Eight Ways to Cultivate Intimacy with your Spouse or Partner
One of the most frequent problems that couples present is lack of connection and intimacy, especially when they have kids. In the beginning “in love” stage, powerful hormones are released in the brain that cause us to feel bonded and get that “high” of being in love. Brain imaging has proved that the “in love” state shows up in brain scans like being high on cocaine! Helen Fisher, the notable author of the Anatomy of Love, traces “in love” phenomena to biological necessity of mating and continuation of the human species. She claims that humans are hard wired to fall in love, attach and have sexual drive. The problem is that love, attachment and sexual attraction do not necessarily concur with the same person. We can be bonded or attached to our mate, in love with someone else and sexually attracted to many people.
Human relationships are complicated. So what to do when you notice your relationship slipping into distance and lack of sexual desire? What can you do to prevent deadness and boredom from sabotaging your relationship? How can you prevent child rearing responsibilities from destroying marital intimacy and passion? There can be deep interpersonal and intrapsychic reasons why an individual or couple becomes disengaged. The following suggestions are not a cure-all or a guaranteed inoculation for a troubled relationship.
However, these practices can help you stay connected and preserve romance and intimacy in your relationship, think of these suggestions in the same way you might consider the purpose of a healthy diet and exercise. If you want to cultivate an alive, close, intimate growthful relationship you need to be proactive.
1. Put a lock on your bedroom door you have school age children. Parents are sometimes defensive when I tell them that it is important that children know that there are times when mommy and daddy need private time. It is impossible to relax into an intentional space of sexual and emotional intimacy if parents are hyper vigilant about kids barging in.
2. Make intentional sex a priority. It’s necessary to plan when you are going to have sex. When you were dating your knew that when you saw each other you would have sex. Once you are in a long term relationship, especially if you have kids, you can’t leave romance and sex to chance. Make a plan. Do not let too much time pass between sexual encounters. Anticipate what you prefer to create a romantic atmosphere: adequate time, music, food, wine, props, clothing candles and lighting. This is your movie and you are the actors and directors.
3. Spend time together dating and doing activities together. Even a trip to the supermarket can be fun. You can plan a meal that you both want to cook together. Time alone in the car is an opportunity to talk and be curious about each other’s inner world and concerns. You might discover new music playing on the car radio or bring along your iPod. If getting a babysitter is an issue, explore trading babysitting with friends in a similar situation or put a once babysitter cost in your budget.
4. Learn how to be curious about your partner’s inner world. This is the dialog of intimacy as presented by Dr. Walter Bracklemann’s, originator of Inter-Analytic Couples Treatment. On a regular basis, set aside five or ten minutes and take turns, not at the same session, to talk and listen toe ach other. The person talking shares feelings about themselves, their inner world, what gets touched inside themselves when “you slam the door,” for example. Instead of an angry accusation, learn to say how it feels when “you slam the door.” “It hurts. I feel unimportant. Uncared for.” The listener’s job is to not to react but to be curious and ask questions or respond in ways that help the talker to express deep feelings about themselves or the relationship. Fears that I am not loved. Fears that I am not loveable. Shared vulnerability creates connection and closeness.
5. Find out the love language of your spouse. We all have specific ways that make us feel loved. Do they need to be told how good they look? A foot massage? A love note on the bathroom mirror or erotic text during the work day. A special food or meal. A birthday celebration or surprise gift. You can set the stage for a night of passionate love making though sensitivity and responsiveness to your partner’s love language. Think like a lover!
6. Don’t let routine paralyze your relationship. Are you lazy about finding new things to do or new restaurants? New hiking trails. Don’t rely exclusively on your spouse to stimulate your relationship and keep it fresh. Many couples get comfortable going to the same restaurants or movie theaters: Doing what is easy and fearful that something new will be disappointing. Decide to take more risks together and have new experiences. Go online and read about local happenings: music concerts, flea markets, outdoor events, art exhibits, street fairs. You get the picture. Your relationship needs stimulation and it is up to you to move out of routine if you want aliveness.
7. Take excellent care of your health and appearance. If you want to be an energetic, attractive, interesting partner, you must take care of your self. Take a personal inventory and consider those five or ten extra pounds you have been meaning to loose, or the new exercise class or hair and clothing make-over. You do not have to spend a lot of money to look your best. Consider local Y’s for working out, Thrift stores, the sales rack in the back of the store, a more youthful style that you previously avoided. If you feel you are looking your best, you will feel more sexually attractive and alive. This may motivate your spouse to do the same. Dress up for each other in and out of the bedroom. You did this when you were dating!
8. Establish regular bedtimes and routines if you have young children. It is necessary for you and your spouse to have alone time to connect emotionally on a daily basis. Many couples hide behind their children to avoid emotionally connecting. Fear of closeness is a common disease in most marriages. Fear of abandonment or of being swallowed up is present. If you are aware of this, you can avoid deadly distancing of each other by creating time for emotional connection.