Have you ever blown it the arena of intimacy in your marriage? I have. There have been times when I have been a knuckle-dragging, selfish, and ignorant Neanderthal. I am thankful for my wife, who has extended grace as we have spent most of our 46 years together in a learning mode. In this post, I am going to show you how to have more meaningful intimacy in your relationships.
If you are feeling brave, I encourage you to take some time and read this post. It is a compilation of things that I have learned over forty-six years of marriage and over fifty thousand hours of counseling experience. I can guarantee you that you can enhance your relationship with more meaningful intimacy.
One of the foundational principles of building and maintaining a healthy, resilient, relationship is to recognize the foundations of meaningful intimacy and communication. It is not about technique, positions, or power, but about getting to know someone genuinely.
Dwight Bain, a long-time friend, therapist, and life coach shared some great thoughts in a recent presentation which I would like to pass along. It sets a good starting point for this article. Dwight was addressing married couples, but the points he makes are crucial to developing any romantic relationship.
There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with a romanticpassion to wanting just to fire each other as a bully boss does to an exhausted employee.
It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person. It might be because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts.
Everybody talks about genuinely wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.
Genuine, meaningful intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate. It’s learning to connect with them in multiple ways like feeling close, accepted, and loved on the inside no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside.
To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need understanding regarding both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationships where romance is the primary goal; and a long-term view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside love to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to create long-term success in your marriage.
Building a meaningful relationship and/or being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.
One of the keys to building meaningful intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.
Two marriage researchers whom I have known over the years, Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have discovered 10 things you and I can do to be better at communication and increase your menaingful intimacy.
1. Give full attention to your partner when talking. My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but I am distracted. My suggestion, turn off the phone, IPad, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.
2. Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good. People tend to rise or fall on our expectations when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.
3. Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs. One way to do this is to the old therapist stand by, using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g., “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)
4. Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer. I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” You can never share too much encouragement. If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g., “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.) This is known as the sandwich method.
5. Listen to understand, not to judge. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.
6. Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.
7. Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution. There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.
8. Manage your conflict. (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in my next post.
9. Seek counseling. If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action. Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.
10. Hit the pause button, slow down, catch your breath. Sometimes a dinner date, a night away from the house, a weekend escape can go a long way in lowering the stressors in a marriage.
One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through solid communication. When men and women feel heard they usually are open to more intimacy.
What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is it is an act of familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love
I believe as a culture we have lost some of the essential components of intimacy by limiting it to just a physical response.
There has been some breakthrough research that shows which there are at least five different areas of meaningul intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, then ask your partner to do the same.
The first is Intellectual Intimacy. On this level, couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas, laughs, and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate in the exchange of thoughts and ideas jointly.
The second area of intimacy is Recreational Intimacy. This means there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoy together. It does not mean they do everything together.
The third area of intimacy is Social Intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that it is entirely okay for her to have her friends and me to have my friends as long as we share some “we” friends. Couple friendships can be an added bonus to a relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.
The fourth intimacy area is Spiritual intimacy. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still an essential component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also a crucial factor when and if children become a part of the family.
The fifth and final level of intimacy is physical intimacy. Sexual expression is part of our hard wiring and can be both exhilarating and refreshing for a couple, in the right context. In recent years the primary focus has been primarily on physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy into a series of positions and practices based more on applied physics than on building relationships.
Could it be that one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is that we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run. However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of meaningful intimacy, their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas, then sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being recognized by them.
So how can you have more meaningful intimacy in your life? Be mindful of the ten communication tips and the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are.
I’d love hearing your thoughts.