Intimacy is an important part of a relationship. Intimacy is often mistaken for sex, and while sex can be part of the equation, it does not paint the full picture. According to psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, intimacy “…refers to feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships” (Sternberg, 1986, p. 119). It is the sense of fully knowing and understanding your partner and involves a great deal of self-disclosure. Intimate relationships are often more satisfying, as a stronger, more genuine bond is created. Below are some clear action-oriented goals you can set with your partner to increase intimacy.
Have deep and meaningful conversations
Too often our daily stresses and hassles overtake our relationships. Rather than focusing on important issues and uplifting news during our exchanges, we may get stuck on the difficulties we faced during the day. Spend less time giving your partner a play-by-play of every annoyance that you experienced (unless they are really affecting you), and spend more time sharing positive and important news.
Some possible goals you may set:
1. Limit the amount of time you spend venting to one another about trivial issues from work that aren’t causing you any major amount of stress
2. Institute a policy about discussing at least one topic that you find exciting each night (whether it be dreams for the future, something new you learned, something interesting you heard, etc.).
3. Turn off the phone, TV, etc. during your conversations. Limit any outside distractions so you can both listen to one another.
Discuss an approach to communication that you think will be beneficial to your relationship. Some examples include:
1. Allowing each partner to speak without interruption
2. Addressing each potential conflict-related topic fully (the point at which both individuals feel that they have reached a resolution), before moving to the next topic
3. Creating a safe and non-judgmental space
Create a plan for open and honest communication
To successfully create an intimate bond with your partner, you must be able to share your feelings, thoughts, and desires. Evaluate the serious conversations that you had over the last year. Were they easy or difficult to have? Did you leave the conversation feeling as if you were really heard? If you feel that you couldn’t properly or easily express yourself, it is time for a change.
Implementing these goals may help you and your partner communicate more openly and effectively, which in turn, will increase the intimacy you experience. Relationships are always a work in progress, so continue to strengthen your bond by working together.
Reference: Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 119-135.
Marisa T. Cohen, PhD is a psychology professor, relationship researcher, and relationship coach. Learn more about Marisa at www.marisatcohen.com.