Why Intimacy & Romance?
Many people don’t consider themselves to be romantics, but they probably are. They want to build intimacy so they are also romantics. In my experience, there are a lot of closet romantics in the world. Why is that? Because the world stifles romanticism. The world is all about business, getting things done, sex is just sex there’s nothing romantic about it in the world. We see sexual images all the time. On television, sex is portrayed as pleasure fulfillment. There are not a lot of romantic images in the media these days. The truth is that everyone has a romantic streak. That’s why we get married.
When We Were “In Love”
When we fall in love, that’s when our romantic streak is at its best. We are in the presence of someone who we want to be around. Someone who we feel better about ourselves when we’re with them and vice versa. We want to build intimacy with them. It’s almost addictive! Once we get married, however, it’s not unusual for the parallel live syndrome to set in. The romance drops out of the relationship, and each individual starts pursuing ways to fulfill their individual talents, innate abilities, hobbies, etc. Once kids arrive on the scene, it’s all hands on deck. There’s not a lot of time for romance in the beginning especially.
While leading parallel lives is a great way to lean into individual strengths, it’s not a good long-term solution for a relationship. Relationships require constant nurturing. Yes, they can go for a period of time without it, but the longer that they go without being nurtured the more love-starved the relationship becomes. When individuals are feeling fulfilled at work, or in their personal pursuits they notice this less.
The needs of the relationship slip into the subconscious mind. The unfulfilled needs come out as little digs. Jokes at the expense of the other person. Sarcasm and snarkiness. This starts out in little bits and pieces in grows over time. Where once we love them warts and all, now we’re upset when they leave the cap off the toothpaste or the seat up in the toilet.
Turning It Around
This can be turned around, however! And the way to do it is to build intimacy and romance. So here you are leading these parallel lives and at least one of you has realized that they want more in a relationship. What do you do? You almost need to start courting all over again. Yes, this is the same person you married, but they’ve also changed. You’ve been doing your individual spacewalks for so long that when you come back to the capsule with the different individual experiences you’ve both altered in subtle ways. What you need to do is check-in, consider, and co-create.
Check-in with your partner. First, listen very carefully to what they’re saying. Listen to their verbal cues. Look at their nonverbal cues, what are they saying with their sleep habits, their scheduling, their body language. Are you both going to bed and turning back to back when you go to sleep at night? Has screentime de-evolved into blank stares and no conversation (maybe even a little drool?)? Are you going to bed at completely different times and getting up a completely different times? Just do a general evaluation of where you are. Try not to judge your marriage. It’s really easy at this stage to go to omg! Omg meaning “how did we get here?” Put all that silliness aside. You are where you are. You’re still married, you’re still in the same house, you’re still in the game. You just need to build on what you have and the whole idea of checking in is to see what you have.
Set aside time to think about their deepest joys. What brings them happiness? It doesn’t matter if it’s not you or only you. My wife for example is a very enthusiastic equestrian. She likes to ride. This is pretty exclusionary of me except that I can come and cheer for her. If I’m feeling really enthusiastic I can help her load the horse on the trailer, I can clean up the horse’s poop which she calls mucking the stalls, I can cheer for her and listen to her dreams and support her in them. There’s not much in it for me if I’m completely honest.
We all have stuff like this, stuff that’s very personal that doesn’t involve our partner. That’s okay. These things need to be taken into consideration when suggesting increasing romance and intimacy. The reason is any decision that our partners are going to make about increasing intimacy and romance with us is going to impact other things that they enjoy, and have been enjoying thanks to our unspoken agreement that we’re going to ignore romance and intimacy for a period of time.
For that matter consider your own needs. What might you end up doing less of or even give up in order to build intimacy and romance with your partner? Remember that there are only so many hours in each day. Every decision we make about where we’re going to put our attention by definition means something else may not get as much of it. This is why we will consider carefully what the other person enjoys, what do they enjoy doing with us? How much time are we willing to give? How much time might they be willing to give?
It might mean that if you want to spend more time with them, you’re going to go to business conferences with them and talk them into taking an extra day at the location for the two of you. That’s not as juicy as going on a hot weekend alone together and not working, but it might be a step in the right direction. This is all about baby steps! Every time you take a baby step together towards greater romance and intimacy, the more likely you are to take the next one. Go for small steps in the right direction rather than major transformations. It’s really easy to get stuck on the idea of a breakthrough! Embrace baby steps and celebrate them.
This is where the rubber hits the road. You’re going to enroll your partner in the idea of how to increase your romance and build intimacy. Tell them you’re reading this ridiculous article on bringing romance back into your relationship and as crazy as it sounds you’d like to explore it with them. See what they have to say about it. You never know they might be interested themselves.
Do not share your inventory of what’s wrong with your marriage, they don’t want to hear about how you’re sleeping not facing each other, and all that other good stuff. What they want to hear is where you want to go. Share where you want to go together with them. Enroll them in the idea of being friends again, maybe even friends with benefits 😉
The idea is that the two of you put your heads together. The first step really is to get back in touch with the falling in love stage. You’re never going to reexperience it the same way, but it won’t hurt to remember your honeymoon together. The best date you ever had. Talk about what is romance means at this stage in your life? When you have children and you’re both working, there’s not a lot of room for being in love. Let’s be honest being in love takes a lot of emotional energy. So do children and work! You can have what we like to call mature love. This is where you plan in romance and intimacy together. Little windows of it. Little refreshers in your weekly experience. Co creates some time together by making a list of what you both enjoy best. Here are three suggestions.
If you don’t do date night, it’s time to start. The idea of date night is not necessarily that it’s night time even. The idea is that every week you’re going to set aside an hour or two to break bread together and talk about your lives. If it can be every Wednesday evening great. If your kids are too young and you don’t have the help, maybe you’re going to get up early and have breakfast one day together without the kids. The core idea is it’s just the two of you. That it’s regular. That you connect about your lives together.
Date night is just the start, however. You want to start looking at ways that you can date similar to when you were in love. It might be that you’re going to go on a trip together. It could be that you’re going to go to the museum together. You’re going to have a movie night with popcorn and everything. You’re going to go for a walk in the woods. A swim in the ocean. Whatever natural resources you have near you you’re going to use them together. Dating is about time together appreciating one another as you do things together. These are ways to build intimacy Whatever works for you will fit here. You want to make it regular as well. Just like date night, these might be things you do once a season, or once a month, or all of the above.
Part of this can be learning together. Take a massage class together. Take dance classes together. Nowadays you can take them virtually you don’t just have to go to a dance studio. Believe it or not, virtual dance classes are incredibly effective as I learned during the pandemic! Take self-defense together. Go to a pottery class together. Anything where you’re learning something new with each other. Afterward, talk about what it was like. What did you enjoy? How did they like it? What was enjoyable about it? What was awful about it? Maybe this is something you never want to do again. Maybe it’s something you want to keep doing together. The important thing is that you’re doing it together.
6-Exploring Ideas Together
Similar to learning together, is exploring together. Exploring together looks like reading a book on relationships together. A really simple and easy read is The Five Love Languages. I often recommend to couples that I work with that they read the five love languages together in sort of a book club style. Read a chapter talk about it read a chapter talk about it.
Take a relationship seminar together and learn more about relationships. This is often done with other couples and so you get a perspective on how other people are experiencing their relationship. Don’t be surprised if you find out that many couples are having a similar experience to yours. They are all in it to build intimacy.
Take a workshop together. Do some deep introspection together. Part of intimacy is building trust. By doing self-exploration together, and making it safe to share your personal experiences you will build trust.
You often read in this blog that trust, caring communication, and empathy are the core legs of intimacy. In order to build intimacy, you need all three of these elements. This piece is been all about ways that you can promote caring communication, and build empathy and trust through activities together. At the heart of intimacy is romance. Romance is the appreciation of your partner, of all they’ve given to you, all you can give to them, and all you will create together. Having fun together, learning, exploring, are all at the heart of activities that will help you to deepen intimacy and romance in your lives.