The most important ingredients that exist in an intimate relationship are connection, familiarity, openness, vulnerability, and acceptance. For intimacy to be cultivated, we must remain curious about our partners, knowing that there’s always more to learn or uncover. As you can probably imagine, that’s easy to do in the early stages of a relationship—and gets increasingly harder as time goes on.
Never is intimacy more challenged than in a long-term relationship or marriage. That’s because over time, we think we know everything there is to know about our partners and have nothing left to discover.
This could not be less true, and this is largely because nothing on this planet remains stagnant. Our cells in our bodies are constantly reproducing, nature is continually regenerating and growing, and as individuals, life causes each of us to change and evolve, providing our partners with more to discover and learn about us. Therefore, the most important thing we can do to cultivate more intimacy within our marriages is to remain curious about our partners and assume there is more to discover and learn. Here’s how to make that happen:
1. Surprise your partner.
Do it for no good reason with a sweet card, a night out, or a lingering kiss.
2. Let your partner know you’re thinking about them.
When you find yourself thinking of your partner in the middle of the day, let them know.
3. Open up.
Communicate: Share stories, fears, and all that you’re looking forward to.
When your partner is sharing something with you, really listen and ask follow-up questions.
5. Compliment your partner.
Whether it’s on an accomplishment at work or a new blouse that looks particularly nice on them, don’t be stingy with the compliments.
Think about a happy memory the two of you had together, and talk about it with your partner.
7. Say thank you.
There’s nothing quite like genuinely appreciating at least one thing each day about your beloved.
8. Forgive imperfections.
And do it without ever asking to be forgiven.
9. Perform an act of service.
Helping them with something they don’t enjoy doing—like picking up their dry cleaning or doing the dishes—can go a long way.
10. Look your partner in the eye when they’re speaking to you.
The eyes are the windows to the soul, so take advantage!
11. Smile at your partner.
Whenever he or she comes in the room, look at them and smile.
12. Do something new together.
Take a class or cook a healthy meal together. You can also create something together like a backyard oasis or plan a vacation together.
13. Take 15.
Give each other 15 minutes together every night before collapsing into bed to connect and talk. Days can get busy, so you have to specifically carve out these moments or they won’t happen.
14. Be present with one another.
Put the phone down, shut down the iPad, turn off the TV.
15. Start a mini book club.
Read the same book at the same time and then talk about it—it’s like your own personal book club. Better yet, read to each other.
16. Linger in bed.
Choose one day each week (I like Sunday mornings) when you agree to just linger in bed for a while drinking coffee, talking, snuggling.
17. Plan a staycation.
If you can, take a vacation day when you stay at home, doing absolutely nothing productive, and only doing things that feel good to both of you.
18. Turn off the TV.
Instead, listen to music, talk, or even play a game. I recommend TableTopics Conversation Starters.
19. Go on a picnic.
There’s nothing quite like fresh air and sharing a delicious meal with your loved one.
20. Make monthly check-ins happen.
It’s important to check in on the health of your marriage, sort of like a state of the union session together.
Intimacy is a kind of connectedness between two people that has less to do with physical closeness and more with knowing someone at a deep level and feeling totally accepted in their presence. The good news is there are many ways to cultivate intimacy to create a more connected, loving, and lasting marriage. You’ve got this!