Home » Online Therapy » Couples therapy » Lack of closeness in the relationship

At times, we don't feel a closeness with our partners, but if there is a distance that remains for a long time something might need addressing. Here we look at what to do if your relationship is lacking closeness.

Lack of closeness in a relationship

Lack of closeness in a relationship is a feeling many couples face from time to time. This feeling can arise for various reasons and can manifest itself both physically and emotionally, creating a sense of distance and isolation. Closeness, which is fundamental to a strong and satisfying relationship, involves more than just the physical aspect. It is also about feeling emotionally close and engaged. Lacking this feeling can lead to misunderstandings, loneliness and frustration, which can be stressful for the relationship.

What causes a lack of closeness?

Lack of closeness in a relationship can be due to things like communication problems or life events. Communication gaps, where partners may have difficulty sharing their feelings and needs, can create emotional distance. In addition, stressful lifestyles reduce opportunities for couples to spend valuable time together, which is important for maintaining a sense of closeness. Unresolved conflicts can create bitterness and frustration, impairing emotional connection.

Changes in the relationship due to life events such as career changes or parenthood can also lead to periods of reduced closeness. A decline in physical intimacy also has an impact. Personal challenges, such as mental illness or low self-esteem, can hinder a partner’s ability to feel and express closeness.

Trust issues, such as after an infidelity, create uncertainty and negatively affect the possibility of intimacy. While differences in attachment styles, where individuals have different needs and ways of expressing closeness, can lead to misunderstandings and a sense of distance. Actively addressing these challenges by improving communication, prioritising time together, resolving conflicts and seeking professional help when necessary are crucial steps towards rebuilding closeness and strengthening the relationship.

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What do to if you have problems with closeness in your relationship?

If you feel that closeness is missing in your relationship, there are several ways to reconnect with your partner:

  1. Open up communication about how you feel to allow for mutual expressions of needs and wants.
  2. Prioritise quality time by planning activities or moments together without distractions.
  3. Integrate more physical contact, such as hugs and kisses, to strengthen the physical and emotional connection.
  4. Explore new activities together to create shared experiences and reintroduce excitement.
  5. Show appreciation regularly to reinforce feelings of value and belonging.
  6. Resolve conflicts in a healthy way to reduce distance and promote openness.
  7. Consider couples therapy for professional guidance if you are struggling to rebuild closeness on your own.

Through these steps, you and your partner can work together to revive closeness and strengthen your relationship.

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What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is psychotherapy that helps couples resolve conflicts, improve communication and strengthen their relationship. It is suitable for couples in all relationship types and focuses on addressing issues that affect the health of the relationship. Together with a therapist, the couple works to understand the core issues, improve communication, manage disagreements and strengthen their relationship.

This involves exploring the history of the relationship, improving the expression of thoughts and feelings, addressing specific problems such as finances or parenting, and developing conflict management strategies. Couples therapy is valuable during crises such as infidelity or major change. The goal is to help the couple understand what is best for them, whether that means staying together or separating in a healthy way.

The therapist acts as a neutral, supportive and objective party who helps the couple navigate through their problems without taking sides or placing blame. Seeking couples therapy can be a powerful step towards revitalising a relationship and building a stronger, more fulfilling future together.

Treatment for relationship problems

Couples therapy begins with initial sessions for the therapist to get to know the couple and their challenges, followed by setting joint goals to improve the relationship, such as better communication or conflict management. The work phase focuses on developing communication skills, resolving conflicts, working through emotional issues and introducing positive behavioural changes, with active input from both partners. The process ends with an evaluation and a plan to maintain and improve the relationship further.

The therapist’s role is to guide and support the couple through this process, where the couple’s involvement is crucial for success. Couples therapy aims to provide insights and tools for a stronger and more satisfying relationship. There are several different approaches to couples therapy. Here are two evidence-based approaches that are commonly used:

1. Integrative behavioural couples therapy (IBCT)

IBCT aims to help couples accept the irreconcilable differences between them and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. The method combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies. It is an evidence-based approach, meaning that it has been shown to produce good results in research and is a further development of cognitive behavioural therapy for couples.

2.Eemotionally focused therapy (EFT)

EFT is a method that focuses on strengthening the emotional bond between partners by exploring the emotional responses that underly the couple’s interaction patterns. The therapy helps couples identify and express their underlying emotional needs and learn to meet each other’s needs in a more satisfying way. EFT is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to produce good results.

Each method has its own strengths and may be more or less appropriate depending on the couple’s specific situation and needs. Things such as the Gottman Method, other couples therapies, and literature can also be helpful in learning more about relationships. Many couples therapists use a combination of these methods to best address the couple’s unique challenges.

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12 common questions about lack of intimacy in a relationship

What is lack of intimacy in a relationship?

Closeness, which is fundamental to a strong and satisfying relationship, involves more than just the physical aspect; it is also about feeling emotionally close and engaged.

What causes a lack of closeness?

Lack of closeness in a relationship can be due to various factors such as communication problems to life events. Stress, conflict and reduced physical intimacy can be other factors. Infidelity and attachment style can also affect closeness in the relationship.

What can you do if you have problems with intimacy in your relationship?

There are many things you can do such as communicating more openly, doing new activities together and appreciating your partner. You can also increase your time together, work on physical intimacy and managing conflict better. Couples therapy can also be helpful.

Does decreased closeness mean that a relationship is ending?

It is important to remember that closeness can vary over time in a relationship, and a period of reduced closeness does not mean the end of the relationship. There can be a lot of love despite the lack of closeness and this can be addressed.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples understand and resolve conflicts, improve their relationship and communication, and strengthen the closeness of the relationship.

How does treatment for relationship problems work?

Treatment often starts with an assessment phase to identify problems and patterns. This is followed by an active treatment phase where work on tools and strategies to change patterns is central. Finally, there is a closing phase where the treatment is summarised for further work after the therapy.

What is IBCT?

IBCT (Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that aims to help couples accept their differences and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. It combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies.

What is EFT?

EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on building and strengthening the emotional bond between couples by exploring and reshaping the negative patterns of interaction that contribute to conflict and distance in the relationship.

Can we do couples therapy online?

Lavendla’s therapists are available for online sessions done via video conference. This provides you with more flexibility and accessibility.

My partner and I want different things in the relationship, what should we do?

If you want different things in a relationship, you can express your needs and try to listen to each other with empathy. You can try to compromise, but if this is difficult, you can also go to couples therapy to get more clarity and support to solve the problems.

My partner has mental health problems, can we go to couples therapy?

If you have problems with depression or other mental health issues such as addiction, it is important to seek help for this separately from couples therapy. These problems often need to be addressed before couples therapy to get a good result.

Where can I seek help?

Contact your GP for a referral to a therapist. You can also book an online session with one of Lavendla’s experienced therapists. We help make the difficult easier.

Treatment for relationship problems with Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT)

Integrative behavioural couples therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based form of couples therapy that aims to help couples improve their relationship by accepting each other and increasing the couple’s emotional closeness. IBCT combines traditional behavioural therapy techniques with a focus on both change and acceptance. Here is how a treatment with IBCT usually works:

Initial phase

  • Assessment: Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship, including their current problems, relationship history, and each party’s perspectives and experiences.
  • Feedback session: The therapist provides feedback based on the initial assessment. This phase often includes discussions about the couple’s strengths as well as areas that need development.

Work phase

  • Focus on acceptance: IBCT emphasises the importance of accepting unbridgeable differences between partners. The therapist works with the couple to help them understand and empathically accept each other’s needs, desires, and patterns of behaviour that cannot be easily changed.
  • Emotional closeness: By encouraging openness and communication, the therapist helps the couple increase their emotional closeness and understanding of each other.
  • Behavior change: Although the focus is on acceptance, IBCT also includes strategies for behaviour change. This may involve developing new communication skills, solving problems, and working on improving daily interactions.


  • Evaluation of progress: Together, the therapist and couple evaluate the progress made during therapy and discuss any future steps or continued support.

IBCT focuses on helping couples develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other, which can lead to a more satisfying and sustainable relationship. By balancing acceptance with active change interventions, IBCT aims to reduce conflict, increase closeness and strengthen the emotional bond between partners.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.