When you hear the word “intimacy,” what comes to mind? For many people, something sexual comes to mind. However, the Dictionary.com (n.d.) defines intimacy as many other things:
1. the state of being intimate (associated in close personal relations)
2. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group
3. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.
4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like
5. an amorously familiar act; liberty
At Life Renewal, instead of using the word “intimacy,” we like to use “in-to-me-see.” We believe that this phrase explains exactly what true intimacy is: a relationship that allows deep, emotional give and take. This includes being vulnerable and sharing personal information about oneself.
In the beginning of many relationships, intimacy is what helps create the initial spark. Sharing stories from your past (both good and bad) and allowing your partner to see you become vulnerable is part of the trust-developing process that is vital for a healthy, grounded relationship.
However, as time goes on, it is not uncommon for the initial spark to fizzle. If you had told me on my wedding day that I was not going to continue to fall more and more madly in love with my husband until “death do us part,” I wouldn’t have listened. If you had told me that we would argue over stupid things like him putting his socks in the dirty clothes basket or whose turn it was to clean the toilets, I wouldn’t have believed it. Or I wouldn’t have wanted to, at least.
As time moves on, intimacy can become more work. Life happens: jobs, kids, financial responsibilities, friends and family . . . the list of distractions goes on and on. Intimacy is something that needs to be consciously cultivated, or it can easily disappear. This is the reason behind many divorces, which have become a common occurrence in our society today.
5 Ways to Grow Intimacy
If you have been feeling a lack of intimacy (or “in-to-me-see,” in this case) with your spouse or partner, here are some simple ways that you can reconnect and grow that intimacy.
1. Reminisce together. Perhaps you and your spouse don’t have the same amount of time together you once did. Maybe you don’t feel sparks fly in the same way you did at the beginning of your relationship. However, looking back at happy memories in the past can bring happiness and joy into the present. Whenever my husband and I find time to go on dates (which, honestly, is not terribly often with three kids!), we like to look back and reminisce on the fun places we’ve visited, delicious food we’ve tasted, special songs we’ve shared, etc.
2. Speak your partner’s “love language.” The love language theory, created by Dr. Gary Chapman, is not a new concept, nor does it necessarily offer a foolproof method of expressing love. However, understanding the way(s) in which your partner expresses love and affection is important. Having an understanding of this helps you understand when (and how!) they are showing that they love you. It also allows you to meet their needs in a better, more effective way.
3. Kindness breeds kindness. Something I’ve discovered in my own marriage is that when I show kindness and gentleness to my husband, he demonstrates the same to me. Just as Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” When we are slow to speak, gentle with our words and actions, and demonstrate love to our spouses, we are showing that they matter, are valued, and that we provide a safe place–which is really the key to intimacy.
4. Be selfless and giving. When we consider the concept of “giving,” we often apply it to gifts. However, for many people, physical gifts wrapped in pretty paper are not their “love language.” When you consider giving to your partner, think of what might be the most meaningful to them, even if it is not something that would be your first choice (that’s the selfless part!). Perhaps it’s taking the kids to the park for an hour so he or she can have a break. Maybe it’s cooking dinner on a night when it’s not “your turn.” Perhaps it is buying a gift. Giving looks different in every relationship, but the message behind giving is the same: “I love you. I see you. You matter.”
5. Love yourself. While this one may sound selfish, but I can assure you it’s not. When you do not love or care for yourself, you cannot adequately love or care for someone else. Self-care, which seems so impossible at times, is a vital part of mental health and ensures that your own “emotional tank” is full. When your own needs are met, you are better able to meet your partner’s needs.
An Activity to Grow “In-To-Me-See”
Social psychology researcher Arthur Aron of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University in New York developed a series of 36 questions to ask in a relationship where you want to grow intimacy. While Aron did not develop these specifically for romantic relationships, he believed that these questions would almost always make two people feel better about each other and want to see each other again. Want to get your hands on these questions? Check out our FREE PRINTABLE for the complete list.
Nothing good in life comes easily . . . nor should it! The best things in life, including a close, intimate relationship with your spouse or partner, come through consistent, hard work.
What is a way that you have grown intimacy in your own relationship? Please share some ideas below. We’ll share our favorites on our Instagram stories this week!
Dictionary.com. (n.d). Intimacy. Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/intimacy