How To Communicate for Better Intimacy in Your Relationships
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about having better intimacy with your partner? What do you think your partner would say? Men tend to think that intimacy refers to better (or more) sex, while women tend to look at a much broader context, including emotions, conversation, and physical contact.
So you can see where this, in and of itself, can lead to problems when you start off communication from two different perspectives of what will lead to greater intimacy. In today’s blog, we will be discussing three different steps to communicate for better intimacy in your relationship and what each of them entail:
What is Intimacy to you?
Before you can communicate with your partner, the FIRST STEP in having better intimacy is to figure out what intimacy really means to you. It’s important to be as specific as possible, since it’s more than likely that you are coming from a different place than your partner.
Many times we see couples who come in for counseling who don’t feel like they have enough intimacy in their relationship, but don’t really know what more intimacy would mean to them. If you are familiar with Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages”, this is a great place to start.
Which Love Language are you?
Do you feel more intimate from physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, or special gifts? Be sure and give examples to your partner, and express how it positively impacted you when using examples from the past of when he/she was on target with meeting your needs
Communicate these needs to your partner, and ask them to do the same. There are several things that go into communication which are imperative, and will “make it or break it”.
Are you going to Make it or Break it?
It’s really important that you go into communication with an open mind and heart. If you go into communication open to sharing and open to hearing what your partner has to say, things will go a lot better.
Promise each other that you won’t judge or ridicule each other’s needs. You want to create a place that is safe and loving, where you can both be vulnerable.
Bring up things at a good time for both people. Ask your partner if it’s a good time. If not, then negotiate a better time that you can both agree upon to discuss your relationship.
When it’s your turn to share, keep the focus on yourself and your needs– not what the other person is doing or not doing. Trying to communicate your needs in a way that is negative and critical will ensure that your partner does NOT hear you.
Don’t be attacking, blaming, or destructively criticize. Don’t make it a personal attack on the other person and their character. Again, they will shut down or become defensive an won’t hear what you have to say.
Be patient in all of your communication. One of the biggest obstacles to communication is when one or both people become defensive and reactive when they hear their partner share what they need more or less of. Make a real effort to not allow yourself to do this when you hear your partner communicate their needs to you. It creates an unsafe place for them to share, which will cause them to stop sharing.
Keep the issue on track. It’s easy to begin communicating a laundry list of things all at one time, but this will be overwhelming to your partner. Try not to go off on tangents and keep it to one or two simple statements at a time.
Start sentences with “I feel…” or “I need…”, instead of starting sentences with “You…”. Stay away from absolutes: “You ALWAYS…” or “You NEVER…”.
What nonverbal cues are you sending?
When it’s your turn to listen, be aware of your nonverbal cues or your body language. As we share with our clients in session, you can not NOT communicate! Even when we aren’t speaking, we are communicating to others. Don’t roll your eyes, shake your head, shrug your shoulders, or look at the floor. Look directly at your partner and let them know through your non-verbal cues that you are listening to them.
Don’t interrupt your partner when you are the listener, and ask the same of them. Let them finish what they are saying and don’t jump in at the first pause in the conversation. They might just be formulating their thoughts and trying to decide how to continue. If you are confused, ask if they are done speaking before you jump in to reply.
Ask questions to get better clarity about what they are sharing. Try not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions.
Don’t take what they are sharing as a personal attack when it’s not. Sometimes we can have filters on our ears that can skew what we hear other people say. Don’t make it about you if it’s about something else (e.g. “I would like to see you spend more time playing with the kids” does not translate to “You are such a horrible parent”!).
See the situation from your partner’s point of view and allow for differences. It’s important that you respect your partner’s point of view, even when you disagree or when those needs seem abnormal to yours. Remember that it’s hard for both of you to be vulnerable and tell each other what your needs are, so make sure your partner knows you understand how they are feeling, and ask for the same.
The last step in the process of creating better intimacy is to prepare to compromise. Make sure that you challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone a little to make your relationship stronger and closer. You might just find out that you enjoy changing your intimacy after the discomfort wears off a little!
Most of all, remember that communicating for better intimacy is an ongoing process, not a one-time conversation. Try to set aside time as a couple to work on strengthening your communication on a regular basis.
About the Author:
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.
Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides marriage, couples, individual and family counseling for adults, children and adolescents. Imagine Hope is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Imagine Hope’s desire is to inspire hope for life and relationships, understanding that Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough. Joleen has specialized experience in helping others in the areas of depression, anxiety, infidelity, communication, addictions and self-esteem.
Having a passion for guiding people towards healthy, fulfilling relationships is Imagine Hope’s mission. To learn more about Imagine Hope please visit www.ImagineHopeCounseling.com or read our blog at www.Inspire.ImagineHopeCounseling.com