She: Where is the man I married?
He: Maybe he ran off with the woman I married!
Often after years of being together, couples will say they have become like roommates, living in the same house but no longer enjoying emotional or physical intimacy. Familiarity, parenting, daily life stresses, job stresses, and life itself can cause us to lose sight of the reasons we became involved with our spouse or partner in the first place and rob us of a very important need: Intimacy.
When those needs are not met at home we all become vulnerable to having those needs met outside of our primary relationships, which can lead to affairs and heartbreak.
Here are 7 tips for keeping, or rejuvenating, intimacy in our relationships.
1. Tune Out — Not to each other of course, but to all of the distractions that have become such a part of our lives. Turn off the TV, the cell phone, the tablets and computers, and whatever else will have been invented by the time this blog makes it to the Internet. If your spouse is feeling neglected, it might be because he/she is seeing more of the back of your head staring at a video game than your own face. Put the toys down and pay more attention to who and what means the most to you.
2. Tune In — Now I’m talking about your partner! There is nothing more intoxicatingly attractive to someone than a pair of interested, attentive eyes and listening ears attached to the previously mentioned partner’s head. Pay attention to your partner. Show them that they are the most important person in your life so that when you say it, it means something.
3. Make a Date of It — This is probably the most often prescribed and most often disregarded recommendation for couples, and yet it is also one of the most important ways to ensure continued intimacy. If couples do not make a special time to be together on a regular basis, it probably won’t happen. Make a date night once a week, and during that time keep talk of work, kids, in-laws, and other external issues out of the conversation and focus instead on each other.
4. Take Care of Yourself — Feeling tired, stressed, and unfit can make us feel as sensual as a box of dried cement. I have often witnessed the phenomenon in which after a couple separates, they both begin to work out, lose weight, and get in great shape. They dress up more, feel tons better about themselves, and begin to look and feel more attractive to themselves and others. Sad that it is too late for the marriage! Good self care leads to good relationship care.
5. Get Creative — Did you ever find a dish that you loved so much you feel like you could eat it every night? No? Anything gets a bit stale after a while, and physical intimacy is no different. Have fun with each other, explore new ways of enjoying your time together, and don’t be afraid to surprise each other with something exotic and “out of the box.” A healthy love life is dynamic, interesting, and able to change throughout our lives as we change and grow.
6. Take Control — If your love life has been lagging a bit, don’t wait for your partner (or someone else) to take the initiative. Your love life is yours to neglect or to nurture, and I’m pretty sure if your relationship has been a bit stale in that department, your take charge attitude will not only be a welcome surprise, but could well save the relationship. Don’t wait for there to be less stress in your life, or more free time, or on and on and on. There will always be something that couples can use as excuses for neglecting their love lives: Take control! Take the initiative! It’s kind of a Win-Win situation for everyone!
7. Lose Control — One of the most exciting aspects of physical intimacy is being completely vulnerable to our partner. This is difficult if we struggle with trust problems with emotional intimacy, so those need to be treated with great care. When we are able to completely surrender to the care of our partner, we are free to fully experience our pleasure unhindered by fear or anxiety. Building trust and emotional intimacy in your relationship is an investment that pays off in many, many ways!
Our relationships are like plants: If we water them and give them sunshine, they will grow. If we don’t, they die. Our love lives depend on frequent nourishment, attention, and a bit creative fun now and then, but the payoff is a thriving, growing, and never-boring relationship. So take charge, put down the cell phone, and bring some excitement back into your love life!
If you would like to speak to a therapist about this subject or about any other issue you may be experiencing, contact the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.
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by Chris Lewis, Ed.S., LPC