How do you restore the intimacy in a relationship that has grown stale? How do you rediscover the romance that was lost? How do you get past the conflict? How do you begin to build the bridge?
Intimacy is one of the most important aspects of our existence. We seem to have an inherent need to experience closeness and connection and communion with others. Chief among the closeness that we seek is for the closeness of family. It’s part of our humanity. Unlike lower forms, we long to bond and be closely connected to another. In his paper Intimacy and its relevance in human functioning, Dr. Miodrag Popovic goes so far as to state ” Intimacy is often considered as the essential factor in adults’ health, ability to adapt, happiness, and sense of meaning in life”
Intimacy can be fragile and fleeting. Despite their desire for intimacy, some find it difficult to ever attain. Others take it for granted. The warm nest of intimacy can be shattered and scattered by the winds of abuse, infidelity and neglect. Once lost, many fall in to despair and hopelessness, fearing that it may never return.
Barriers to Recovering Intimacy
So, what are the barriers to recovering intimacy? On the brink of divorce, couples often complain that they have fallen out of love.They feel that they have drifted apart emotionally and are disconnected. Many couples struggle with issues that pull them apart and build barriers to intimacy.
Chief among those barriers is neglect. It turns out that neglect is one of the most common barriers to intimacy. Work, kids, hobbies and even other relationships all divert precious time away form the relationship. Couples who fail to nourish their relationship and fall into a pattern of neglect, unwittingly create their own barrier to intimacy.
Another barrier is built through betrayal. Any violation to a couples commitment to emotional and sexual exclusivity can wreck havoc on the relationship. Only slightly less insidious, not following through on commitments, going against agreements and repeatedly undermining a spouses trust all lead to increased emotional distance and withdrawal.
Destructive communication can rip at the very foundation of intimacy. Poor communication poses a significant barrier to intimacy and may include poor listening habits, poor conflict management skills, criticism, defensiveness or cycles of demand-withdrawal.
Different ideas of what intimacy means can raise barriers between partners. Fear of intimacy, emotional vulnerability and rejection can also lead to withdrawal.
Tearing Down the Walls
How do we tear down the barriers to intimacy. How do we reverse these destructive patterns and return to a life of deep emotional connection?
The first step in recovering intimacy is developing a sense of safety in the relationship. Couples must redevelop the ability to be vulnerable and supportive of each other. Establishing honest and open communication is paramount. Discussing the fears of intimacy, breaking old patterns and establishing new patterns of support can quickly increase feelings of intimacy. Developing the skill of active, responsive listening leads to softening on the part of both partners.
Couples must spend focused, uninterrupted time, quality time together. Quantity time or spending a lot of time together, is also important in relationship repair. Intimacy must be reconstructed and that takes time together. Making the necessary time may require setting boundaries in both personal and professional arenas, limiting time spent on outside interests and turning off the TV.
Finally, noticing and celebrating each small success on the road to reestablishing intimacy is critical. Progress can often be overlooked. Learning to recognize moments of closeness and sharing those feelings with our partner help to reestablish and rebuild intimacy and help the relationship move form roommate to romance.
Homework: Find time this week to turn off the TV, set aside distractions and just “Be” with your partner. Silence is fine, but conversation is even better. Listen…actively listen…don’t offer advise…don’t criticize. Chances are, you are going to hear something you’ve heard a thousand times, but this time really listen to your spouse. Follow up with a hug and let your spouse know that you love them and respect them. You will be amazed at the closeness that develops.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to continue the journey, read “Are You Ready To Want Sex Again?” or download our free e-book entitled “Sex.Love. Happiness.”