I’d like to say that the holidays bring out the best in couples, but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case for many. During this time of extended family visits, increased spending and busy-ness, the spirit of the holidays often take a back seat to stress and overwhelm. Of course, this stress affects relationships and healthy intimacy tends to take a back seat, too.
Welcome to my 3-part holiday series, where I give the low-down on intimacy. This is to help you and your partner get through the holidays not only intact, but also in a loving and healthy way. In week 1, I’ll explain what intimacy is. In week 2, I’ll share with you the main culprits that erode intimacy. In week 3, I’ll reveal the secrets to how you can experience lasting, fun and juicy intimacy in your relationship, not only for this holiday season, but also for the years to come. Last, I’ll give you a homework assignment each week that will amp up your level of relationship intimacy. Let’s get started.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is one of the most precious commodities we have in relationships. It’s something that takes time, is a process and journey that two people take together. There are 4 different types of intimacy:
An exchange and/or support of each other’s thoughts, ideas and opinions. This involves verbal communication.
I’ll use my mother and step-father as an example for this. Every Sunday, they would read the Times while drinking coffee during the morning hours. Then at lunch or dinner, they would discuss what they read, which sometimes turned into a friendly debate. They enjoyed these exchanges because they had a chance to share their opinions and ideas with one another. As the witness to their intellectual intimacy, I enjoyed it, too.
Energetic or experiential intimacy
When a couple engages in mutual activities. This usually does not involve verbal communication, but rather energetic synergy.
I’ll share my own personal example of this type of intimacy. Since 2012, my husband and I have produced guided meditations for our Miracle Mondays Meditations community. We quietly sit together – I write and use my voice to guide the meditations while he composes the beautiful music and produces the products. The result – powerful and transformative meditation audios and videos.
Back in the 90’s, we used to invent personalized songs for kids who were in the hospital with cancer. I wrote the lyrics and sang while my husband composed the music and burned CD’s for each child. Creating together is a ‘cloud-9’ experience for us. It has always felt amazing to have this generative energy flowing between us.
Sharing your feelings and a desire to understand the feelings of your partner. This involves both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Couples must have a level of trust and comfort with each other to be able to share their vulnerabilities. If one or both are over reactive, it will most likely shut down this level of intimacy. Several years ago, I was working with a couple that really wanted more emotional intimacy but their relationship was ingrained in reactive patterns of communication. He would often roll his eyes when she shared her feelings and she would criticize him for not meeting her needs. Step-by-step, we examined their cycles of destructive verbal and non-verbal habits and replaced them with healthy behaviors of active listening, compassionate rapport and empathetic-type body language. Their hard work paid off as their relationship is now flourishing.
Any form of sensual expression toward or for one another. This involves physical and non-physical communication.
Most people think of intimacy as being only sexual, but as you can see, it’s not only about sex. Examples of non-physical sexual intimacy include talking about sex before having it and revealing sexual fantasies to one another. Examples of physical sexual intimacy include, hugging, kissing, massage, sensual touch, oral sex and intercourse.
When couples end up in my office due to marital problems, it’s not unusual for me to hear that sex is an issue. One of the main reasons for this is because men and women often experience sexual intimacy very differently. For example, men tend to form more of an emotional bond with their partner after sex, while women desire the emotional bonding in order to have sex. Once couples understand this innate and very common difference, and if they can compromise a little to meet the other’s needs, their sexual intimacy problems tend to disappear.
Homework for the week: For the next 7 days, tell your partner everyday at least 1 thing about them that turns you on. Go ahead, have some fun! 😉
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, The Holiday Survival Guide For Couples: Part 2- What Are The Main Culprits To Eroding Intimacy?
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