The skills couples need to keep intimacy alive in a long-term relationship differ from new relationship intimacy skills, and they’re not obvious because people don’t talk about them. Most couples need to lower their expectations of romance and glamour and raise the level of fun they have together. Regular weekly talks (I call them State of the Union discussions) keep the problems minor, the resentment level down, and the communication open, so that there is time and space for intimacy. In a successful, long-term relationship, passion becomes a shared sense of humor and goodwill toward each other. I spend every day teaching couples how to do these things.
1. Learn to negotiate and solve problems together. Generally speaking, men value competency and problem solving. Women value intimacy and emotional connection. Learning successful problem solving ends fighting and power struggles, and therefore leads to more intimacy. You may think he’s focused entirely on time, power or money, but what he’s really trying to do is create enough security that he can feel safe letting his guard down.
2. Make time for intimacy: Regard your face to face time as sacred (it is –it will bless your marriage.) Take time to listen to each other. Touch as often as possible (put your hand on your spouse’s leg while driving; give him or her a little squeeze now and then, hug and kiss each other.) Create a cuddling space in front of the television, on the porch swing, in your bedroom, and use it. Intimacy is the art of making your partner feel understood and accepted. When this feeling is created, barriers fall. Gentle touch, eye contact, a gentle sense of humor and the right words all create the atmosphere. Positive comments on your partner’s looks or the day’s activities will also help. Couples disconnect when they don’t feel interested in each other anymore. To reconnect, make an effort to listen and understand each others’ needs and wants.
3. The most powerful thing you can do to keep a marriage strong is form a partnership where both parties feel respected, cared about and needed. If you really want to restore the marriage, begin not by complaining, but by seeking to understand your partner. Once the connection is there, you can begin to work out the issues.
4. Don’t hold a grudge: Talk about what’s bothering you in a rational way. Ask clearly for what you want, and let your partner know why it’s important to you. If you can’t find a way to agree, go for a counseling session. Resentment will destroy your marriage –for the price of one session, before the problem gets too large, you can save it.
5. Show your appreciation: Let your partner know you appreciate what he or she does, personality traits, (i.e.: his sense of humor, her generosity, his practicality, her hard work) and companionship. The more you praise what you like, the more you’ll get of it. We all want to be appreciated. Celebration + appreciation = motivation.
(© 2008 Tina B. Tessina Adapted from the Money, Sex and Kids)
Dr. Tina Tessina, PhD http://www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.)