Q: My husband and I need some relationship help. We’ve grown apart over the years, and while we talk about what’s happened, nothing seems to change. How can we bring back that sense of togetherness that we used to have? We’re both motivated to make our marriage work…
~ Celia, Boulder, CO
A: Thanks for the question, Celia. There are different pathways a couple can travel in order to deepen emotional intimacy. Finding what makes you and your spouse/partner feel emotionally connected can go a long way in strengthening your marriage/relationship, and often some trial and error is needed before discovering what works for each of you.
Let’s look at one pathway to deeper intimacy: Shared Activities.
Relationship Help: The Power of Shared Activities
The development of shared activities and interests is one of the most powerful ways to nurture the bond of your relationship. Relationships often begin with each person fascinated by the other’s interests and pursuits. Maybe you always hated opera, but now that you’re dating an opera buff, you find yourself third-row-center and loving it. Chalk it up to the power of infatuation. New love magically creates mutual interests.
The reality is that as your marriage/relationship matures, you may become less focused on your partner’s interests and begin to refocus on your own. Not to worry—this is a natural path that most relationships travel. Marital/relationship problems can arise, however, when this occurs at the expense of mutual activities and time spent together.
As a marriage/couples counselor, I’ve seen the power of shared activities in helping couples reclaim the emotional intimacy and connection that was lost. Because of the closeness that shared activities bring, it is vital that you and your spouse/partner carve out time for one another. For many, simple routines, such as a walk after dinner, is enough to keep intimacy alive and well.
3 simple pathways to emotional intimacy:
1. Build in a relationship routine.
This should involve time together each day that is free from stress and distractions. Whether it’s thirty minutes of watching television together or sitting side-by-side while reading the paper, make a commitment and schedule these activities into your marriage/relationship. Consider these meetings as important as any work-related meeting you have to attend. Warning: Too many couples minimize the importance of creating relationship routines at the expense of intimacy.
2. Develop mutual interests.
If there are no shared activities in your marriage/relationship, you need to do some planning. Make a list of all your interests and hobbies (things you’ve done in the past, things you’ve always wanted to do), and have your spouse/partner do the same.
The next step is to compare your lists. See where your interests overlap with your partner’s. For instance, if you like to hike and your partner enjoys photography, invite your partner to bring his/her camera and accompany you on your hikes.
3. Create new shared interests.
Let the excitement of trying a new activity nurture the intimacy in your marriage/relationship. If you attempt something that fizzles, try something else—trial and error is the rule of thumb here. And don’t let cynicism hold you back. If you assume you’re going to hate everything your partner suggests, you’ll miss out on the joy of discovering something new. Bring a mindset of openness and playfulness to these new activities.
Often, your mindset will be the most important factor in whether you and your partner are successful at creating mutually satisfying (and intimacy enhancing) activities. In this regard, think of the above suggestions as a means of self-discovery: To discover what you enjoy, what you find meaningful and what allows you to feel connected to your partner, as well as what makes your partner feel connected to you. An open heart and open mind are always the best way to approach these tasks.
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Dr. Rich Nicastro