Relationship therapists and researchers like Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, coauthors of Fighting for Your Marriage, recommend that couples work on rebuilding intimacy by expressing affection and spending quality time together. I also recommend nurturing your relationship every single day.
You know a marriage is in trouble when one partner is rebuffed whenever they attempt closeness—and I’m talking about affection, not sex. If you are afraid to give your partner a hug and a little kiss for fear of being pushed away or having them turn their cheek, then, yes, you have a problem.
You can restore intimacy, but you both have to want to do it, and to come to that conclusion, you need to talk about what’s going on, which can be hard for many couples. That’s where therapy comes in. You don’t need to commit to a year or even a month. There is nothing wrong with calling a therapist and saying “We want one session, just to help us communicate our current feelings.” Then see how it goes. Take what you learn, and then go home and see if you can communicate on your own and reclaim some closeness. If it doesn’t go well, and you liked the therapist, I recommend you go back a time or two more.
Intimacy, both physical and emotional, is an essential component of a healthy marriage. According to a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, lack of intimacy is a top reason couples divorce. Unfortunately, if you just wait for the mood to come over you (or your partner), it could be a long wait. Then again, smoothing things out doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be a little embarrassing at first, but once you find what connects you, the rest may come naturally.
After you have been really nice to each other for a little while, if you want more intimacy, you can set the scene to create a romantic atmosphere. Take a bubble bath together, light a candle—or many, pop open some Champagne, and have fun. You may have forgotten how, and find yourself in the rediscovery phase. All you have to do is acknowledge it to each other and be kind and playful.
My wife and I never seem to be able to pass each other without touching. We cuddle close at night and hold hands when we are out. We say the “three little words” daily and remind ourselves how lucky we are that we both found a nice person to hang out with for the rest of our lives. And did I mention the deep, warm, 60-second hugs? You can have them, too, if you give it a try.
To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, coauthors of Fighting for Your Marriage: Positive Steps for Preventing Divorce and Preserving a Lasting Love
National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago