Want More, Meaningful Intimacy?

Resilient Middle aged couple
Resilient Middle aged couple
Depositphotos.com

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.

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

One of the foundational principles of building and maintaining a healthy, resilient, relationship is to recognize the foundations of 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

5 Valentine Shopping Tips for Men

from Depositphotos

Keeping things lite, fun, and romantic can strengthen your relationship.

February is here, and we all know Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

John Thurman

Men, please get your shopping done before Feb. 14. If you wait too late, the roses will be wilted, and the selection of cards and chocolates will be pretty much picked over. It seems simple enough, but how many times have we men suffered from procrastination a condition related to waiting until the last minute to shop for your wife or girlfriend. Good news: There is a cure – buy early!

I got a chuckle out of this story.

Nuts About Love
 
“Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables, and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. ‘Why the new sign?’ I asked. ‘My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,’ she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: Local Honey Dates Nuts.”

Contributed by Theodore Bologna

Here are five guy tips that will help you in your Valentine gift selection:


1. If you buy chocolate, make sure you don’t get it at the grocery store or the pharmacy. Buying high-quality chocolate shows her how special she really is. You need to know if she likes milk chocolate, dark chocolate, soft centers, assorted nuts or just plain chocolate.

2. I spent part of my young life helping my mom out at her florist shop. It was always interesting to see stressed-out men coming into the shop on the 13th or 14th of February hoping Mom could work a miracle. She usually did.

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to pick up flowers at a florist shop or grocery store. If you want to earn extra points, spend a few extra dollars and have them delivered to her work site or home. Women have this fantastic quality: While the other women at her workplace will ooh and ah over the flowers you sent your spouse, they will walk away with envy, wishing their man had done the same.

3. When looking for a card, try to avoid the “ I know I don’t say it enough, but I really do love your card.” I promise she will not be impressed. Instead, you might ask one of the women at the store to help you pick the right card. Make your card purchase based on words she would like to hear. For an additional bonus, write a short hand-written note of love and appreciation.

4. Help your kids select a card or gift for their mom.

5. You do have permission to get your wife some cute, flattering pajamas. Just don’t buy anything too revealing, flashy or trashy. If you decide to get something on the naughtier side, just make sure she has pre-approved it. Remember the gift is for her.

In closing: Being thoughtful on Feb. 14 does not let you off the hook for the rest of the year. Your wife and or girlfriend desires to feel valued, cherished and secure 365 days a year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Ways to Have a Happy Wife

(c) 2018 John Thurman

Want to have a happier wife? One of the keys to having a resilient, long-lasting marriage is to do what you can to make sure your wife feels good about your the relationship.

As a man, I had no idea how ignorant I was when I first got married!  Mom and dad were great examples, but about three weeks after Angie and I were married I felt like a complete idiot. While we have experienced all the seasons of life together, some with grace and others as a “hot mess” we have never quit. We have been in and out of counseling, read scores of books and attended more than a few seminars and retreats. And while both sets of our parents faced both great and tragic times, they hung in there.

I believe that as you read this article, you will be able to discover some nuggets of truth that will help you develop a more resilient marriage.

Here is a secret about most wedding days.

When the day arrives, there you are standing in front of a crowd of family, friends, and a minister. Then that magic moment occurs, your bride, the lover of your life appears at the back of the church or venue. At that moment you are filled with a sense of awe and wonder as your bride approaches the altar, and before you know it, the ceremony is in full swing. You exchange vows, you kiss, you greet your guests at the reception and off on a new journey we go.

Well, that is true for the most part. While he will have a blast at the reception, he is looking forward to the festivities ending and getting naked.

I know, right now some of you are going “Eew!” But alas, it is true.

Women, on the other hand, see things in a completely different way. When she faces you on your wedding day, she sees the man of her dreams, her hero, the man she has given her heart to. Now, here is the difference. When she sees him standing there looking so sharp and handsome, somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind she is thinking, he is my man, my mate, but I’ve got my work cut out for me as I shape him into my image of what I think he should be.

Well not that I probably have offended you, let’s jump into how to have a happy wife.

6 Basic Needs of a Wife

Once again, I’d like to start with a section from Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s book For Men Only.

Our Surface Understanding             What it really means.

Women need love.

   Even if your relationship is great, she likely has fundamental insecurity about your love, and when that insecurity is triggered, she may respond in ways that confuse or dismay you until she feels reassured.

Women are emotional.

   Women deal with multiple thoughts and emotions from their past and present all the time, at the same time – and these can’t be easily dismissed.

Women want security-in other words, financial security.

   Your woman needs emotional security and closeness with you so much that she will endure financial insecurity to receive it.

She doesn’t want you to fix it; she just wants you to listen.

 When she is sharing an emotional problem, her feelings and her desire to be heard are much more important than the issue itself. 

She doesn’t want much sex; she must not want me.

   Physically, women tend to crave sex less often than men do – and it is usually not related to your desirability.

She wants to look attractive.

   Inside your smart, secure wife lives a little girl who profoundly needs to know that you find her beautiful and that you only have eyes for her.

I am so thankful for the work that the Feldhahn’s and others have done in helping men and women better understand each other.

I am also thankful for the loving patience that my wife Angie has extended to me in our journey. By the way, it is a journey that you do not complete until the end of your life.

So, with that in mind, what are ten ways that you can have a happy wife.

10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Wife’s Happiness

1 . Be as Attentive, Fun loving, and Adoring as You Were During Courtship or Close to It. 

I know you can have rough days. I spend my days with people who are in various states of crisis. I know it can be tough to be upbeat some days but do what you can. Studies of optimistic people show that they are less affected by adverse events and bring about brighter responses in other people.

2. Be More Affectionate

Before we talk about how to express affection to your wife, I want to review the job description of being a good husband.

  • Love, honor, and respect her.
  • Be sexually and emotionally faithful to her.
  • Listen without being judegemental

To your wife, affection means more than cuddling or holding her hands or having sex. She desires a sense of closeness from you because knowing you are close to her is paramount for her being able to stay in a relationship with you. 

For those of you that might need this simplified; if your wife does not feel connected to you, she will leave you at some level.

3. Support and Nurture Her Ambitions in and Outside the Home.

Roles are changing, and that is not a bad thing. More men than women work outside the home, but due to the economy, more and more women are either entering or re-entering the workplace or are starting home-based businesses. As your children grow and opportunities open up for your wife to pursue her pen dreams, will you be there to support her?

4. To Make an Effort to Understand How She is Different Emotionally.

Guys, our job is not to change her to be more like a man, but to acknowledge and respect your differences.

5. To Be Honest at All Times and Always Do What You Say You, Will, Do.

 To be clear. When I talk about honesty, I mean there is no room for lies about infidelity, addiction problems, or other vital matters that reflect on who you are (such as belief systems or underlying medical issues). You need to be accountable for what’s important the core issues, the crucial stuff, your promises.

6. To Share in Child Care and Domestic Work. 

 If you want to mess this up just come home from the office and tell her, you have already worked enough. Instead, catch your breath and help out a little, without any drama. Trust me, this will get you some points.

No matter where you have been in your marriage, you can show up for work today. You can begin, right now to protect your career as a husband by treating this day as if it were your first day on a new job called marriage.

7. Help her feel special.

Show your wife the same traits that make you valuable as an employee: focus, discipline, reliability, devotion, loyalty, stability, intelligence, and flexibility.

Be determined to get better at this job of being a husband.

8. Maintain your appearance! This may sound a bit juvenile, but guys, watch your hygiene, shower regularly, remember your favorite “hang around the house” clothes do need washing. Every now and then Angie reminds me that my closet space is beginning to smell like a locker. Just remember, this does not take much effort.

9. Plan some “us time” getaways. This does not mean inviting her to your elk hunt or boy’s weekend. It could be a weekend at a Bed and Breakfast, or maybe a day trip to a nice place. You could see where the cheapest “Southwest Airline Getaway” airfares are and go there. Being able to just get away from the day to day grind, and even the kids can go a long way in refusing both you and your wife.

   10.  Learn ways to maintain romance and specialness in your relationship. Spontaneous flowers and quality chocolates never hurt, post-it notes, and cards have never hurt. Do what you can to make her feel special.

You might want to check out my post – How to Have a Happy Husband

Action Plan

To use a baseball metaphor; No Major League hitter bats 1000, but if they are hitting 325, they are being well compensated. to be clear, we are not talking perfection, but intentional progess.

Forget Hollywood and Hallmark Channel stereotypes and don’t try to be a hero in some romance novel. Instead, apply some of your natural strengths to your job as a married man and see immediate improvement.

  • Focus on the benefits of marriage, not the day to day frustrations
  • Show your wife the same traits that make you valuable as an employee: focus, discipline, reliability, devotion, loyalty, stability, intelligence, and flexibility.
  • Be determined to get better at this job of being a husband.
  • Learn from your mistakes and don’t get your eyes stuck in the rearview mirror of regrets.
  • Commit yourself to the mission and responsibilities of your marital job description and reassess your progress as you go along.
  • For those of you who are Christ followers, “Love your wife as Christ loves the Church.”

Thanks to Scott Haltzman, M.D., and his excellent ideas from The Secrets of Happily Married Men. This article is adapted from that resource. Another couple of resources I like is For Men Only and For Women Only by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love: 4 Ways to Cultivate Romance

Sex Begins in the Kitchen is a fun and informative book that my friend Dr. Kevin Leman wrote several years ago. His second book on marital intimacy is called Sheet Music. Both of which are still in print. I encourage couples to add these books to their reading list. Kevin has an uncanny ability to communicate in a clear and fun way about crucial things. Years ago he and I shared the microphone on national radio show called Parent Talk. It seemed that whenever he and I were on the show the topic of sexuality came up.

I mention that because physical intimacy consistently stays in the “Top 5,” concerns of marital conflict.

As you and I continue to move through Shades of Love, I want to give you some tips that will improve physical intimacy. “Quantity” is the most frequent complaint that counselors hear. Unfortunately, couples often define their physical relationship in terms of “the count.” How often do we have it? How many times did one or the other reach orgasm? How much foreplay was there? How long did it last?”

It’s sad that we haven taken the beauty of lovemaking and reduced it to numbers. Some couples make it worse by attempting to negotiate the numbers, comparing their numbers with the “average couple,” whatever that is, or agreeing to trade physical intimacy for help with cleaning the dishes.

Here are some proven tips to improve your intimacy:

1.    Add some variety to your lovemaking. Some of us are too restrictive. Change the locations, times of day, or the lighting. Try some candles, new perfumes, or aftershaves. Put on some different music.

2.    Vary your routine. I did a Google™ search on, “how many ways you can cook a potato”, and the search came up with thirteen different ways. Amazing! If you can cook a potato that many different ways, you can be equally creative in finding ways  to share physical intimacy with your partner. A nice full body massage is nice. And don’t forget the shower.

3.    Communicate more openly. Don’t let intimacy become a guessing game. Two physically different individuals with unique personalities, life histories, backgrounds, preferences, and hangs ups must learn to talk openly about intimacy. Be careful about making assumptions. It is fine to have these conversations because communication will directly impact physical intimacy.

4.    Increase the desire for physical intimacy. One of the easiest ways to enhance your passion towards your partner is to let your mind wander over pleasurable thoughts about them throughout the day.

Three tips for guys:

•Sex must become something you give to your wife and not something you take.

•You will improve your physical intimacy dramatically if you learn to give first to   your wife emotionally.

•Increase your nonsexual touching. This means hugs, holding hands.

Have fun and be safe as you discover new ways to Cultivate Romance.

Want to read a great article about Marriage from a GenXer? follow this link to Relevant Magazine

You can also listen to a 29 min and 55 sec talk I did on Marriage here is the link 
I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas about cultivating the romance. Feel free to post your comments.

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love – 5 Levels of Intimacy


Picture

(c) 2012 istockphotos.com
What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is that it is an act of a familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love.I believe as a culture we have lost some of the important 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 intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, and then ask you partner to do the same.

The first is intellectual intimacy. On this level couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate jointly in the exchange of thoughts and ideas.

The second area of intimacy is recreational intimacy. This means that there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoys together. It does not mean that they do everything together.

The third area of intimacy is social intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that its completely 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 a bonus to the relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.

Spiritual intimacy is the fourth level of growing deeper together as a couple. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still a crucial component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also an important 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 invigorating for a couple, in the right context. In recent years, a major 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 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 known by them.

So how can you have a better sex life? Be mindful of the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are.

I’d love to hear your opinion. What are some ways that you have increased intimacy in your relationship?

This list is adapted from my workshop: Get a Grip on Your Relationship, a half-day or whole day workshop for churches, ministr