Getting Closer to Intimacy
How can partners feel closer than they already do?
(Posted May 23, 2018)
What is it like to feel intimately connected, physically and emotionally, to a caring partner who treats you with love and wants the best for you? If you and I could ask 100 people that question, along with the diverse, nuanced perspectives they'd share, there would probably be similar themes that cut across their answers. And it's a good bet that one of those themes would touch upon just how powerful that kind of bond is. Both men and women feel more emotionally connected to their partner than to their friends, and people rate intimacy as being more vital in a romantic relationship than in other kinds of relationships. And closeness to a partner is related to some valuable perks, such as a happier relationship and greater personal contentment.
If you’re just getting to know someone, you can probably picture an assortment of ways to forge a closer bond with that person. There’s so much room for exploration, learning, and growth, right? But what about when you’ve moved beyond dating, and now you're in a long-term relationship? Then it’s not always apparent where there’s space to get closer. For example, I've heard people say they already know everything there is to know about their romantic partner. And although it’s entirely understandable why they hold this view, it actually isn’t true. Believe it or not, no matter how long two people have been together, there’s always room for a deeper connection, for more exploration, learning, and growth they can share side by side.
But knowing that we’re capable of reaching greater intimacy with our partner is different from knowing how to get there. For instance, sometimes a step that could build closeness, such as taking a chance and being a bit more vulnerable, seems too scary to take on. And at other times, a move that feels open and intimate for one person, such as sharing deeply held principles, doesn't seem like a meaningful revelation for the person hearing it. Let’s face it, as rewarding as it to connect, the road isn’t always a level one.
So what steps can we take to increase intimacy with a partner as we climb the sometimes rugged trails of love? Here are a few options to consider:
Keep your eyes peeled for the strong points
Is your partner kind, generous, positive, outgoing, fair, thirsty for knowledge, calm, excitable, conscientious, or hilarious? Look for what you love and appreciate about your partner. This forecasts deeper closeness.
Ditch the tech
Let me just preface this part by confessing that I treasure my smartphone. I’ll also go a step further and admit that, yes, I’m one of those naughty people who occasionally walks from one place to another while reading or typing away on it (a very bad habit that I’m working to change). So I hope you’ll bear in mind that the small advice I’m about to write comes from someone who is wholeheartedly on the smartphone train: When you’re spending quality time with your partner, put your phone away. Well, that is, unless you’re both looking up some intriguing fact that’s intended to advance your conversation. Then have at it! But aside from that, consider keeping it out of sight. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a couple who was focused on their phones rather than on each other, sadly, I think I might just have a crack at a small chateau in France. Of course, it thoroughly makes sense to want to break out that smartphone and get something done. We now have the gift of a computer in our pocket, and for those of us old enough to remember what life was like before their existence, the convenience is incredible. So it’s all too easy to miss the impact they can have on a relationship. For example, if our partner sees us distracted by our phone while we’re spending quality time with them, they’re apt to feel less connected.
When you relate to your partner in a more intimate way while you’re talking (e.g., being friendly, conveying interest in what your partner is saying), it’s quite likely that you’ll spark a lovely snowball of connection as your partner matches you and responds the same way.
Cuddling has two major notable upsides. First of all, it feels great and it satisfies the main reason why people do it, which is a desire for intimacy and care. Second, it's a piece of cake. You can cuddle while you fall asleep, talk, reminisce, laugh, read, listen to music, or watch TV. That’s right, you and your partner can watch Netflix and chill, literally.
Cheerfully celebrate your partner’s achievements. Oftentimes, we think about the importance of being there for our partner in times of stress and sadness. But it turns out that being there for our partner in moments of success are also crucial. People with partners who react to their good fortune with sincere, animated joy are also more likely to feel closer in the relationship.
Harness the power of responsiveness
Be responsive to your partner and watch for ways your partner is being responsive to you. When someone is being responsive, they pay attention to signs of how their partner is feeling and they treat their partner with compassion and kindheartedness. Responsiveness involves tender actions like sending a loving message during the day, giving a small gift, or preparing a romantic picnic as a surprise; it also includes gentle, loving forms of touch, such as a massage, an embrace, or holding hands. And it’s a win-win for both partners. People who treat their partner in a responsive way feel closer, and their partner feels more connected too. But it’s not only about what we do. The story we tell ourselves about our partner also matters. If you see your partner as a responsive person, you and your partner are apt to feel closer. Responsiveness is also important when partners open up. If our partner reveals aspects of themselves to us, this forecasts greater intimacy, provided they think we're being receptive and understanding when they do. And on top of all that, responsiveness is linked with wanting sexual intimacy.
Grow your sexual garden
Invest in cultivating an enjoyable sex life with your partner. Regardless of whether you already have a fulfilling sex life, it’s definitely not a waste of time to reflect on what you enjoy and what you might like to try that would enhance your and your partner’s pleasure even more. A rewarding, happy sex life forecasts greater feelings of psychological closeness for both partners.
Have a blast
Embrace fun with your partner. Couples who spend time together doing something they enjoy, and who do so enthusiastically, feel more connected. So give yourself permission to seriously schedule play time for yourself and your partner. You won’t regret it.
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