Intimacy is at the core of every committed partnership. Well...it should be. But over time and after the inevitable process of settling into the complacent routines of a long-term relationship, intimacy seems to feel further away than it perhaps once was. Sure, you still have those days where you look over at your partner and think "dang! What did I do to end up with a hunk like that!", but that flame of passion and those burning feelings of desire seem to waver with the different seasons of your life.
Not to fear...this is supposed to happen. I am pretty sure no one came up to me and warned me of this on my wedding day. If they did, I can guarantee you I didn't hear them. I was in la la love land. But today, I am willing to embrace the fact that my relationship will change over time, and that intimacy is not going to come so easy forever.
Intimacy is something that feels natural at first, and that's because it is! It manifests as a strong chemical reaction, an emotional connection between two yearning souls that can't seem to get enough of each other. It is beautiful and so thrilling. But what does intimacy in a long-term partnership look like? What does it feel like?
Well, it looks like a lot more work and feels more like trust, respect, honesty, and intentionality. It is so far beyond the sensual fireworks and surface-level connection we fool ourselves into believing is true love.
It is that, and more. And it is something that must be cultivated or else it will be lost.
Here are five ways to start cultivating intentional intimacy:
1. Go to bed together.
People get set into their routines. Routines get comfortable and end up feeling concrete. If you and your partner seem to have opposite schedules or different routines for winding down at night, making a change in this area will be sure to increase the feelings of intimacy. Create a routine together and let your end-of-day winding down become a space for you to reconnect. Do this intentionally for one week and see what you notice.
Sure, the sparks may not be flying as frequently as they were when you first got together, but those moments should not be lost forever just because they are in the past. Honor your relationship history. At least once or twice a year I will pull out our wedding memorabilia and read through the notes, our vows, look at the pictures, hold one of the last sparklers from the sendoff. I can feel a surge of love for my spouse, and it reminds me to be intentional toward him. It takes me back to the moment our marital journey all began. There are so many great ways to reminisce on your own, or with you partner. Pull out the old picture books, watch your engagement video, talk about your favorite dates. Keep those special and defining moments of your relationship alive.
3. Speak your partner's love language.
A part of intimacy is in understanding, prioritizing, and honoring the way your partner receives love. We all have different ways of feeling and receiving love. Take the famous Love Languages quiz and find out what yours is. Then have your partner take it and share theirs. Have you been speaking your partner's love language? We often treat our spouse in the way that WE want to be treated, but really, loving in a way that our partner values will deepen the intentional intimacy you create.
4. Give your partner a gift.
Gifts come in many forms. What does your partner want? What does your partner need? A foot massage without having to give you one back, an evening out while you watch the kids, her favorite flowers, his favorite dinner...from the free all the way to the lavish, give a gift and let your partner know they are loved.
5. Love yourself.
Intimacy begins with you. You cannot be intimate with another if you are not first taking care of your own emotional tank. Your partner needs you at your best, not at your worst or on your last stretch of energy. If you are taking care of you, you are in a better place to put out the efforts of intentional intimacy. Date yourself so you can date your spouse!
Begin to implement these suggestions into your routine this week. See what you notice and explore how you feel. With the implementation of intimate actions on your part, you will experience a deeper connection with your partner.