Although it’s always a good time to build a deeper bond with your partner or spouse, I am most often asked this sort of question when people are in trouble. Their relationship is rocky, their marriage is mediocre, they’re scared and scrambling to fix things.
Better to build connections to your partner all the time, rather than only when you’re in trouble. Otherwise you risk that old cliché about closing the barn door after the horse has already run away.
The good news is that there are many fantastic ways to build a deeper bond with your partner! Some are small things you can do every day, while others are grander gestures that require some more effort. Choose some of each, like you’re picking food at a buffet.
A quick caveat about sex. Don’t confuse intimacy and sex, because they aren’t always the same. In fact, sex can actually be a barrier to intimacy. If greater intimacy is your goal, focus more on intimacy that just on sex. Too many people get lazy and think having sex is the best (or only) way to bond with your partner. Remember – sex is just part of a marriage or relationship. Expecting great sex to save your marriage is like expecting great laundry to save it. Or great garbage emptying. “My wife will never leave me because I’m so great at taking out the garbage!” Sounds silly, right? [RELATED: How To Build A Healthy & Happy Relationship]
My second caveat is to forget everything you’ve ever seen in romantic movies or soap operas. You know what I’m talking about – one partner does some huge, amazing, tremendously romantic thing to impress their partner and save the relationship. I once saw a soap opera where the boyfriend thought building a house in secret and then surprising his girlfriend with it would be a great idea. Of course, it took months, and he was always sneaking around, busy and exhausted, and they broke up before he was done. Great soap opera entertainment to be sure, and I shouted at the TV screen when she dumped him. But that has nothing to do with real life.
Grand romantic gestures have their place, but they require so much effort they are exhausting. Better to build the foundation of intimacy on smaller things that are easier. Trust me.
What is intimacy, anyway? That’s something you should think about. What kind of bond do you want to deepen with your partner?
You’re the only one who can truly answer that, but I can make some suggestions on its ingredients.
1) Intimacy is related to honesty. Your partner wants to know how you are feeling and what you are thinking, every day. Don’t keep things from them. It’s an insult to your partner to hide part of yourself from them to protect them. You don’t want to get into the habit of keeping secrets from each other.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “My partner is tired of hearing me complain about my job. I have already spent hours complaining about it and they don’t want to hear any more.”
You are probably right. Honesty means telling your partner how you are feeling and what’s going on in your life, but not endlessly. I suggest “checking in” with your partner for a few minutes every day. Even just three minutes each will work wonders. Get a timer and take turns talking and listening (without interrupting or saying anything). You can do this in the car if you drive together, or at the table at meals, or at night after the kids go to bed.
2) You love each other. So tell each other. This one is so simple and obvious that many people overlook it. But you should tell each other that you love each other often. It takes about two seconds but the benefits last. Many people I meet seem to think “my partner already knows I love them.” They still like to hear it. Trust me.
3) This is another easy one. You should touch each other. I’ve known married couples who never touched each other. They got out of the habit of it and lost that simple way of connecting with each other. A hug and a kiss on the way out the door to work is nice. Sitting on the couch and rubbing your partner’s tired feet while you watch TV is also sweet. It doesn’t have to be any more than that. Hold hands while you walk down the street.
These three small ways of connecting with your partner can be supplemented by an occasional bigger gesture such as a romantic dinner or trip out. Surprise gifts or flowers are nice, too, but you shouldn’t overdo it and tire yourself out. If you’re exhausted and grouchy, you’ve defeated the whole purpose of a closer connection to your partner.