I read an interesting article about relationships in Psychology Today entitled Don’t Set The Bar Too Low, by Linda and Charlie Bloom. Mr. Bloom’s explanation of how and why he entered his marriage with low expectations, and how his thoughts and actions nearly cost him the relationship, are painfully candid. At one point he states, “I believed that to hope for more would be naïve and unrealistic since it seemed that no one has that kind of marriage anyway, except in the movies. These beliefs were all basically rationalizations for avoiding the risk of genuine emotional intimacy.”
He then addresses the disconnect between his thoughts and the demands of his heart (which needed more passion), as well as the conflict with his wife’s need for intimacy. Initially he handled these problems by avoiding them, stating, “My way of dealing with the situation took the form of minimizing the amount of time that we spent together and maximizing the amount of time that I spent on other “more important” things. Namely work. In so doing, I reasoned that there would be minimal danger of conflict and we could maintain an adequate degree of connection.”
Naturally, his plan backfired and, instead, created a self-fulfilling prophecy that nearly cost him his marriage. It wasn’t until his wife nearly walked out the door that he decided to get in the game. Fortunately, twenty-five years later, they are happily married and enjoying a relationship far exceeding either one’s wildest dreams.
Isn’t that what we all want? But how do we create it for ourselves?
As a middle-aged woman with many married (and a few divorced) friends, I’ve discussed the topic of what makes a relationship last ad nauseam. It seems a lot of people give up and “settle” for the status quo rather than risk rejection or undertake the effort of really putting themselves on the line emotionally.
It’s hard to do, especially if you’ve let that connection slip. It’s awkward to try to recapture something buried beneath the responsibilities of work, parenthood, and all the other grown-up issues in life. But I think, if you find yourself drifting toward the outer reaches of relationship satisfaction, you owe it to yourself and your partner to work on getting it back, no matter how difficult it may be to create real intimacy.
According to Preston Ni, there are four cornerstones to intimacy: physical, emotional, intellectual, and shared activies. He often authors articles aimed at helping couples enhance closeness, including How To Enhance Closeness in Your Relationship and 7 Keys To Long-Term Relationship Success. But essentially, it all boils down to old-fashioned common sense.
Small physical contact (non-sexual hugs, hand-holding, etc.,) increases intimacy and reassures your partner of a level of closeness that differs from all other relationships. Emotional intimacy requires more than checking the box with a two-minute discussion of “How was your day, honey?” You need to reaffirm your partner’s importance to you through words and actions, and validate your partner’s feelings. Intellectual intimacy can be increased with lively discussions about work, a good book or movie, or current events. Stimulating the brain can increase sexual desire, too. Finally, shared activities help forge stronger bonds. Cook together, exercise, travel or share a hobby. Any and all of these activities create a so-called “positive memory bank” that helps keep a bond in place.
So, if you find yourself feeling restless and unfulfilled in your current relationship, try working on some of these techniques before giving up and walking away, or worse, living in a perpetual state of discontent.
What do you do to keep the love alive in your marriage?
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