There are times especially early in a relationship when intimacy is effortless. But as time passes and life challenges arise, intimacy as a couple can be just as precious but require more deliberate effort. The good news is that it’s worth it: making the effort to take a step back and invest energy into your relationship can remind you what brought you together and help you discover new things to appreciate about each other.
Here are some strategies and tips to help you consciously take a step back from conflict and practising appreciation and affection.
Practice Compassionate Listening
Even if you feel attacked of don’t understand your partner’s actions or words, imagine that they are feeling scared or hurt at the moment when there are problems. Try getting into their shows or skin and imagine or try to understand how they hare seeing or feeling in this situation. Be sure that you understand and that your partner feels understood before your respond.
Give Credit for the Good Stuff
It’s all too easy to focus on the problems in relationships. Did your partner talk to you about something he or she would usually have avoided? Give them credit for that even if you are upset about what they said. Did you two talk out something that you usually would have gotten stuck on? Mention it and acknowledge it to each other.
Is It Time for a Relationship Check-up?
Most adults engage in long-term relationships, including marriage and other committed partnerships. Nearly everyone experiences difficulties in their marriage from time to time, but some people seem more prepared to anticipate these hard times and respond to them more skillfully than others. The skills that make a marriage last can be learned!
- Conflict management
Intimacy is personal for every relationship. Find out what helps each of you feel or sustain closeness and affection in your relationship.
Practice Intimacy Basics
Here are some basic practices that couples use to successfully create, enhance or sustain intimacy. You may feel silly or unnatural suggesting or starting out making a deliberate effort in these areas, but in time “date night” (or morning, or afternoon, or weekend) can become a fun and positive part of your life together.
- Spend Time Together Most people who feel close to one another spend a certain amount of time alone with one another. However, with the demands of children and work, some couples find that they leave their time together as the last thing on their agenda. It might be important to put some special effort in to scheduling or carving out some time regularly to spend with one another without distractions.
- Be Vulnerable Telling each other things that are risky to say, because you might be hurt or criticized by the other person, is a way to create or restore intimacy. Couples often share their hopes, dreams and vulnerable feelings early on during courtship, but less so as time goes on. Many a midlife crisis is brought on by one partner feeling that he or she can no longer share deep, vulnerable feelings with their partner. Take a chance with your partner by sharing something a bit risky. It could open the door to intimacy.
- Get Physical Most couples who report intimacy find that they touch each other in little ways when they are together: holding hands, sitting close, giving hugs when greeting or parting, touching the other person’s elbow or shoulder when talking, and so on. In more private settings, there is more sexual touching. Has the touch or physical contact gone out of your relationship? Can you begin to reinstate it with simple gestures, like giving each other back-rubs or holding hands while watching television? That might go a long way toward restoring or sustaining feelings of closeness.
- Drop Judgements: Communicate Compassion and Admiration One of the barriers to intimacy is feeling that one’s partner doesn’t like or respect you or that you are being judged. Try dropping your critical feelings about your partner and develop some compassion or understanding, or accept quirks or non-destructive habits. Does he love baseball? Instead of belittling his passion, try supporting him in his interest. Does she cry at movies? Don’t scoff and tell her she is being too sentimental, but give her the message that she is okay and you admire her for crying when she sees sad things.
To get help addressing issues in a relationship that interfere with intimacy, seek help from a couples therapist who understands the psychology and dynamics of successful relationships, contact us at the Montreal Therapy Centre for online or in-person couples counselling, family therapy or individual psychotherapy.