Tag Archives: improving intimacy in marriage

Man Up/Woman Up: How To Have Curl-Your-Toes Sex

 Today, I’d like to refer you to a great web site for an article about improving your sex life. Author Corey Allan, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a straight-shooter, and an entertaining writer.

Check out his web site at Simple Marriage, and read the article How To Have Curl Your Toes Sex.

Do You Empathize with Your Mate?

I’ve often considered my high degree of empathy to be a weakness. I have to minimize my news intake of tragic events, I never let a friend cry alone, and I have to turn away when an ice skater falls during a performance. I’ve read studies that explain people who deeply empathize have many of the same neurons firing in their brains as those who experienced the event. That helps explain why I can relate to emotions that are far from me.

Good news if you are like me: empathy is a strength in marriage. This isn’t just my opinion. It’s been shown through psychophysiological research. Finally, being emotional has an up-side.

The book The Energetic Heart assesses bioelectromagnetic interactions within and between people and explains some of the current research. Author Rollin McCraty, PhD, reports on multiple studies that show people synchronize some of their physiological activities, such as heart rate, when they empathize.

For example, Levenson and Gottman studied physiological synchronization in married couples and concluded partners who were skilled at showing empathy mimicked their partner’s physiology. Their heart rates sped up and slowed down to match their spouse’s when they discussed emotional content. McCraty adds that researchers have been able to use physiological observations of couples to predict those who will divorce.

If couples who are not skilled in empathy are more likely to divorce, we should dissect this ability further. Empathy is the capability to share another’s feelings and emotions. We can’t get to that point if we are not truly present to one another and effective listeners. We also must be open and vulnerable emotionally. I’ve been writing a lot about techniques for listening, and it’s not because I’m not feeling heard. Many types of research lead me back to the topic and stress the importance of listening in all types of relationship success.  How can we be empathic if we don’t hear or understand our spouse’s true concerns? How can we improve intimacy without empathizing with one another’s deepest worries, goals and desires?

These psychophysiological studies are a fancy way of demonstrating couples who are emotionally in touch with one another, but I’ll bet you know if you’re in touch without the gadgets. Do you find your mind wandering when your spouse talks about his dreams for the future? Does your anger level rise when you hear your wife was mistreated? Are you in tune with your partner’s mood or anxieties? Try taking a few deep breaths before you reconnect to help your bodies adjust physiologically before your minds connect emotionally.

Do you think empathy is just a female skill? Do you think it can be learned or improved, or are there some people who are just not emotional? Read about how the brains of bullies empathize in surprising (and not good) ways. It may explain why abusive spouses are unlikely to change.

Mind the Expectations Gap

“Mind the Gap” is repeatedly blared in the London Underground train stations to remind passengers not to stand between the train door and the station platform. The catchy phrase was developed in 1969 and caught on so well that they now sell t-shirts with the admonition. Minding the gap in our marriage is also important, but unfortunately you won’t hear a daily reminder shouted out at you as you begin your day.

Marriage researcher Terri L. Orbuch, PhD, says in a new book 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great that most marriages do not break up due to conflict, communication problems or sexual incompatibility. Instead, it’s regular frustration that drives a wedge between couples. “It’s the day-to-day disappointment or the gap between what you expect and how your partner acts—that is most damaging,” she says.

Take a minute to think about that fact, and you’ll probably agree that when one or both partner’s expectations are not met during the average day, tensions mount, conversations become tense and intimacy is nearly nonexistent. You were counting on your partner to follow through on something, and now it’s on your plate. You’re disappointed. You may move into negotiation mode to get through your day and your to-do list. You inherently become a bit more selfish to protect your interests, and you feel less generous in helping your partner. There’s little chance you will go out of your way to please him or her.

Orbuch suggests sharing your expectations regularly with your spouse to help keep tension levels low. If you aren’t receiving enough affection or dedicated time, or if your spouse isn’t helping in an area that was agreed upon, take time to talk it through. A previous post on hMindthegapow to get through to your spouse offers some techniques to communicate effectively and to listen well to your spouse.

Even when things are great for a few years, job, home or family changes can shake up expectations again. Make it a recurring topic to address so that it doesn’t appear one spouse is complaining about the status quo, but rather both spouses are interested in minimizing the expectations gap. If you have trouble remembering to do this, you can always order the t-shirt.