Intimacy is an important aspect of every relationship. But often we confuse sex with intimacy and forget how crucial it is to connect outside of the bedroom.
According to Psychology Today, "Intimacy is the sense of another person fully knowing you, and loving you because of who you are—as well as in spite of it."
Intimacy is a closeness with our partner. A sort of unstated understanding that you're connected, working together, and on the same team. A recent survey of married people suggested that intimacy is the most important aspect of a successful relationship.
Here are 5 non-sexual ways to increase intimacy in your own relationship. Try each one and I think you'll be happy (and surprised) with the results.
This piece of advice came from Craig Groeschel's podcast series called The Vow. Even if you're not religious, I'd highly recommend all married and soon-to-be married couples listen to the four-part series. He touches on some major components of building a successful marriage and I found myself nodding "yes" the entire time while listening. If you think something nice, say it is a great rule for any relationship because it forces you to compliment your partner out loud (that's key) instead of robbing him/her of all the nice, little things you think about them throughout the day. It feels so good to be complimented! Even small compliments can make a difference, and kindness can go very far in any relationship. Allow your partner the satisfaction of knowing you are thinking positive things about them and force yourself to practice saying these things out loud. A few easy examples are: You look great in that hat... You bake the most delicious cookies... You're so cute every time you wear those pajamas... Your coffee is the key to my morning because it's the best... You did a great job on the yard... Your work ethic is really attractive... I think you're so sexy when you laugh... Hello! It's so easy! Build a special connection with your partner and allow them to see YOU as their biggest fan.
When couples experience new places/things/events/adventures, a bonding chemical is released in the brain that creates a deeper connection. One of the ways to release that chemical is to try new (you fill in the blank) together. This can be as simple as tackling a new recipe, hiking a new trail, visiting a new place, or trying out a new hobby. The key is NEW + TOGETHER. Ideally you want the thing to be new for both people and something you experience for the first time as a couple. Traveling is a great way to make this happen because everything from the food, the culture, the people, and the surrounding environment is all new! So pack your bags and head out for a quick overnight trip to that little town you've been wanting to explore. If you don't have time (or the funds) to travel, stay close to home but make a deal to try out one new thing every weekend as a couple.
Ask questions and start a conversation with your partner. This seems like an easy task, but often gets overlooked during the constant routine of life. After you've lived with the same person for years, both partners get comfortable and genuine conversation stops. In fact, you may find yourselves saying the same things to each other everyday without even knowing it. Did you fill the coffee pot up? How was your day? What time are you waking up tomorrow? What do you want to do tonight? Do we have any plans this weekend? If this sounds familiar to you, then you are stuck in a conversation rut. To build intimacy we must continue learning about our partners and the best way to do that is by asking questions and striking up a conversation. Here are some helpful conversation starters to get things going: Tell me one highlight and one low light of your day... If we could do anything, what would be your perfect date night?... Is there a trip or travel destination you would like to start saving for?... Is there something I can do on a daily basis to be a better partner for you?... What is one thing I don't know about you?... Have you had any interesting dreams lately?... What is something new we can try together this weekend? Ready, set, talk.
Now it's time for the reverse - if you want to start conversations, then YOU have to be willing to open up, share your thoughts, and be vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown talks a lot about vulnerability being essential to own our personal well-being but also to relationships. Sure it's scary, but being vulnerable is the pathway to freedom and true connection with your partner. You have to trust your partner to love you in spite of who you are (the good and the bad) and show up to the relationship (and your life) everyday regardless of the circumstances. It takes courage, and as Brene says, "Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart. Love hard. Be brave." If you want your partner to open up, share, and converse with you -- then you better be willing to do the same. You'll build trust and intimacy with each other and a connection that no one else can. All darn good things.
No, not in a sexual way (though that can be nice too). Touch each other in a tender, connected, human way. One of the fastest ways to build connection with another human being is through touch. Think about all the photos you see of new dad's laying with their babies on their bare chests. There is a scientific reason for this. Our brains release a chemical called oxytocin when we are touched. This is one of the reasons oxytocin is sometimes called the "love chemical" - especially early on in a relationship when couples are doing a lot of touching: holding hands, hugging, cuddling on the couch, walking side by side... you get the idea. Now fast-forward to a long term relationship. Are you still touching one another? If not, adding regular touch is an easy and effective way to build greater bonds of intimacy. Hold hands while you're on the couch watching a show, touch his back when you're together in the kitchen, snuggle up for a few minutes before getting out of bed. All these easy touches release oxytocin and bond you together.
Live. Laugh. Lube.
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