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How Do You Define Intimacy?

What is conjured up in your mind when you hear the word “intimacy”? Chances are the word intimacy has different connotations to you depending on your gender. I’ve read some surveys that suggest women tend to think of the emotional side of intimacy, and men tend to think of physical intimacy. The book 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage by Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo discusses six types of intimacy and how you can achieve them all. I’ve enjoyed their blog, One Extraordinary Marriage for some time; check it out.

I would have been hard pressed to come up with all these types, but I agree they are all important to a strong marriage:

  • Emotional Intimacy (sharing feelings, thoughts, desires)
  • Intellectual Intimacy (common life goals, open communication, mutual understanding)
  • Spiritual Intimacy (shared religious beliefs and observed religious practices)
  • Recreational Intimacy (having fun together and sharing quality time)
  • Financial Intimacy (honesty about all money matters)
  • Physical Intimacy (all physical touch from holding hands to sex)

The advice Alisa and Tony give about how they achieved these six types of intimacy includes many of their mistakes along their journey, from addiction to pornography to finding themselves $50,000 in debt. In that regard, they don’t set themselves up as the perfect couple, but rather a couple who is hoping others can learn from some of their early relationship errors. 

Tony and Alisa offer useful tips from setting boundaries with your parents to negotiating how to spend free time in a way you will both enjoy. The book offers the male and female perspectives on numerous topics, so both genders of readers can relate. It also provides a section for answering questions about your own relationship, which can foster a discussion between you and your spouse. Whether you are young in your marriage or need to revisit some of the positive aspects you used to enjoy, these concepts are key to an enjoyable relationship.

If you’re interested in learning more about these six types of intimacy and how to unlock their potential, you can find the ebook here. (They offer a traditional book, audio book or eBook formats.) Tony also offers an online course called Blow Up My Marriage to help boost your marriage by focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

My feeling is you can send your marriage into a downward spiral if you spend all your time picking apart your weaknesses and focusing on your perpetual conflicts. Every relationship has these. Instead, focus on what you love about your spouse and how you can grow from there. That is not to say that we don’t all have room to improve. Just don’t tear each other down every day, or you may lose that “lovin’ feeling.”

Fess up, what kind of intimacy did you think of when you read the headline?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

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How to Practice Being a Better Partner—5 Tips

“There is nothing worth doing that doesn’t require practice, and having a good marriage is one of them,” says Harriet Lerner, PhD, bestselling author and marriage expert. “One can practice choosing happiness over the need to be right or always win an argument. One can practice playfulness, generosity, and openness. One can practice calming things down and warming them up even when the other person is being a big jerk.”

Dr. Lerner’s advice is spot on. We have the power to control our response, even when our partner is acting badly—especially when our partner is acting badly. That doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be mistreated, but we can choose to practice behaviors that bless our marriage rather than curse it.

Consider the effort you put forth to improve in your career or hobbies, or in your parenting (where we all fail every once in a while). Yet, we expect our marriages to continue humming along without much effort at improving our skills or attitudes. I know I need some fine-tuning on a regular basis, particularly on choosing to remain positive despite the normal obstacles in life.

In her essay in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love, Dr. Lerner adds to the above advice, saying you may get tired of doing more of the work in your marriage, but since you can’t control your mate, it’s up to you if you want to see improvements in your relationship. “And if you want a recipe for divorce, just wait for the other person to change first.”

Here are some concrete pointers she advises you to practice:

1.  Practice pure listening—with an open heart and with your full attention, and without becoming defensive.

2.  Stay self-focused. This means you aren’t focused on “fixing” your spouse, but rather you are open to how you can contribute to a better life together. You can change without blaming yourself or your partner.

3.  Bite your tongue. You don’t have to share everything that bothers you every minute of the day. Use timing and tact to communicate important matters.

4.  Apologize, even if you’re not fully to blame. “I’m sorry for my part of the problem,” may be a good way to move forward.

5.  Use positive feedback, praise, and compliments very liberally. Remember Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments.

Start today by focusing on just one behavior on this list that you think could help you the most. Once you have incorporated that, add another. When you respond angrily or start to act nit-picky, just start again (and apologize if necessary). Practice makes perfect.

Which of these areas is hardest for you to implement? Do you find yourself wishing you could change one thing about your spouse, or focused on trying to change yourself?