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Getting in touch with human touch: 4 ways to rediscover intimacy

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  December 17, 2018

Intimacy is the glue that holds relationships together and makes everything in life seem easier. Yet we’re often too busy for it. The pressures of busy modern-lives can conspire against us and time for you as a couple can become strained and result in you feeling distant.

But if you can make time to focus on each other and reconnect it will pay dividends in all areas of your life, not least your relationship. You’ll feel closer, more cherished and more resilient to whatever stressors the festive season might fling at you.

Here are a few of my favourite, most effective ways to rediscover intimacy in a partnership – or with any close friend or family member you value. I’d love to hear how they work for you.

Practise the 15-second 3D Greeting – Familiarity, in a love relationship, all too often breeds complacency. You’ve been working from home on your computer all day, your partner walks in and you barely lift your head from the screen. Or you arrive home from a long day at work or doing the weekly shop and your spouse fails to acknowledge you, let alone leap up to greet you or help you with the bags. It’s heartbreaking how the daily grind makes us treat each other.

My 3D greeting is a heartfelt way to show you value each other.

Instead of a nod or grunt when you see each other, I want you to make deep, meaningful eye contact, embrace warmly and exchange a few loving words. Practise the 3D greeting (eyes, touch and voice) every time you haven’t seen your partner for more than a few hours. Within a few days, it will seem natural and you will start feeling less stressed, more supported. We’re all busy, but I’ve never met anyone so busy they can’t spare the love of their life 15 seconds.

Make mini dates – Schedule regular time to connect and converse, without the distraction of technology. Date nights may be a bit of a cliché but they’re a fantastic way to prioritise intimacy. It could be a commitment to spending 30 minutes with each other every evening without your smartphones in sight, or simply a daily walk, holding hands. Always look for opportunities in your daily life to be present with each other.

Share a massage – Human touch can slow down our heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and boost immunity. It triggers the release of serotonin, commonly known as the ‘feel-good chemical’ and feeds emotional connections.

And it works both ways – those who give affectionate, gentle touch such as stroking are rewarded with increased levels of endogenous opioids, compounds made by the body that act on opiate receptors and are associated with improved mood, decreased pain and lower anxiety.

Take it in turns to give each other a shoulder, back or full-body massage. If this feels intimidating, you could start off by holding hands or stroking some cream onto their feet or arms. Resolve to bring more touch into daily life, with a hug, supportive squeeze or pat on the back.

Gaze into each other’s eyes – Intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex. Rather it’s about trust, feeling like two members of a team and being responsive to each other’s needs. It’s being present with each other, caring deeply and sharing personal thoughts, desires and wishes. Just holding hands or taking a nap with your partner can be incredibly intimate. Something as simple as sustained eye contact can be transformative. Try this exercise and see how much closer you feel.

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  1. Sit opposite each other, close enough so your knees are touching.
  2. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and concentrate on the sensation of your knees touching.
  3. Now look directly into each other’s eyes and maintain eye contact for a full five minutes. If you find yourself looking away, gently reinitiate eye contact.
  4. Share your experience. How did it feel? What went through your mind? What did you pick up about each other? How do you both feel now?

Find more tips on nurturing relationships and intimacy in my book, The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships & Purpose. You can order your copy here.


DISCLAIMER: The content in this blog is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog or on this website.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP