may feel tempting to become distracted during sex. Putting your phone away, silencing your notifications, and putting your pets in another room may help you and your partner focus on each other.

Allowing yourself to become distracted may delay sexual pleasure and frustrate your partner—focus instead on eye contact, your partner’s needs, and how you feel during the moment.

If you’re struggling with focus or find that you do not want to have sex at all, let your partner know that you’re ready to stop. Consent can be withdrawn at any time during a sexual encounter.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

7. Be vulnerable as much as possible

Showing vulnerability can be done in a variety of ways. Expressing your sexual desire for your partner sometimes requires you to be vulnerable. Vulnerability may look different for each person. For one person, it might mean being fully unclothed or having the lights on, while for another, it may mean saying “I love you” during sex.

Being vulnerable may feel scary. However, doing so can allow partners to build trust and prevent themselves from shutting down or becoming distant from each other. If you have trauma or body concerns that make it hard for you to be vulnerable, you may benefit from sex therapy.

Sex and intimacy 101: Why the two don’t always go hand-in-hand

Intimate sex may strengthen your emotional connection with your partner. Part of achieving this entails knowing how sex and intimacy can connect. Often, sex and intimacy do not go together. One-night stands are one example of potentially non-intimate sex.

Couples can also show intimacy toward each other without having sex. An act of love, such as asking how someone feels when they arrive home from work or greeting them with a kiss, may also be a form of intimacy.

To help improve other aspects of your relationship, you may want to practice intimate acts that aren’t sex-related. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Discuss the things that matter the most to you

  • Give each other a non-sexual massage

  • Kiss each other each morning

  • Try something new together, such as a cooking class or dancing lesson

  • Help each other with tasks

  • Learn each other’s love language

  • Spend time cuddling

  • Give a thoughtful gift

Partners don’t necessarily have to practice non-sexual methods to improve their emotional connection. However, these methods may complement sexual intimacy in the bedroom. Think about the impression you want to make on your partner and act accordingly to make that impact.

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The pillars of an emotionally intimate relationship

If you don’t feel emotionally connected with your partner, improving the intimacy in your sex life may be difficult. Building an emotionally intimate relationship could involve several factors, including:

  • Knowing yourself: By understanding your feelings and needs, you may be able to better articulate them to other people

  • Practicing honesty: Being honest but tactful can help your partner make informed choices that will improve your sexual experience

  • Learning to communicate clearly: Clear communication can involve both an open ear and direct honesty to get your feelings across to your partner

  • Showing love: Partners in a healthy relationship may express love in many ways, not just sexually

  • Having fun: Not every encounter or conversation has to be serious, and laughing may be beneficial to your mental health.

Seeking treatment or counseling

Some couples may face roadblocks to intimate sex that are challenging to work through alone. For example, someone with sexual trauma or body image issues may not feel comfortable partaking in close, intimate sex without working through the underlying concerns. In this case, couples or individual counseling may be beneficial. Although sex therapy is one option, couples can see a therapist for any concern or reason, such as to experience more intimacy in general. 

Studies suggest that couples therapy is effective for 70% of all couples who use it. For those who feel more comfortable working through intimacy concerns at home, teletherapy is another method that has been proven to be just as effective as traditional in-person counseling. Online therapy allows you to meet with a counselor or therapist on your own schedule without needing to get ready or drive long distances.

Licensed mental health professionals, including the staff at BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples, may be able to help you and your partner work through sex and intimacy issues together. You may be able to choose from different licensed therapists who may have a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and years of experience. Adding a family therapist to your treatment plan may offer additional perspectives, as they may be experienced with challenges in relationships.

Dr. April Brewer, LPC

Dr. Brewer has helped me exponentially with intimacy issues in my marriage without making me feel uncomfortable in any way. I can be fully open with her, and she handles each question with grace and understanding. I am incredibly grateful for the strides she has helped me make in my marriage. I would highly recommend her!”


Consider the tips above if you’re struggling to work through sexual intimacy concerns or want to increase love and intimacy in your relationship. Speaking with a licensed counselor may be beneficial if you’re hoping to get further professional insight. Take the first step and reach out.
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