Good relationships don’t just happen. Just like your career, studies, exercise or a special project, relationships take time and effort to maintain and improve. There are choices you can make that will not only improve your relationship, but can turn a failing relationship into a successful one. As you improve the sense of connection in your relationship, trust and respect of each other will grow. Trust, acceptance and mutual respect are the foundation for being able to resolve the conflicts that inevitably arise in any relationship.
Emotional intimacy means having a sense of closeness to another person, a two-way knowing of each other. It means being able to share personal thoughts and feelings in the safety of knowing that you will not be ridiculed or judged harshly, but instead will be accepted for who you really are.
Below are some practical suggestions for putting love into action and creating intimacy.
Accept Personal Responsibility
It is extremely important that you take responsibility for your own needs and feelings. You need to refuse to blame your partner for how you feel and for not making you feel happy and secure. Perhaps you have learnt to judge yourself harshly, which is certain to make you feel unhappy and insecure. No matter what your partner does, he or she will not be able to overcome your inner negative self-talk. Blaming your partner for your own unhappiness is one of the main causes of relationship problems. Instead, as you take responsibility for dealing with any past rejection in your life and treating yourself with kindness, caring and acceptance, you are free to accept the love your partner expresses to you.
Prioritise Your Relationship
It is amazing how many couples seem genuinely surprised that the intimacy, fun and romance has disappeared from their relationship, even though they have been doing nothing or very little to maintain it. Just like a motor car, unless you refuel it occasionally you can’t expect it to keep running on empty. In the same way, a beautiful garden will soon deteriorate without water and fertiliser. Yet many couples expect their relationships to keep fresh and exciting without giving it attention, time or effort. Then, when things go wrong they blame the other person. Emotional distance is often expressed as problems with communication, disagreements about finances, parenting or sex.
If you constantly put your marriage as last priority, it can be no surprise if you grow distant from one another and begin to feel unloved and uncared for.
It is particularly easy to neglect your marriage if you have demanding careers or businesses and children’s needs to attend to. Yet, the best and most important gift you can give your children is a healthy marriage. When there is a healthy marriage, the family will function better and children will feel happier and more secure. Less stress in the family often means fewer medical problems. A good marriage provides a valuable model for children of what they need to learn to prepare them for their future marriage.
This means making your marriage a priority, not just in words, but in deeds. With so many demands and activities competing for your attention it won’t just happen. Time will have to be planned and scheduled to create the space to share intimate moments with your spouse.
One suggestion is to take your calendar or diary and make the following schedule:
• Schedule at least 20 minutes every day to have conversation with each other
• Schedule one night out together just for fun at least once every two weeks
• Schedule one two night weekend away together every three months
• Be creative so as it doesn’t become just another boring routine. Boredom is an enemy of long term relationships.
Listening and Communicating Openly and Honestly
The best way to get to really know each other is through verbal communication. Each person needs to be honest, especially regarding their thoughts and feelings about things that are happening and about their relationship. Pretending you think or feel a certain way just to please your spouse or because you fear their reaction is a barrier to building intimacy. In order to be vulnerable in this way you will need to feel safe.
This means that when you listen to your spouse you need to exercise good listening principles such as: no interrupting, no jumping to conclusions, not being defensive or withdrawing when you don’t like what you hear. It means that you try to listen for not only the thread of what they are saying but more importantly, you listen to how they are feeling about what they are saying. Then, before you respond with your perspective on the issue, you tell your husband or wife in summary form what you think they are saying and feeling about the issue.
When you refrain from judging, criticising or giving advice, it creates safety for each person to be more open about how they really think and feel. This provides the environment where each can feel valued and there is an opportunity for intimacy to grow.
Fun and Laughter
Balance is important in everyone’s life. A couple needs a balance between work and leisure and between fun and seriousness. Laughing and having fun together and experiencing happiness bonds you to the person who shares that experience with you. Having fun and playing together regularly provides the environment for emotional connection and intimacy to thrive.
Show Compassion and Understanding
Everyone longs to be treated kindly, compassionately, and with understanding and acceptance. When these are a regular characteristic of the interactions between you and your spouse, you will both feel loved. Your relationship will be stronger as trust and security with each other grows. There will be safety to reveal your inner self to each other because you know you will not be judged or rejected.
Remember to treat your spouse the way you would like them to treat you. Even if your partner is angry and unkind, remain true to yourself and focus on exhibiting loving behaviour rather than blame, judgment, withdrawal. However, being loving does not mean accepting abuse. You may need to seek help, such as relationship counselling, if your spouse is not able to treat you with respect and love. An important principle is that the only person you can change is yourself – you cannot change anyone else.
An Attitude of Gratitude
You can make a choice whether to notice the positive qualities of your relationship and what you do have or, to focus on the negative qualities and complain about what you don’t have. Grumbling, criticism and complaining creates a negative atmosphere in your relationship that is not pleasant to be around. We feel closer to people with whom we experience positive feelings, and we want to distance from those who create tension and stress. As you express gratitude, you will help create more intimacy and emotional health in your relationship with the added benefit of better physical health.
It has been proven that helping others is one of the best therapies. When a couple participates together in a helping project it gives them a common purpose, which is above and beyond themselves and their own problems. Together they experience the deep inner satisfaction of helping to improve someone else’s life and this creates intimacy for the couple.
Even if only one of you sets out to apply these principles, it will positively influence both your spouse and your relationship. A better relationship can start with you making the choice to change the way you relate. It is worth the effort. Being close to your spouse is one of the most precious things in life. If you need help with you relationship, call Gwen at Counselling Albury.