How would you let your partner know what you need?
When you think about intimacy, what comes to mind? Sex? Cuddling? The ability to share your vulnerabilities with your partner? Intimacy means all these things and more. For some couples, one aspect of intimacy may be easier than others. It mostly depends on the dynamics of the relationship, the history and experiences of both partners, and how well the couple nurtures the relationship.
Over time intimacy can erode, especially if life stressors get in the way. Work pressures, financial distress, and trust-eroding interactions can cause a painful rift between partners, and intimacy is often the first thing to go. Couples can rebuild intimacy and get their needs met, even if an array of stressful circumstances have gotten in the way.
Ways to Connect that Start with You
It is easy to look at our partners and list all the ways in which they block intimacy and connection, but it is more important to identify those factors within ourselves, since those are the behaviors we can directly impact.
A few questions to consider while exploring your intimacy patterns include:
- How do I feel about my partner? Positive and negative emotions are likely to emerge. It’s important to acknowledge both, as they influence your ability to experience intimacy with them. Are there unresolved resentments that get in the way of your connection?
- What are some ways I can show my love for my partner through actions? Often couples benefit when love is demonstrated through actions such as physical gestures (back rub, holding hands, hugs, sexual connection), acts of service (preparing their favorite meal, changing the oil in their car, bringing them their coffee), and verbal expression (telling them what you appreciate about them, expressing emotions of love with words).
- How can I be more transparent and vulnerable in our relationship? Sometimes we can have blind spots when it comes to identifying our own defense mechanisms. For example, if talking about sadness and not wanting to cry is a barrier, one might keep those feelings inside and try to ignore them rather than talk about it and risk vulnerability. This may be a longstanding pattern that has become automatic, and it may not immediately come to mind as a barrier. If you are having a difficult time figuring out how you can be more vulnerable and transparent, ask your partner and closest friends and family what they notice about your ability in these areas. Ask for their honest feedback about what they have observed over the years. Their observations could offer a lot of useful information about ways you can let your guard down and become more of an open book with your partner. Letting your partner see you completely takes a lot of courage, but it will also provide a level of intimacy that cannot be accessed in any other way.
- What could I do to encourage my partner to be more transparent and vulnerable? As you are working on your own transparency, consider ways you can support your partner to do the same. Ask how you can support them to be fully themselves and transparent in the relationship. It may mean adjusting your tone of voice at certain times, or finding different ways to express yourself, or even simply asking how you can support them.
Maintaining and Nurturing Intimacy
Your connection with your partner is not a one-and-done scenario. Both of you need to nurture the relationship to maintain the connection. Steamy sex scenes on a regular basis are terrific, but that isn’t the only way to keep the intimacy alive.
It’s often the simple, everyday behaviors that keep couples connected. Remembering to show your love through action and verbal expression is vital. Even the simple gestures of smiling, making eye contact, and listening to what your partner is saying with your full attention; these are all acts of intimacy on a basic level. These are behaviors that will improve the friendship between you and your partner, and that can go a long way toward building intimacy on a deeper level.
We spend so much time with our partners, we often come to think of them as an extension of ourselves. Sadly, that can result in taking our partners for granted, assuming they know that you love them and assuming they know what you need and want.
A crucial aspect of building intimacy with your partner is to recognize their individuality outside of yourself, be explicit in your affection, expressive of your love and to improve your ability to be vulnerable and open with them. These efforts take time and attention and are effective only if both partners are involved.
Intimacy within relationships is fluid, and it can expand and contract, depending on the amount of effort and vulnerability a couple is able to commit.