Relationship Crisis? Building Intimacy from the Fire of Conflict

When you and your significant other are arguing, intimacy is often the last thing on your mind. During conflict, we may choose some form of distancing, e.g.


  • Passive-aggressive interactions
  • Silent treatment
  • Not sleeping in the same bed


The variations are endless, but the feeling is the same. A relationship crisis rarely feels like the best time for building intimacy. In many cases, it’s not. However, the fire of conflict does not have to be all-consuming. In fact, focusing on intimacy can be the key towards recovering and reconnecting.

The Positive Impact of Building Intimacy

In some ways, intimacy is what makes your connection a romance. We all have deep relationships with friends and family members. We share life-changing moments with them. Time with our spouse, however, involves another layer. This doesn’t mean something purely sexual. Intimacy is a fluid process and it can steadily reinforce and re-invent our relationship. And it comes in many forms, e.g.


  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual
  • Experiential


In times of crisis, intimacy may be the strongest thread holding things in place because it requires:


  • Trust
  • Vulnerability
  • Honest with self and others
  • Flexibility
  • Respect


It’s not hard to see how those five components also play a crucial role in conflict resolution.

5 Ways to Start Building Intimacy from the Fire of Conflict

1. Communication is sexy

It’s also smart and wise and necessary. Communicate. Let your partner know what you need, want, and desire. Even if you think your communication is healthy, keep checking in. Improve your listening skills. Check your body language and tone of voice. Appreciate the power of physical gestures. And choose radical honesty.

2. Don’t force it

Conflict can shift a mood quickly. Unless both of you are feeling the vibe, you shouldn’t force the vibe. Whether it’s sexual contact or an affectionate touch, learn to read the room. Particularly in times of crisis, it can be quite damaging to impose your needs without checking in first.

3. Accept that “intimacy” is not a destination

Over time, you can get locked into a “routine.” Couples begin to see intimacy solely as sex. And see sex as if they were following a script. The dominant culture may downplay other forms of intimacy. Allowing ourselves to fall for that leads us to miss so many magical, tender, “small” moments. Any shared experience can be intimate. Embrace this reality and you open a door to endless adventures.

4. Don’t rely on porn

It may be tempting to seek what you’re told is “inspiration.” In reality, Internet pornography is fast becoming a public health crisis. If you’re already in conflict, the last thing you need is a medium eroticizing violence and degradation. Choose intimacy, not intimidation. Tune into your feelings and sensations and again: communicate!

5. Don’t use intimacy to continue the conflict

This concept plays off suggestion #2 above. It’s easy to turn intimate moments into extensions of a conflict. Building intimacy requires us to eschew such mind games and power dynamics. Intimacy is a time of trust and vulnerability. It’s where re-connection can happen in its purest form. Exploiting this time of openness is simply unacceptable.

Sometimes the Gap Cannot Be Bridged Alone

As you know, building intimacy can be challenging at any time. During rough patches, it often drops way down the list of partner priorities. But intimacy cannot be a part-time experience or a bargaining chip. This is why so many couples choose counseling. Working through conflicts and intimacy issues is easier with the help of an experienced counsellor/mediator. Both partners will be heard and validated. Patterns will be openly discussed. Strategies will be put into place. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual so don’t be hesitant to ask for help.


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