When you think of intimacy what may immediately come to mind is physical attraction and contact. And indeed, that is a huge component of what it means to be intimate. But as important as physical intimacy is, there is so much more to the meaning of intimacy. In fact, it is the central feature of every committed relationship, encompassing a strong emotional, psychological, and spiritual connection along with the physical—or at least should be. For sure, intimacy is usually very strong at the beginning of any new relationship. We are deeply attracted, intoxicated with the other person. Intimacy of this kind is the height of romance and fantasy. We think of our beloved day and night and can’t seem to get enough of them. We are interested in everything they do and say and can’t seem to do enough for them.
So what happens over time? Our lives are incredibly complex. Inevitably, most of us get caught up in the business of every day living. Our individual lives and the life of our relationship becomes more routine and repetitive. There are so many things to tend to—our careers, our children, pursuing our individual needs, and so on. After a while, making time seems like a lot of work. We may even begin to take our partner for granted expecting that whatever you have had in the past together will just continue, go on automatic pilot and cruise there forever.
But alas, as with anything worth keeping and cultivating, if you don’t use it you may lose it. If you don’t practice what it takes to keep the intimacy of your relationship strong and in the moment, you may risk losing that special bond, the original connection, the “glue” that made you stick together from the beginning. Although maintaining intimacy may be a lot more work (making the time and taking the effort to stay present for each other as time goes on) it’s an essential piece to every relationship and should be considered an absolute necessity, even while life feels so full already, and we often feel tired and depleted from all of life’s commitments and demands.
As I often feel compelled to say, everything we do begins with YOU. This is especially true when it comes to being who you are in relationship. Being who you are is your biggest intimacy. When you bring yourself to and into a relationship it is in your best interest to know yourself as fully as you can, who you are at your core, so that the work of relationship is not complicated and confused by just beginning to figure out what you know and need while you’re in the middle of it. In other words, become crystal clear about who you are, what you believe, and what you’re looking for in life. This will make the issue of creating and maintaining intimacy with another so much simpler.
There are many ways to strengthen your intimacy and some may resonate with you more than others. There are simple things you can do to keep in touch with each other such as going to bed together, not just for sex, but to share the warmth of each other’s company at the end of every day. There are daily gestures that might include checking in with each other just to see how the day is going. There are the notes and letters you can write to express your feelings, share your thoughts, and acknowledge appreciation. There are the special occasions that are celebrated in a special way.
Beyond these, here are 5 ways to strengthen your connection and the intimacy of your relationship that may take more thought, planning, and implementation, but once set into motion may help to establish built-in mechanisms to anticipate whatever issues and changes may come your way and to keep the relationship solid and strong no matter what happens.
Shake it up. Over time, it’s inevitable that life falls into a pattern of routine and “same old, same old.” It’s easy to personally fall into behaviors that are reliable, steady, and boring as well. So it’s important to change it up from time to time to alter our thinking, provide a new perspective, and create interest and excitement. It may be a now and then occurrence such as going on vacation, or maybe taking a course or workshop together. It may be cooking some meals with each other, or reading a book and discussing it. Change is the natural way of life and initiating change on your own may breath new life into the existing situation.
Make couple time. This is time just for the two of you. It needs to be totally separate from your daily life, careers, and children. This is special time carved out to re-connect, relax, enjoy each other, and do whatever the couple deems most important and/or interesting to them. This may be a date night every week/month, going away for an intimate weekend, or vacation. Or may be as simple as, making time at the end of the day to sit together, discuss anything from the day or any important topic moving forward in your lives, listening to music, or being physically intimate.
Have regular meaningful conversations. Keep the lines of communication open always. Stay up-to-date; people and situations are always changing, even subtly. Make time to discuss crucial issues that effect both partners. Honor your partner’s personal feelings. Allow them to share the most intimate parts of themselves. Listen to your partner’s concerns and encourage them to express their fears, hopes, and dreams. Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to your partner. Allow your partner to help you navigate through your personal issues and problems.
Talk about your relationship. What makes your relationship work? What makes your connection stick? Tell your partner what you feel about them on a regular basis. Do things continue to feel good between you or do you as partners need to work on certain issues? The inability to communicate about certain key issues between you and/or maintaining silence when something bothers you about your partner may contribute to eventual resentment and anger, and drive a wedge in your intimacy. Clear the air frequently. Invite discussion just about the two of you. Remember, as with any important endeavor, an ongoing intimate relationship is incredibly complex and needs constant maintenance to sustain it.
Discover something new. View life as an adventure. You may not be able to do everything you personally want to do, especially once you enter into an intimate relationship. But certainly, you should be able to continue to explore yourself and your own personal horizons within the context of an open, honest, and loving relationship. True intimacy allows you to continually discover yourself while allowing the relationship to discover life together in the fullest possible way.
The immense reward of true intimacy is worth every bit of the necessary work and care it takes to create and keep it.