Intimacy is usually lumped together with sex, but they can easily be independent of each other. According to Merriam-Webster, intimacy is defined as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” Intimacy is such an important aspect of a relationship and it reaches so much farther than sex, because sometimes sex just isn’t right or even possible. So here are some ways to spice up your romance *outside* of the bedroom.
1. Hold hands
Holding hands with your SO is more important than it might seem. It makes you feel deeply connected to that person, even if you’re just walking down the street. “My SO and I have always been huge on holding hands,” says Amanda Goecke, a junior at Carthage College, “If we’re walking somewhere unfamiliar he’ll hold out his hand to me for protection and to keep me close. If we’re just hanging out with each other, holding hands is a great way for us to show intimacy and indicate that we want attention.” There’s even science behind the power of holding hands. Oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone,” makes us feel happy and loved and is released when people hold hands. So next time you’re on a date or walking to class with your partner, take their hand. We’re almost 100 percent sure you’ll both smile.
2. Have deep conversations
A relationship that consists of shallow, meaningless conversations isn’t a healthy one. You should always be challenging your partner to grow intellectually, and they should be doing the same. Communication is key to this kind of growth. Discussing the things that you’re passionate about can help you discover things you didn’t know you had in common with your partner. “My boyfriend and I talk about our future together at random times,” says Kayleen Parra-Padron, a senior at Florida International University, “We’ll just look at each other and list all the things we’re excited for in the future; we talk about moving out and decorating our future appointment, the names of our future dogs and what after school activities our kids will be doing.” Need help thinking of good conversation starters? Psychologist Arthur Aron, along with a few partners, composed a study to see how becoming vulnerable with your SO can lead to a closer relationship. They came up with 36 questions to ask your partner, including “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” and “What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?” Try asking a few of these questions next time you get tired of talking about your classes.
3. Touch each other non-sexually
The power of touch is amazing. It’s instinctual for humans to touch each other as a sign of protection and love. Hugging and massaging are underrated ways to show intimacy. Often we think of these things as touches that could possibly lead up to sex or at least a steamy make-out session. But even spending a few extra seconds hugging your SO can make you feel more connected. Giving your partner a back massage or touching their hair shows that you care and will create chemistry between the two of you.
4. Try doing each other’s favorite activities
Chances are, while you and your partner have similar interests, there are probably a few things you don’t have in common. Take a day and indulge in some activities that your SO is passionate about and then have them do the same. This way, you can both understand each other’s passions, enjoy spending the time together and make lasting memories. Bonding through shared experiences is a powerful form of intimacy.
5. Get spiritual
If you and your SO share a faith, use that to your advantage. Going to each other’s religious services together and reflecting on what you learned can build intellectual intimacy. Taking a few moments out of your day to pray for/think of your partner and their goals, struggles and triumphs will also strengthen your relationship, even if your SO doesn’t know about it. “My fiance and I believe it’s important to talk about our faith and do devotions together,” says Rebecca Reis, a sophomore at Temple University. “That makes us grow so close as a couple, and it becomes the framework for our entire relationship.” If you don’t share a faith or don’t identify with a specific one, try exploring different options together. It can tell you a lot about your partner’s values and how you two can fit together spiritually. However, ultimately the goal of faith is for it to be a personal connection. So while you may be sharing spiritual experiences with your partner, it’s important that you have a personal connection to your faith and you don’t believe in it just because your partner does.
6. Communicate “Dear John” style
Writing letters will never lose its charm or its sentimentality. Seeing the scrawl of your loved one automatically brings about the butterflies you get when you’re watching “The Notebook” or “Dear John” (dang you, Nicholas Sparks), and there’s just something about having written proof that someone is, in fact, in love with you. Writing out your thoughts can make it so much more meaningful, because your partner will be able to see that you poured your heart out onto the page. This is especially important if you’re in a long-distance relationship. Phone calls and FaceTimes are nice, but a handwritten letter once in a while will show your SO just how much you love them. “My boyfriend are in a long distance relationship, and we write letters so we can give them to each other when we finally reconnect in person,” says Alexis Rogers, a sophomore at Temple University. “Being able to write letters to express my feelings is so special. We both treasure each other’s letters, equally and if not more than other gifts we have given each other. Not only are they special to read in the presence of each other, but they help keep us connected when we are away from each other.” And how cute will it be when you read them all over to your kids when you’re married?
7. Gaze longingly into each other’s eyes
No…really. We all know how awkward eye contact can be, even with our SOs sometimes. But it shouldn’t be! Try dropping the distractions and staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes, then talk about what you thought. It seems like a long time, but it actually goes by quickly. “I did this with my boyfriend and we were both skeptical at first,” says Sarah Johnstone, a freshman at Montgomery County Community College. “It was sort of awkward in the beginning, but then it got serious and we actually felt much more connected as a couple afterwards. Everyone should try it.” Even the smallest things, like eye contact, are actually super important and can take the intimacy in your relationship to the next level.
While sex plays a large role in many college women’s relationships, it doesn’t have to take precedence over every other aspect. Physical and emotional intimacy affect relationships deeply, and it’s important to build those connections through avenues besides sex. Even the little touches and words of encouragement to your partner can strengthen your relationship and create intimate moments.