Relationship Help: Building Intimacy Through Mutual Sharing

Welcome to another installment of the Couple Spotlight. Successful couples have a great deal to teach us all about how to build and maintain a healthy marriage/relationship.

Couple Spotlight: Meet Amelia and Faris, married thirty-two years.

I was lucky enough to interview Amelia and Faris and I asked them to explain the longevity of their relationship. “Laughter,” Amelia said. “We love to make each other laugh, and we find so much to laugh about together.”  Nodding in agreement, Faris added, “Even in the middle of our worst fights, it’s hard to stay mad at someone who can always make me laugh.” 

They went on to describe the importance of mutual respect and friendship as cornerstones of their healthy relationship.  Faris said, “Respect is as important as love sometimes. And you have to like each other as much as love each other. If you don’t like to be around the person you’re with, what’s the point?” 

Turning Ordinary Moments into Opportunities for Connection

But what Faris and Amelia stressed most of all is finding beauty and opportunity in everyday life.

“You don’t have to spend lots of money or try to find something exotic to do in order to have a deep connection,” Amelia said.  As an example, she described their morning routine. “I make our coffee as he reads the paper. He shares every story he reads with me and asks my opinion about it. Sometimes we’ll have different opinions and we get into debates. Or he’ll just nod his head and say ‘interesting’ and continue to read. I can tell he’s thinking about what I said.”

This might seem like a small event, but it speaks volumes about something very important to their relationship (and relationships in general). Faris took what is typically a solitary activity (reading the newspaper) and made it relational. When Faris includes Amelia in his daily activity, he makes her feel connected to him and appreciated by him. Further, he enjoys her as she shares her own viewpoints.

Do your individual activities remain solitary, or do you share your experiences with your partner?

Of course there will be activities that you and your partner do separately. But how many of these are things that—by necessity—have to be done separately and how many are missed opportunities to connect with your spouse/partner? By following Faris’s lead, you can create bridges between your individual interests and nurturing emotional intimacy with your partner.

Relationship Help: Building Bridges Action Step

Think of all the things you’re involved in that don’t include your partner (hobbies, work, daily routines). Even if you prefer to do these activities alone (or with someone other than your partner), can you think of ways to share parts of these experiences with your husband, wife or partner? 

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Label one side, Activities I enjoy with my partner, label the other, Activities I enjoy that don’t include my partner. You can ask your partner to do the same. Remember, it is normal and even healthy for you each to have separate interests and hobbies. It’s a question of balance—there should be enough shared activities to nurture the friendship part of your relationship. After completing your lists, reflect on the following:

Do you both feel there are enough shared activities?

Would you like to become more involved with any of your spouse’s/partner’s activities?

Would you  be willing to share certain activities with your partner? (Note: An increase in shared activities might include direct involvement, e.g., joining her bowling league, or indirect involvement, e.g., being a spectator or discussing all the fun details about the activity afterward).

Realize that when you’re doing this exercise, it will be important to anticipate that your partner may not want to include you in certain activities/interests. While this may sting emotionally, give it your best effort not to take this decision personally (I know, easier said than done). But the fact is certain individual pursuits and interests work to foster a sense of independence and self-esteem, and it can feel like a loss if these are shared with others.

Give this type of relational sharing a try—you might be pleasantly surprised.

Wishing you and your relationship all the best,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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