Have you noticed it? Something in your relationship seems to be missing; waning with time. You are happy, you and your partner seem to be working well together, but something is missing. Or perhaps you are not happy, you and your partner seem to be fighting more than not, and there is just something amiss. You can’t seem to put your finger on it.
It is a possibility that the something missing in your relationship is intimacy. Before discounting this as nonsensical because your sex life is fine, take a look at what intimacy is. Dictionary.com defines intimacy as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group.” Pay particular attention to the words close and familiar. How close or familiar are you with your partner in areas such as their work life? Their hobbies and interests? Their emotions? Their aspirations?
Becoming close and familiar or intimate with your partner in various areas of life will bind you tight and keep you together through the throes that life would put you through. Building intimacy will fortify and strengthen your relationship.
Physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and leisure are all areas that come to mind when speaking of intimacy. When was the last time you grabbed your partner’s hand to reassure them that you are there? What are your partner’s intellectual interests? Can you talk about them or show interest in them? Have you shared something with your partner that struck you spiritually? Would you feel awkward doing so?
Just like investments, diversifying your intimacy will make your relationship more resilient in a slump or a recession. Building new levels of intimacy in new areas may be what your relationship needs.
In our world, things that are not cared for, tended, and kept up will erode over time. It is the natural order of things. This is also true of intimacy. If intimacy is not cared for, cultivated, and kept up regularly then it will naturally erode, and you may find yourself feeling distant from your partner and not knowing why. This is part of the experience of couples “falling out of love”; they haven’t cultivated connection and familiarity.
As a couple, you have the power to keep this from being your story and/or the power to bring that part of your relationship back. Intentionality is what will help you change patterns from erosion to firing on all cylinders and being a thing of beauty. Be intentional about becoming close and familiar with your partner in the many areas of their life.
Sometimes it may feel like you just don’t care about what happened at work or what project your partner wants to work on next. If you can be intentional about showing interest anyway and showing some curiosity about their interests, their hobbies, their work life; you will find yourself feeling closer to your partner. You will be more connected. You will bind yourself to your partner emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and in any other area of your lives that you find will build intimacy.
Have you noticed it? Is there a distance between you and your partner? Does it seem like something is missing? Make the move, be intentional. Go with your partner on their walk. Set up a date that isn’t the usual thing you do together. Take fifteen minutes after getting home and find out about your partner’s day. Meditate with your partner and talk about the experience. Talk with your partner about how you want to build intimacy; intimacy that will keep you close and together through thick and thin.
Peter Benson is a couple and family therapist at Draper Center for Couples and Families specializing in relational therapy. He loves spending time with his wife and five beautiful daughters.