Increasing Intimacy: Strengthening the Emotional Bond
Many people believe the term “intimacy” refers to engagement in sexual activity – This is inaccurate. Intimacy can best be understood as an emotional experience rather than merely a physical one. In romantic relationships, intimacy involves emotional engagement and attunement. There are many concrete ways to achieve this state of being and to strengthen this nurturing bond between two people.
Intimacy involves practicing self-disclosure with your partner by sharing your hopes and dreams, successes, fears, faults, and failures. It consists of experiencing each other’s inner-world without judgment or ridicule and allows each other to be vulnerable without fear of rejection. A look across the room; A love letter on the table; A romantic date; A shared meal; Cuddling on the couch; Holding hands whenever possible – All are forms of intimacy. This sounds like unattainable “fairytale love” right? Not true!
How can we increase our level of intimacy?
This is, perhaps, the most common question I’m asked in couples therapy. My response and measured approach first involves assessing the beginning stages or “ Honeymoon Phase” of my clients’ relationship. Oftentimes, I’d hear stories of anticipatory “butterflies” or how they’d intentionally make each other feel special or how keeping their “hands to themselves” was most-challenging. My affirming response: “Great, we’ve established your capacity for shared intimacy – Now the question: what’s holding you back, today?”
“How did we get here?”
Life happens! It’s not unusual to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the intimacy once deemed most-important. As adults, we immerse ourselves in careers, focus on raising children, become preoccupied with hobbies – or are just plain exhausted as we stumble home from our busy days. It’s easy to understand why increasing intimacy is not on the forefront of our minds and agendas. This is why; “relationships take work” is a common saying.
“We didn’t intend on this happening – it just happened.”
Intimacy loss can lead to distancing and frustration within relationships. Resentment can easily build as unresolved hurts fester beneath the surface. Fortunately, acknowledging that your companionship needs tending is the first-step toward even deeper relational growth. With counseling guidance, intense desire, and strong commitment it’s possible to get that “spark” back – and even build a bigger flame within your union.
Here are some helpful daily tips for re-kindling and maintaining intimacy:
Verbal communication: Validate your partner’s opinions and perspective; Ask him/her to express their needs to you; Go for walks and talk about your day (both the positive and challenging aspects); Compliment each other’s strengths on a regular basis; Most importantly, say “I love you” every single day.
Nonverbal communication: “Speak” with your actions: Look into each other’s eyes while engaging in conversation; Regularly agree to do activities that THEY love; Greet them when they get home from their day; Kiss for more than 6 seconds as much as possible – and, most importantly; Support them unconditionally.
Understanding the benefits of strengthening the emotional bond within your relationship is a key factor that motivates couples to work toward achieving this goal. Increased intimacy can lead to conflict reduction, positive communication, a shared desire to grow as a unit, and an overall better understanding of each other. If this sounds rewarding, get in the habit of reigniting the fire in your relationship by utilizing these tips. And please remember to lead by example and allow your partner the opportunity to follow.