When we do things regularly in our life, those things can become routine and sometimes we forget the importance behind them as they seem common to us. It’s when we bring importance to them, in the form of rituals, that they develop deeper meanings behind them and help us connect with the world and ourselves further. Intimacy rituals can bring meaning to routines within our relationships and helps us build positive connections.
What are Intimacy Rituals?
Intimacy rituals are acts we engage in help express our vulnerabilities, desires, and passions. They can be performed solo, or with a partner. Many couples may already have intimacy rituals around things such as how to enjoy a date night together, or how to express affection in public, but many don’t connect deeper with these and realise how important these things can be to the foundation of a relationship.
How can Intimacy Rituals help a relationship?
Our brains like patterns and connect things we do regularly with emotions. When we perform regular intimacy rituals with a partner, it maps out positive feelings about our relationship, which helps us feel safe and vulnerable with that person. When we can be vulnerable in a relationship it can help us be our authentic selves within the bedroom and lead to more sexual satisfaction. This network of positive patterns also helps us to release feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine when we perform these intimacy rituals with a partner, making us feel good about ourselves, our relationship, and helping reinforce bonding with our loved one.
At times in relationships it can feel as if our partners have ignored our bids for connection and intimacy rituals can help. These rituals help the relationships to have a script to follow. This can highlight when to return affection and how you or a partner best receive and acknowledges that affection.
Forming intimacy rituals can feel daunting sometimes because it can be hard to make them relatable. Following certain actions without meaning behind them doesn’t always feel very intimate, and that’s why when forming intimacy rituals. Here are some questions you can ask yourself or a partner when forming intimacy rituals.
“Why do you feel this is needed in our relationship?”
“What emotions do you think it will bring to intimacy?”
“How often do you think we should perform these intimacy rituals?”
“When should we avoid doing a particular intimacy ritual?”
“Does this intimacy ritual need safe words, and if so what safe words will we be using?”
“Which parts of the intimacy ritual feel flexible or negotiable to you?”
“Is there anything you need or feel we should do if the intimacy ritual doesn’t go to plan?”
When establishing intimacy rituals finding the reason why they are important to the relationship is key. This isn’t always apparent until after the intimacy rituals have been performed, so taking time to process what’s just happened is key and sexual aftercare can help you understand why the intimacy ritual was important to you and your partner. Sexual aftercare is when you take a moment to decompress after sexual acts and become grounded in the day-to-day world again.
Factors to consider when performing intimacy rituals are things like time of day, when it’s appropriate or not, as not all intimacy rituals can be performed when others are around. Setting a particular time of the day can be helpful for some to make sure they have free time to relax into the intimacy ritual.
If you both decide that the intimacy ritual didn’t do anything for your relationship, then there are other rituals you can form and experiment with. It’s fairly common to think that something will work for yourself and your partner and then it doesn’t, rather than dwell in disappointment take time to reflect on it and then move on. You can also return to it at a later date if you still feel it needs to be explored in a particular way.
Intimacy rituals don’t have to be erotic and can be day-to-day methods you use within your relationship to connect and bond with your partner. When you connect regularly with your partner in non-erotic ways it in turn can help make erotic experiences more enjoyable.
Sex and spontaneity: One thing that can get in the way of intimacy rituals is that we have been told by society to have an aversion towards routines when it comes to sex. It’s a myth that sex has to be spontaneous. Even when we look at the sex we’ve had in the past, we’ll often find that when it's broken down, it too followed patterns and rituals.
Different intimacy ritual needs: We all have different intimacy needs, and often the further into the relationship we are the more we realise that our needs can be different from our partners. This is completely normal, and often is referred to as the differentiation stage of a relationship which happens after the honeymoon phase. Discussing further about the emotions behind your intimacy needs can help your partner relate and empathise and help build understanding around the importance of particular intimacy rituals.
Lack of time: With life being so busy at times it can feel like we don’t have time for intimacy. However, setting aside even 15 minutes a few times a week can change a relationship and help make things more positive. Intimacy rituals don’t have to be anything complex and only need to take up a small amount of time. As they can help you be vulnerable with your partner you may find that you have more time than before, as you’re both able to relax and enjoy each other companies easier and find sex flows more smoothly than before.
What about intimacy rituals and sex toys?
When bringing sex toys into a relationship it can sometimes come with questions around when you should and shouldn’t use them together. Establishing what type of sex you and your partner want at the time can help you work out when you should add sex toys to the mix.
Some sex toys may need certain routines and rituals for you to perform to make them more enjoyable. Adding lubricant to sex toy play can be a form of intimacy ritual and turning it into a ritual can help take away any awkwardness around applying it to yourself or a partner. You could form ritualistic ways to apply it; such as whether or not you add it directly to intimate areas or if you add it to your fingertips and massage it into your partner's body a particular way each time.
Foreplay can be a great form of intimacy ritual and can help the body relax and get turned on. If using partner types of sex toys, such as butt plugs, making sure your body or partner's body is relaxed beforehand is key. Using massage candles to relax your partner before anal play can be an intimacy ritual that can help relax the muscles in the thighs, glutes, and lower back before venturing into anal play. Having a particular way to apply the lubricant can also be important as it will help keep your partner more relaxed when inserting anything anally.
With using any sex toy, agreeing on who is receiving the stimulation and who is in control of the sex toy can be an important part of your sex toy intimacy ritual. You may find that in certain positions if one holds the sex toy in place you’re both able to relax further into the moment each time just like clockwork.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Is the resident Je Joue Sexologist as well as a clinical sexologist who works as a therapist in private practice. She has trained extensively in the field of human sexuality qualifying in various areas of sexual health, sex, and relationship education, sex and relationship therapy and coaching. She has also trained with the Kinsey Institute for Human Sexuality and is a member of the ISSM and American Board of Sexology.