Lack of intimacy may destroy a healthy romantic relationship

StaceyNHerrera

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

One of my most enduring relationships also lacked intimacy. It was primarily based on deep friendship and shared interests, but we never shared our innermost thoughts or secrets.

This led to tension and arguments because we could not truly understand each other’s needs. Over time, the lack of intimacy took its toll, and the relationship couldn’t stand the weight of everything we left unsaid.

It wasn’t an intentional decision to keep things surface-level between us. It was just the result of two people from two different worlds trying to find common ground. And in the end, we couldn’t.

For me, intimacy meant being able to share anything and everything with my partner. I needed to feel like we were truly connected on a deep level.

For my partner, intimacy meant being physically close to each other. He didn’t feel the need to share his thoughts and feelings because he felt that our actions spoke louder than words.

But it was more than having mixed-matched wants, needs, and desires; how we related to the world differed most. And for whatever reason, we couldn’t seem to meet in the middle.

Ultimately, we parted ways because we both needed something the other couldn’t or wouldn’t give. Maybe we could have made it work in a different time and space. But as it was, we couldn’t bridge that gap.

It’s been years since that relationship ended, and I’ve learned that there are different types of intimacy. And while some people can function without one or more of them, I know that I need all forms of intimacy in my life. Because without it, I feel like I’m missing a vital part of myself.

If you’re in a relationship that lacks intimacy, it’s essential to understand what that means for you and your partner. It’s also important to discuss what you both need and want from the relationship.

In my experience, a relationship void of intimacy is often unfulfilling and ultimately unsustainable.

Here are five ways that lack of intimacy can destroy an otherwise healthy relationship:

1. The absence of intimacy impedes understanding.

In the nearly two decades of my relationship, I rarely felt genuinely understood by my partner. Whenever I tried to share things with him, he would insist on finishing my sentences incorrectly. He was sure that he knew what I was going to say, but he was almost always wrong.

Because I never truly felt comfortable sharing the innermost parts of myself, he didn’t know me as well as he thought. This lack of understanding led to arguments and frustration on both sides.

2. Without intimacy, it’s easy to fall into the assumption trap.

Since we never really talked about our needs or expectations, my partner and I often made assumptions about what the other wanted. This led to a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

For example, my partner assumed I knew how crucial physical touch was to him. He didn’t realize I needed him to tell me what he needed explicitly. As a result, he often felt neglected and unimportant.

“True intimacy requires an authenticity that involves being honest in the moment. It’s not about sharing your past or problems, but feelings about yourself, what’s happening with you right now, or towards the person you’re with.” — Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

3. A lack of intimacy creates distance.

When you’re not sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs with your partner, it’s easy to feel like you’re living in separate worlds. This distance can lead to loneliness, even when you’re physically together.

Sometimes my partner and I would sit next to one another, but it felt like we were a million miles apart. We weren’t connecting on any level, which discouraged us from trying after a while.

“Healthy intimate relationships involve partners who are mutually responsive to each other’s needs. This means recognizing, understanding, and supporting each other, both in times of pain (e.g., losing a parent or a job) and gain (e.g., getting a promotion, announcing a pregnancy). When each partner feels like the other meets his or her needs, this culminates in feeling appreciated and loved.” — Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D.

4. Without intimacy, it isn’t easy to maintain trust.

Intimacy is the foundation of trust. When one or both people in a relationship feel uncomfortable being vulnerable, it isn’t easy to trust the other. This lack of trust can lead to jealousy, insecurity, and even resentment.

My partner and I struggled with trust because we never let each other in. As a result, he always second-guessed my motives, and I questioned his loyalty. In my heart of hearts, I knew he wasn’t sneaking and creeping behind my back, but I never felt like he “had my back” either.

“After a certain point within a healthy intimate relationship, each partner recognizes a close connection and changes his or her view from “me” to “we.” — Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D.

5. A relationship without intimacy is ultimately unfulfilling.

A relationship without intimacy is like a dish with all the right ingredients but no flavor. It’s missing that essential something that makes it truly satisfying.

My partner and I were great friends. We enjoyed each other’s company, laughed at the same things, and had a lot of common interests. The relationship was just shy of being genuinely fulfilling. But without intimacy, it felt like running a race and losing by a hair. And you know what they say, “almost doesn’t count.”

Having fun wasn’t enough. He needed a lot of physical affection to feel close to me. And I needed to feel emotionally connected to be physically affectionate. We were getting the bare minimum from the other, which wasn’t enough.

Our lack of intimacy robbed our relationship of its depth and authenticity because, without intimacy, we never had a shared purpose.

“Relationships don’t endure for many reasons. But key contributors to their demise involve issues of trust, communication, respect, priorities, and intimacy.” — Barbara Field, A Very Well Mind

Even the healthiest relationship can come to a screeching halt without real intimacy. If you’re not sharing your true self with your partner, it’s time to start opening up. Otherwise, you risk losing the connection that you so deeply crave.

Have you ever been in a relationship that lacked intimacy? What were some of the warning signs? Let us know in the comments below.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA
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