April 15, 2024

3 ways to prioritize intimacy when you're exhausted

Woman getting undressed

Everyone is exhausted. At least that’s what it feels like lately. 

About 52% of Americans experienced burnout over the last year and 60% (!!!) say they feel more tired now than ever before.

What happens when having a happy relationship requires you to slow down and tune into each other..but your life doesn't allow for it (especially if you have children)?

You prioritize everything else, take each other for granted and by the time you realize you’ve grown apart, it feels too late. 

Therapists share how more often than not, couples reach out when things are already too dire. If only they had taken a preventative approach, the route to reconnection would be much easier. 

So to help you improve your relationship’s intimacy when you feel like you have a lot on your plate, here are 3 overlooked tips you can realistically implement today (before it’s too late).

You’ll notice that the things that deepen your connection and make your relationship more pleasurable in and out of bed have nothing to do with sex. 

1. Incorporate 5-10 minutes of non-sexual touch everyday

Did you know that hugging, holding hands or even gently stroking each other can significantly reduce stress? 

Studies have shown that it not only decreases cortisol levels, but it also releases oxytocin (which deepens your trust and connection) and increases levels of immunoglobulin A (boosting your immune system). 

Problem is, it’s not uncommon for long-term couples to stop touching each other on a daily basis. Even worse – touch only happens when you initiate sex, which builds resentment.

An easy way to start incorporating this is by dedicating 5-10 minutes of quality time (no cell phones) at the end of the day by sharing something new you learned, listening to each other and holding hands or cuddling during this window. The key is to be fully present with each other.

Think of this as your daily connection upkeep that makes things easier to get in the mood for sex when energy levels are higher.

Unsurprisingly, a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples who engage in meaningful, non-sexual physical contact report higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

Bonus tip: Before you leave for work, take 6 seconds to kiss each other. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s longer than your usual quick peck and research by the Gottman Institute shares that it’s just enough time to deepen your affection and spice things up on the daily.

2. Schedule intimate time together

This one’s controversial but before you jump to conclusions, hear me out. 

I’m not telling you to schedule a time where you need to show up already in the mood. Most people will agree that’s too much pressure. But when life’s chaotic, expecting things to “just happen” spontaneously can also mean it never happens.

Find a window, ideally one hour or more (but if you only have 30 minutes, that works too). The cadence depends on your schedule. If you can do it once a week, that would be best. 

This can be a time when you explore each other’s non-genital erogenous zones (an exercise I have included in the Ignite Your Sexual Desire Course); give an erotic massage; blindfold and tease each other by tracing a feather or scarf across your body; dirty talk and role play. Whatever it is, make it sensual. It doesn’t need to lead to sex, but it’s an opportunity to strengthen your sexual connection.

My favorite part about this? Knowing this is scheduled builds anticipation, and anticipation can build desire. A study by the University of Toronto found that couples who plan their intimate encounters often experience higher levels of sexual satisfaction. 

This approach allows both of you to mentally and physically prepare for intimacy, making the experience more enjoyable and less forced. Plus, you can plan to do new things you normally wouldn’t do when it happens spontaneously.

Practical tip: When you choose a time that works best for both of you, choose one when you're least likely to be exhausted. It could be a lazy Sunday morning or an early evening during the week. The anticipation of knowing what's coming can be both exciting and invigorating.

3. Prioritize sleep and lighten your load

Probably not the advice you were expecting, but always prioritize sleep over sex when you’re exhausted. In fact, that intimacy window I just mentioned in #2? If you’re tired when that’s scheduled, use that time to take a nap together (seriously). 

Sleep precedes all other health tips. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that each additional hour of sleep increased the likelihood of sexual activity with a partner by 14%. Good sleep boosts your energy, mood, and libido. It’s a no-brainer.

Now, I can already hear all sorts of excuses for the second part of this tip – but you have got to lighten your load. 

Together, review your weekly and monthly tasks and social events, and find out what can be minimized, delegated or eliminated. This could mean ordering groceries online to save shopping time, setting boundaries with work to avoid late-night emails, or canceling a double date to do a one-on-one instead.

Sex researcher Dr. Emily Nagoski found 3 common characteristics in couples with lasting sexual connection. One of them is they decide to write their own rules for how they live their lives (which also includes how they approach sex). This requires being honest about how you want to spend your time, instead of doing the things you think you should be doing to keep up with the Joneses.

The Bottom Line

There are always things you can manage when life feels out of control:

  1. Incorporate 5-10 minutes of daily non-sexual physical touch.
  2. Schedule intimate time together (ideally 1 hour per week).
  3. Prioritize sleep and lighten your load by delegating, minimizing or eliminating your weekly or monthly tasks.

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