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Ten Warning Signs of Dying Intimacy

Personal Perspective: Prevent the loss of intimacy by recognizing these signs.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Relationship intimacy is the haven of emotional security that committed partners share only with each other. It is a sacred space that both cherish and protect.

When people are newly in love, they create that safe harbor together, readily sacrificing whatever they can to ensure it remains intact.

Sadly, the joy of that promise cannot always survive life’s complicated and often unexpected challenges. As relationships mature and face unexpected challenges, they sometimes lack the resources to nurture the partners within, threatening the intimacy that kept them bound to one another.

To prevent that potential loss, relationship partners must be able to recognize the signs of diminishing intimacy as early as they can. Heeded early, most once-in-love partners can regain that special connection they once had. But, if they ignore those warnings, it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to regain the closeness and safety they once took for granted.

10 Signs of Dying Intimacy

1. Personal Distance

When you’re in the same room, do you take the opportunity to be as near to one another as possible? People who flourish in each other’s company find comfort in physical proximity. They focus on each other when sharing experiences and reach out for physical touch to enhance those connections.

Did you ensure you were physically close whenever possible when your love was new? How is it now?

2. Greetings

Early in intimate relationships, intimate partners are eager to see each other after they’ve been apart. Even if one is busy and the connection is unexpected, they stop what they’re doing to acknowledge and welcome the other’s presence, usually with physical affection.

Do you remember being eager to connect that way when your love was new? How is it now? A “hi” from the other room is not the same as face-to-face enthusiasm.

3. Bids for Attention

One of the most obvious signs of healthy intimacy is how each partner responds to the other’s desire for recognition. Whether it’s just a comment, a facial expression, or a physical openness, those welcome behaviors say, “I’m here. What do you need?” When those bids for connection are ignored, intimacy is in danger.

When your love was new, did your partner stop whatever they were doing, eager to connect? How is it now? Do you have to push to get a response?

4. Touch

Some people thrive on physical touch, while others don’t need as much or as often. But intimacy cannot survive without affection, especially when either partner needs the comfort that touch provides.

When touch diminishes, so does a mutually satisfying sexual connection.

When your love was new, did you regularly reach out to touch each other in a nurturing and engaging way? How is it now?

5. Priority

Though being the most important person to one’s partner is a lovely desire, it cannot always be the case. Life’s commitments often require that work, family, education, financial stressors, unexpected illness, and even spiritual regeneration may sometimes take precedence. But, when either partner is in need, being the number-one priority must be honored.

When your love was new, could you count on your partner to put everything aside when you needed them to be there for you? But now, don’t feel you can ask for that unless it is an urgent crisis.

6. Patience

People are easily patient with one another when they are first in love. They forgive readily and make room for the other to flourish, even if it does not always meet expectations in a timely way. Intimacy will rapidly lessen when patience becomes impatience, followed by criticism and invalidations.

When your love was new, were you more willing to forgive your partner when they did something that upset you, but now find yourself increasingly irritated when that happens?

7. Tracking

The desire and interest to know what an intimate partner goes through when away from the relationship is a hallmark of care. Partners who remember commitments and experiences important to each other remember what those are and keep track of them.

When your love was new, did you and your partner want to know about whatever you were doing when you were not together, but now you often don’t pay attention or remember?

8. Negative Comments

Romantic partners encourage and support each other. They make positive statements that make others feel good about themselves. Even though there are some times that challenges are legitimate or tempers rise, they don’t fill the screen nor overwhelm those of genuine appreciation.

When your love was new, did you feel encouragement and support from your partner even when you thought you were not doing well? How is it now? Can you still count on them to be there for you when you are down or feel more irritating than forgivable?

9. Avoidance

The opposite of availability to bids for attention is avoidance. Once both partners made their partner’s needs central and high in priority, excuses and procrastination replaced that haven of availability that was once guaranteed.

Withholding, preoccupation, irritability as a response to a request, emotional distance, and neglect of sacred traditions are all potent warning signs that intimacy is in danger.

Can you still count on each other to be there when needed?

10. Consistent interest in experiences away from the partner

Even when romance is new, couples do not always want to do the same things at all times with each other. But they prioritize things they can share and prioritize those times every day. Intimacy fails when either partner begins not only to spend more time away from the other but is more energized and fulfilled when that happens.

When your love was new, did you feel your partner was eager to share life’s experiences with you but now finding more joy and fulfillment away from you?

Are your pleas for more shared experiences going unheard?

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