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5 Ways to Improve Relationship Intimacy

Are you seeking more intimacy in your relationship? Believe it or not, this is the one biggest complaints most couples share. Sure, there are the typical arguments of finances or parenting, but what couples really want is intimacy. Intimacy often gets a "bad rap" because it is frequently only associated with physical intimacy. But, there is so much more to intimacy, and fellas, most women need the other aspects of intimacy before they are inclined to engage in physical intimacy. So, lets take a look at the root of intimacy.

Intimacy is born out of connectedness. The most important key to connectedness is spending quality time together. We see countless couples who, for whatever reason, have their lives so jam-packed, they have little to give each other at the end of the day (or week). They may have a couple of hours at the end of the day but they are so drained they no longer have the energy to engage in the behaviors that cultivate intimacy: presence, meaningful conversations, and physical closeness. These behaviors create an environment for the expression of love, empathy, care, support, celebration, validation, security, recognition, growth and fun.

Understandably, there are all kinds of distractions that impede couples from spending quality time together. To name a few; television, computers/tablets, video games, sports, hobbies, kids, household tasks, work... Some of these, such as kids and household tasks, legitimately scream for our attention when we walk in the door. Others are important to individual health and wellness. None are "bad," necessarily, unless excessive or interfering with our personal growth or relationship growth and intimacy. You have to clear time in your schedule for relationship intimacy, if not intimacy will dwindle and fade. Here are five small behavioral changes that cultivate presence, meaningful conversation and physical closeness:

1) Turn Toward: Dr John Gottman, PHD, studied thousands of couples in search of what makes relationships work. One of those important components involved engagement. He described a typical scenario of a couple eating breakfast together. One is reading the newspaper and the other is trying to engage in small talk. She comments on the sailboat she can see out on the lake. The one reading the newspaper grunts or says "uh huh," thing he has provided the courtesy of acknowledgement.

2) Daily Conversation: Some couples go through the day with very little actual conversation, other than what has to be communicated to get through the day. We understand life gets busy, but you need to be conversing with your partner privately on a daily basis, even if its only 15 minutes. The best way to do this is to set aside time each day that is devoted to talking. Mornings may work well for some, dinner for others. For those with kids, before bed, when the little ones are no longer a distraction, seems to work best. Firgure it out and stick to it as frequently as possible.

3) Monthly Date Nights: Remember when you were first dating? There were a lot of first time experiences as a new couple, and these experiences brought you closer together. Three kids and two houses later, you can't remember the last time the two of you went on a date. Reignite date night! We recommend a minimum of once a month. To add a twist, take turns planning surprise dates for your partner, planning something you know they will really enjoy. Try something new! These twists add excitement and spontaneity! Also, these date nights need to be activities in which you can interact. A movie is fine, but only if you include another activity in which you can interact, such as dinner or dessert.

4) Replace Complaints with Request: There is no greater intimacy turn-off than complaining. This is a sure-fire way to distance your partner. So, if you are a habitual complainer, try this. When venting about work, limit yourself to 5 minutes. When upset with someone in your household, try making a request, instead of complaining. For example, your partner consistently leaves his dirty clothes on the floor. Instead of "I'm tired of picking up after you all the time. You are such a lazy slob!" try (in a calm voice) "Do you think you could pick up your dirty clothes? It really frustrates me and I find myself distancing from you."

5) Provide Physical Affection: Some individuals are comfortable receiving and giving physical affection. Others struggle with it. Regardless, this is an important component of intimacy. Physical touch doesn't have to be a big deal. So maybe you don't like to embrace through the whole movie, just a gentle brush across your partner's back as you walk by can do the trick, especially if physical touch is one of your partner's love languages. Set a goal to show your partner physical affection five times a day. As you get used to it, it will become much easier and more spontaneous.

by Trish Carter, LIMHP, LPC, BCN

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