She Said He Said, the Valentine’s edition: Enhance intimacy and deepen connection
She Said He Said
Ideally, Valentine’s Day inspires a little extra romance in your relationship. But for many couples, the stress of creating the ultimate date or receiving the perfect gift eclipses the focus of simply enjoying one another. Having a meaningful Valentine’s, regardless of the current state of your relationship, starts with tuning into each other and tuning out the commercial hype and Instagram comparisons. We’re not dissuading you from buying a lovely present or planning a delicious dinner, but instead are encouraging you to not let that be the end goal. Every relationship has room to repair rifts or enhance intimacy. Today is an opportune time to recognize your strengths as a couple and begin playing with new practices for growing together. Here are a few options to get you started.
Jeff: Find new ways to build intimacy
When most people think of intimacy, two things typically come to mind: physical/sexual connection and emotional closeness. Undoubtedly, both are important to the health of most relationships. But the challenge with over-emphasizing these two areas of intimacy — especially with the hyper-focus on Valentine’s Day — is that both passionate sex and a deep emotional connection are places that tend to create a lot of vulnerability.
This year, try something new by focusing more on the three other forms of intimacy. The first is playful intimacy, which can be a lighter, sillier or more adventurous kind of connection. Plan on a hike or a weekend adventure. Go to a comedy show or watch a funny movie. The second is intellectual intimacy — the sharing of ideas, values and beliefs. Pick a book to read together, listen to a podcast or find an interesting seminar to sign up for. And the third is spiritual intimacy — the exploration of existentialism, religion or higher consciousness with your partner. You could meditate together or go to a church service. Or try something a bit more outside the box like a shared breathwork session. These aspects of intimacy also require nurturing and attention in healthy relationships and they have less of a vulnerability factor, so they are worth the time and effort to integrate into your relationship.
Lori: Commit to turning toward each other (80% of the time)
Intimacy is built through a thousand small interactions that support both partners in feeling safe, seen, valued and loved. Psychologist John Gottman found that thriving relationships are those in which partners actively create invitations to connect and are conscious about responding to each other’s bids for engagement. These bids are intertwined into the fabric of daily life: a smile, a hug, sharing an insecurity, recounting a funny memory, asking for support. Couples who remained strong over six years of the study averaged turning toward each other 86% of the time.
Conduct the ARI Lovability Audit together
Through our work with couples, we created the Aspen Relationship Institute Lovability Audit to help partners clarify how they want to feel seen and loved. Reflect on each of the questions and share your answers and insights with each other.
- What makes you lovable? (Hint, we all are intrinsically worthy of love from the first moment of life.) Don’t be shy in listing the aspects of yourself that you value, love or appreciate.
- What do you feel you are loved for? Some partners feel loved because of what they do, give or provide. Others for their success or beauty. This question begins to explore your narrative of why your partner (and others) value you. It’s important to note that narratives may be accurate or skewed.
- What do you want to be loved for? This isn’t black or white. Your partner may still love you for being a great parent or providing financial security. But perhaps you would also like to feel more love for your humor, insight or creativity.
- How will you know when you are being loved for these aspects (i.e., what you listed in No. 3)? Reflect on ways in which your partner could show that they loved these facets or parts of you.
Jeff and Lori: Don’t let the stress of Valentine’s Day distract you from what’s most important. Take time today to turn toward each other, express appreciation for one another, and talk about new ways to foster intimacy.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Visit http://www.aspenrelationship.com/blog-1 for all previous She Said, He Said columns.