When you think of intimacy, what may immediately come to mind is physical attraction and contact. And 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 full meaning of intimacy. It is in fact the central feature of every committed relationship, encompassing a strong emotional, psychological, and spiritual connection, along with the physical — or at least it should be. For sure, intimacy is usually very strong at the beginning of any new relationship. We are deeply attracted, even 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 everyday living. Our individual lives and the life of our relationship become more routine and repetitive. There are so many things to tend to — careers, children, our individual needs, and so on. After a while, making time seems like a lot of work. You may even begin to take your partner for granted, expecting that whatever you have had together in the past will just continue, go on automatic pilot, and cruise along forever.
But 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 “glue” that made you stick together from the beginning. Although maintaining intimacy may be a lot more work 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 primary 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 a 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 creating and maintaining intimacy with another so much simpler.
There are other ways to strengthen intimacy. Some 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 special occasions celebrated in a special way.
Following are 5 ways to strengthen your connection that may take more thought, but once set into motion, they should help keep your relationship solid and strong, no matter what happens.
1. 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 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 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 it on your own may breathe new life into the existing situation.
2. Make couple time.
This time needs to be totally separate from your daily life, careers, and children. This is time carved out to reconnect, relax, enjoy each other, and do whatever you deem most important and/or interesting. It may take the form of a weekly or monthly date night, or going away for an intimate weekend. Or it may be as simple as making time at the end of the day to sit together, discussing anything from the day or any important topic moving forward in your lives, listening to music, or being physically intimate.
3. Have regular meaningful conversations.
Keep the lines of communication open. Stay up-to-date; people and situations are always changing, even subtly. Make time to discuss crucial issues that affect you both. Honor your partner’s personal feelings. Allow them to share the most intimate parts of themselves. Listen to their concerns and encourage them to express their fears, hopes, and dreams. And allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to your partner. Let them help you navigate your own personal issues and problems.
4. Talk about your relationship.
What makes your relationship work? What makes your connection hold? Tell your partner what you feel about them on a regular basis. Do things continue to feel good between you, or do you need to work on certain issues? The inability to communicate about certain key issues, or maintaining silence when something bothers you about your partner may contribute to resentment and anger and drive a wedge into your relationship. Clear the air frequently. Invite discussion about just the two of you. Remember that an ongoing intimate relationship is incredibly complex and needs constant maintenance to sustain it.
5. 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 rediscover yourself, while as a couple you discover life together in the fullest possible way.