Tag Archives: improving intimacy in marriage

Achieving Intimacy in Marriage

In my reader survey, one of the most popular topics was to learn more about maintaining intimacy in marriage. Often, that’s another way of saying, “How do we keep the spark alive?” But intimacy goes much further than the physical. I’m a firm believer of understanding the importance and depth of intimacy between a husband and wife.

By achieving intimacy, I’m talking about the concept of two people learning how to be vulnerable and “known” to one another and learning how to love one another fully. A blog I read regularly is Journey to Surrender, and Scott has some very helpful things to say in his post “What is intimacy?”.

He explains the progression of intimacy from spiritual intimacy to emotional intimacy to physical intimacy (including sex and non-sexual touching). When we start at one end and work toward physical intimacy, it creates a deeper bond and often a heightened physical experience (because the mind and emotions are participating). Scott has a lot more to say on the topic and provides a definition similar to my own: “Genuine intimacy comes from being fully known and completely loved.” Basically, we are free to be ourselves, and are loved without fear of rejection or judgement. That’s the really cool part of intimacy.

In a different post, Scott reminds us of the old adage that many of us find to be true in our marriages–that women need emotional intimacy as a prerequisite for physical intimacy, and men usually prefer the opposite order. Different individuals also view their needs for intimacy differently. So, it’s certainly worth discussing with your spouse after reading Viva La Difference, which explains the fruits of selfless giving, a way for you both to get your needs met without falling into the give-to-get routine, which is at best, difficult to sustain, and at worst, a road to resentment if your needs are not perfecty met.

Next week, I’ll be discussing 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage by Tony & Alisa DiLorenzo, who describe other types of intimacy and means to achieve it. If you’re not yet a subscriber, just enter your email address in the right hand column of my home page, and you’ll get updated automatically. (Cancel anytime with one click.)

What do you think of when you hear “intimacy”? Is it long talks over candlelit dinners, sparks flying under the sheets or sharing spiritual insights together? Is it something different? How do you achieve true intimacy in your marriage?

Pour Love on Your Spouse

 Love Everyday is on a blog tour! This week, it’s my turn to share with you the section I contributed called Pouring on Love, which offers details on how to truly invest your energy into your spouse. The e-book version offers 26 other great posts for you to enjoy.

 Last Week: In case you missed it, Television and Relationships was posted by Stu at The Marry Blogger.

What you are about to read is only one piece of a 27-page collaborative e-book written to help you learn how to make your marriage extraordinary amidst the chaos of life.  After reading this post, be sure to download a complete copy of LOVE EVERYDAY absolutely free!

How to Pour Love on Your Spouse

While we can’t control the amount of happiness produced in our relationships, we can control the amount of love and effort poured into them. Gaining a little more happiness is like gaining a little more money; you always want more. But giving and receiving love generates fulfillment. There are myriad ways to show love, but we know love when we see it, hear it, read it, and feel it. Love is in the details, the thoughtfulness, the caring.

When you act in a loving—even sacrificial—manner, you experience The Paradox of Giving. This is the secret your grandparents knew about:  It is in giving that we receive. The joy and love you give returns to you. Yes, it is risky to invest yourself fully. If you have chosen your partner well, the return is often much higher than expected. A couple who focuses on the other’s needs experiences joy and deep satisfaction that makes fleeting happiness look like leftover casserole—fine, but nothing to write home about.

How can you pour on love? Voraciously study your spouse. Put as much energy into that research as in your career and hobbies. Try to understand and participate in their interests as they change over time—recreational, musical, romantic, sexual and culinary interests. Ask about your partner’s hopes, preferences, desires, dislikes, and fears. Encourage their dreams. Communicate your needs and desires as well.  Be the one who knows them best, and help them to know your heart. Learn new things together. Express how important he or she is to you. Have fun together. Show at least one act of kindness each day—send a short email, cook a meal, give a backrub.

Give your respect, vulnerability, time, undivided attention, intimacy, patience, fidelity, commitment and devotion. Do it without keeping score. Do it without stopping. Do it with love.

Individual freedom and personal happiness are two of the highest American ideals. The pursuit of happiness takes up most of our time and energy, while learning to be loving is perhaps an afterthought. The success of all our relationships depends on how we love.

How do you pour love into your relationship and make your spouse feel truly cared for?

How to Talk About Sex

In Improving Sexual Communication, we broached the need to talk about sex in order to achieve a passionate sex life. Following are more details on ways couples effectively do this, and ways they can cause more harm in this area. The advice is gleaned from the highly recommended book Hot Monagamy by Dr. Patricia Love and Jo Robinson.

The authors report that most couples talk around sex, rather than talking about it, perhaps using gestures, jokes, unclear comments or put-downs. For example, vague euphemisms about your sexual desires, such as, “You know what I like,” may be misunderstood by your spouse. Talk in clear, honest language about your likes and dislikes. Here are a few tips from the book:

  • Preconditions are one area that can require communication. One spouse may communicate that she wants a clean house, kids in bed and eight hours of sleep the previous night to feel romantic. However, such a list can cause your partner to wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Determine what your legitimate preconditions may be and which are just excuses or a demonstration of lack of interest.
  • Many people talk about sex in an impersonal way, say Robinson and Dr. Love, for instance inviting their partner to bed or asking them to turn the TV off. These are not necessarily negative comments, but a partner wants to be cherished and desired for his or her person, not just for the act. Instead of depersonalizing it, share with your partners what it is you enjoy or desire about him or her. There’s a big difference between “I want it” and “I want you.”
  • Taboo topics can even be held for couples who have been married for 20 years. Silence and a lack of sharing only create a barrier between the couple, impeding true intimacy. So, whether you are disturbed by infrequent initiation by your partner or need to discuss bodily changes, birth control or a need for variety in the bedroom, have the conversation. Most couples would prefer to talk about these topics during a non-intimate time.
  • Can you talk too much? Absolutely, “There are moments in life that defy words and command our undivided attention. That’s why we are silent during a ballet or a concert,” say the authors. Enough said.
  • Silence is not always golden. A partner who is silent about his or her sexual needs because they don’t want to upset their spouse can be creating a rift in the marriage—one that can put you at risk for an affair.
  • Gender differences can make talking about sex more difficult than you expect, since men tend to place a higher importance on independence and mastery, while women value intimacy more. So, when a woman requests more kissing and touching, a man may feel this is a criticism of past performance. Be aware of this tendency, and use praise when appropriate.
  • Criticism, harsh statements or sarcasm are not effective inside or outside of the bedroom. (This includes comments about body image.) Neither is generalizing about what your partner “always” does or doesn’t do. Instead, keep a positive and respectful tone. After all, you’re trying to spice up your love life, not weed the garden.

Is there just one area of your sexual communication that you can seek to improve upon? Will you consider being more receptive to your partner’s wishes, and more open in communicating your own? Do you find talking about sex natural or difficult?

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.