7 Ways to Maintain Intimacy No Matter What’s Happening
There are so many things that can cause stress and drive a wedge between you and your partner. Whether it’s a schedule that makes it difficult to see each other, a new baby that leaves you sleep deprived, grieving the loss of a loved one, or any of a million other things, it only takes one and you might not even notice until the distance between you is huge.
There are a few things that we can do before anything happens to ensure that we keep our connection and intimacy with our significant other. These things are simple and easy, and can be done daily to ensure that we’re always aware and on top of how things are going in our relationship.
This might seem counterintuitive. If this is about maintaining intimacy and connection with your partner, how does prioritizing yourself help with that? It helps in a few ways.
First, you need to be familiar with your own needs and desires in order to communicate them to a partner. You can’t get familiar with those things if you don’t prioritize yourself and ask yourself what they are.
Second, you can’t give to someone else if you’re depleted and empty. You need to put yourself first so that you take care of yourself. That is how you find the strength and inner resources to be there for your partner, and that helps maintain intimacy.
Third, if you don’t prioritize yourself, you’re more likely to let boundaries get blurry and possibly allow your significant other to mistreat or abuse you. By prioritizing yourself, you can set boundaries and recognize when you’re not being treated the way you should be.
Learn each other’s love language
Knowing how someone best feels loved and cared for goes a long way. Acting on that knowledge goes even further.
Take the time to learn your partner’s love language. If you don’t know your own, take the time to learn it too. Spend a little more time talking about each other’s love languages with your significant other. Talk about how it makes you feel to be loved that way, and offer some examples of things you enjoy most. This gives your partner some ideas to start with.
If you’re not familiar with love languages, it’s important to know that there are several, and the way you best receive love may not be the same as your partner. Yet, we often tend to try to give love in the way we want to receive it. That’s why you need to learn your partner’s love language. But don’t feel bad if, even after learning their language, you still backslide a bit and try to show love in your own way.
The key is in trying to show them in their language more often than not.
Communicate your desires and needs
Sometimes we find ourselves frustrated that our partner isn’t meeting our needs. We get caught in a loop of being annoyed that they aren’t meeting our needs, complaining about it (to them or others), and feeling neglected or unloved. What we might not realize is that we never actually expressed those needs to our partner.
People aren’t mind readers. Even if our need seems obvious and we think that anyone should just know we need it, if we never verbally express it, we can’t expect someone to know. Whatever it is you need or want from your significant other, you have to tell them.
Sometimes we don’t want to express a need or desire because it makes us feel vulnerable. But it’s that very vulnerability that can increase the intimacy and connection in your relationship. It’s also that same vulnerability that will give your partner an opening to be just as vulnerable with you.
Schedule your time together
Whether you live together or not, sometimes the best way to make sure you spend time with your partner is by scheduling it just like you would a meeting. In fact, even if you live together and see each other every day, I still recommend scheduling some time together.
Once bills, housekeeping, and kids start entering the relationship, romance and passion can take a backseat to practicality and survival. While this can be natural, it’s also not healthy for your relationship. Instead of planning fun dates and romantic getaways, you mostly have conversations about who’s picking up Timmy from school or whether the plumber’s been scheduled yet.
Scheduling your time together can give you some real time that isn’t about keeping a household running. It also ensures that your quality time isn’t spent running errands or scrubbing toilets.
I suggest scheduling time together at least once a week. Allow at least 2–3 hours but more if you can. Spend the time dating each other. No talk about kids, bills, chores, jobs, or anything else “real life.” Instead, talk about your hopes, dreams, goals, wild fantasies. Explore new aspects of your relationship. Plan vacations or talk about what you’ll do after you retire.
Do fun things during these dates. Shake it up and do something different each week. Make this a fun and relaxing time together so it’s not only something you look forward to, but also keeps you feeling connected throughout the hours and days until the next time you have a date.
Be empathetic instead of reactive
When someone hurts our feelings, our instinctive reaction is often to hurt back. But many times, it’s not intentional and it might not even be about us. It’s important that we take a step back instead of just reacting.
Take a moment to be empathetic and ask yourself what else could be going on. Is he really yelling at you about the dishes or is he grieving because his dog just died? Is it possible that the proposal you’ve been waiting for is delayed because he wants to get you just the right ring? Or that maybe she didn’t give you an immediate “yes” when you proposed because you did it right after she complained that you hadn’t, so now she’s worried you only asked because she complained?
Never assume you know what the other person is thinking. Never assume that the argument you’re having is as silly and inane as it seems on the surface. There might always be something deeper. So before you blow it all off as silly or blow it up with a nasty insult in return, ask yourself if there might be something deeper to talk about.
Allow room for change
Change can sometimes be a scary word in relationships. Yet change happens, and often, it’s exactly what a relationship needs.
We fear change because we fear what it will do to our significant other and our relationship. Will they still love us if we change? Will we still love them if they change? Will we still love them if we change? Can we still be happy in this relationship if it changes from what we’ve always envisioned or had?
Without change, we stagnate. And if we stagnate, so does the relationship. Change is necessary and we must allow room for it within our relationship.
This doesn’t just apply to big changes such as career moves or personality changes. It also applies to the little things, such as needing to change date night from Saturday to Thursday or swapping your plans for a tropical vacation that’s a bit outside the budget for a less expensive one closer to home.
Check in frequently
When there aren’t any obvious problems, we often assume that means everything is good. But just because everything seems like smooth sailing doesn’t mean it actually is. Instead of waiting for problems to rear their ugly heads loudly, have frequent check-ins so you can head off problems before they become too big.
Just like you have a better chance of survival if you get diagnosed with cancer early rather than when it’s spread throughout your body, your relationship has a better chance if you resolve problems before they get too big to handle. The sooner you diagnose a problem, the better.
But many times, we notice a small problem and think it’s too small to bring up. So we wait, but then by the time it is big enough, it’s too big. Frequent check-ins will allow you to bring up these small problems without feeling like it’s too small.
Have weekly or monthly check-ins with your partner. Agree that these discussions, though they may be difficult, are healthy and best for your relationship if you are both completely honest. Agree to bring up any problems you have, regardless of how small they seem. Finally, agree that even if you don’t agree with your partner about a problem that’s brought up, you’ll still both work to resolve it.
By giving yourselves a consistent forum in which to bring up concerns and problems, you open the door to open communication and more effective problem resolution. While feelings may still occasionally be hurt when a problem is brought up, a regular check-in allows you to be prepared for the possibility and to come to the meeting ready to think more logically rather than emotionally.
Keeping intimacy and connection in your relationship takes work and commitment. Sometimes it doesn’t feel natural to have to work at it, but when real life intrudes on your relationship, it’s the only option you have. Put in the effort and you can have a beautiful, loving, close relationship that can withstand all of life’s demands.
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