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Four Tips to Rekindle Intimacy in Your Relationship

Updated: 4 days ago





When a couple sits down in my office for the first time, one of the biggest stressors I hear is the decline and difficulty of prioritizing intimacy as the relationship has progressed. At times, couples will begin to assume that their “spark” is gone or that the relationship has run its course. Oftentimes, I see couples comparing their current relationship with how things were in the past… they aren’t alone in this thought. Let me explain…


Anyone who knows me, knows I am always a sucker for a good rom-com movie: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail (I may be partial to Meg Ryan). You can catch me glued to the screen waiting to hear, and recite, famous lines like:

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." - When Harry Met Sally (1989)


and...


"It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together, and I knew it. I knew it the first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I'd ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew it… It was like magic." - Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

*Swoon


So, what is it about these movies and cliche quotes that leave us so captivated?

They capture the infamous “honeymoon phase” of a relationship. John Gottman defines this first phase of love as: limerence (or falling in love). A phase “characterized by physical symptoms (flushing, trembling, palpitations), excitement, intrusive thinking, obsession, fantasy, sexual excitement, and the fear of rejection.”


Let’s be real, the limerence phase is usually where our favorite rom-com movies start and end; rarely do we get to see the loving couple move into the other phase of the relationship.

We know that in order for the relationship to continue, it must move into Phase 2: Building Trust and Phase 3: Building Commitment and Loyalty. However, it is only human in our long-term relationships to long for the passion and intimacy of the limerence phase. The beautiful thing is, we can rekindle the passion and intimacy without all the awkwardness and obsession of the limerence phase (win-win-win!). 


Below are four ways to bring back the passion in your relationship:


1. Make intimacy a priority

The older we get and the longer our relationship/marriage, the more our daydreams and attention goes to other areas of our life, instead of one another. Whether it’s worrying about getting that work project completed, getting kids to basketball practice, or getting caught up on our favorite show, romance and intimacy does not come so easily as it did when you first started dating and can often show up as the last thing to do on our “to do list” (maybe it doesn’t even make the list!). Have an open conversation with your partner about ways to prioritize intimacy into your life such as increasing date nights, learning something new together, or committing to a rule of no TV on in the bedroom after 9 pm. Make intimacy a priority by changing your routine and habits that have you becoming distant and distracted versus connected and attuned.


2. Practice emotional attunement

A relationship's superpower is emotional attunement! To attune to something means to become harmonious, to make aware or responsive to something. To emotionally attune is our ability to connect with our partner on a deeper level or ability to sit in someone’s inner world. Attunement allows you to see the world through your partner’s eyes and walk in their shoes. When you do this, you empathize with your partner, listening to and observing their emotional cues, creating a deeper sense of connection. 

When we feel seen and understood, we feel closer, safer, and more intimately connected to our partner. A great way to emotionally attune is to ask one another open-ended questions. This gives the opportunity for the conversation to expand. If you are only asking questions that require a “yes” or “no” response, the conversation will die sooner than it will thrive and create a deeper connection. Instead of ‘Did you watch that movie?’ ask, ‘What was your favorite part?” Read more here: (Gottman on Emotional Intimacy)

You may have heard the phrase, “get emotionally naked.” That is to say, sharing your vulnerabilities with your partner so you are able to be fully present and connected within an emotional space. If you understand your own emotions, you can better understand and pick up on your partner’s.


3. Date one another

Too often individuals have a faulty belief system that courtship and dating is only for the early years of their budding relationship. When we are in the limerence phase, we date, we flirt, we woo, in effort to connect with one another and then suddenly we stop. We may have the tendency to disregard or not prioritize dating after the knot has been tied, etc. Carving out time to pursue and have full attention on your partner is crucial to long-term satisfaction within the relationship. Pro tip: Do something fun or different together and watch the sparks fly!

Here are a few fun date nights to get you out of your comfort zone:

  • Paint-and-sip

  • Laser Tag

  • Dancing/Cooking lessons

  • Going to listen to live music

Or you can check out the positively reviewed Adventure Challenge: Couples Edition for a fun book of scratch-off date ideas (The Adventure Challenge).


4. Increase affectionate touch

While sexual touch is important, non-sexual physical contact is just as, if not, more important and holds its own unique benefits. Affectionate touch, something as simple as holding hands or extending a kiss, can occur daily and have amazing benefits to the health of your relationship. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, “holding hands, hugging, and touching can release oxytocin causing a calming sensation” – a great way of relieving the cortisol (a stress hormone) that has built up over a long and busy work day (Gottman on Rekindling Passion).


Furthermore, one of John Gottman’s golden tools is that which he calls the 6 second kiss. As we go about our busy day, often a kiss becomes nothing more than a brief greeting or goodbye. When we stop and lengthen the kiss (6 seconds, or more) we give the opportunity to feel present with our partner and create a stronger moment of connection.

It may sound cliche, but it’s totally okay if you fall in love with your partner all over again while trying these four tips, we know we all crave that “can't-eat, can't-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kind of stuff”, (It Takes Two, 1995) 

Right? 


Till next time,


Aimee Strange, LPCC 14132

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