Emotional intimacy is so very important for our individual wellbeing as well as the health of our relationship. Stressors, change, schedules, physical distance, mental preoccupation, the ebb and flow of life … so many things can lead to our waking up one morning and feeling distant from our intimate other.
If we think of intimacy as a degree of special connection, we realize that even “good” things happening in our lives can lead to decreased intimacy. After all, often “good” changes or personal achievements also include deep investments in activities that don’t necessarily include our partners. Examples include a promotion at work or helping a friend through a tough time.
If you have the feeling that you and your partner could use an intimacy boost, here are six great ideas for revving up a connection that needs renewal or is just due for some TLC.
1. Make time to do something meaningful to both of you, together
Sure, date night is important. But if it’s a ritualistic event in which you go out and sit across from each other in a booth checking email on your phone or discussing the latest outrageous thing your 13-year-old tried to get away with at school, you’re not deepening your connection.
Connection-deepening activities are ones that get you focused on each other as people — and on your relationship. Take a scenic drive to get an ice cream, clean the tub together, or take a cooking class. Hashing out the usual stressors in a nicer setting like a restaurant isn’t any better than hashing out the stressors over the kitchen table, when it comes to building intimacy.
2. Be curious
Often, because we become invested in the rightness or correctness of our opinions, we stop being curious about why the other person feels the way they do about a given issues. Appreciating the why of where your intimate partner is coming from — without feeling threatened that their why might trump yours — is a powerful means of building empathy (without giving up your own opinion) and empathy is deeply intimate. Making the effort to understand another person doesn’t commit you to agreeing with them; it does however demonstrate a deep degree of caring even in the context of a disagreement.
3. Be available in a new or different way
To instantly inject intimacy into your relationship, make the decision to be available to your partner in a way you usually are not. Not because you should or because you “owe” it to them, but because you can. Surprise them by agreeing to take care of a chore you usually protest/avoid; offer to accompany them on something you usually take a pass on; or surprise them with something they care about … making a favorite meal or watching that movie they love and you can’t stand while you cuddle. Surprise generosity is a huge intimacy booster.
4. Make a “Nice” list
It’s easy to get focused on each other’s flaws, and there will always be plenty of them. Try sitting down individually or with your partner and creating gratitude or “Nice” lists, detailing as many things as possible that you appreciate and/or enjoy about your partner. Even if you do it on your own, it will help you refocus on points of connection that drew you to them initially and regardless of all the irritations we inevitably face in the course of intimate relationships.
5. Invest in yourself
Many wise thinkers have observed in a number of different ways that two strong individuals together make for a stronger relationship. Investing in yourself, your wellness, and your personal development are an important part of your health as a couple. When you are feeling your best and in touch with how you are thinking and feeling, you can participate more fully, mindfully, and meaningfully.
Spend some quality time with yourself. Have important conversations with friends and family, make sure you are being faithful to your priorities, and keep looking for ways to grow into who you are as an individual.
6. Be brave, not aggressive
Avoidance destroys intimacy. If you and your partner are mutually or individually avoiding a challenging topic that needs to be addressed, you are slowly eating away at your connection. Sometimes important topics have to be tabled for an appropriate time and place, but long-term avoidance is like wind and water on rock — the subtle changes may not be noticeable on a day-to-day basis but one day significant erosion will be evident. The vulnerability required to start a difficult conversation that needs to be had is a significant driver of intimacy. It communicates to your partner that you are more invested in the health of the relationship than avoiding personal discomfort.