We have been married for 12 years. Family life feels familiar, safe, like a well-loved blanket.
Hubs and I may be lovers but we also feel like besties. I feel I can talk to him about anything.
One day, I told him about a conversation I had with an acquaintance about one of our kids. This kiddo is high in his need for control, and one of the ways that we’ve managed this very real need is to give him control over when to do his work, how to plan his schedule, and what skills he wishes to learn.
Hubs laughed and said, “That’s me too. I’m like that.”
“I know!” I replied.
Intimacy is the sense of another person fully knowing you, and loving you because of who you are—as well as in spite of it. This requires taking a leap into rare honesty and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. (Source)
Indeed, one cannot achieve true intimacy without knowledge and understanding of the other person—knowing who your spouse is, what makes them tick, what makes them come alive.
But one cannot be fully known if one does not let yourself be seen. So intimacy requires us to be vulnerable about our weaknesses, flaws, and even insecurities.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes:
To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees—these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.
Vulnerability is indeed hard and uncomfortable. In fact it took a long time for me to feel safe enough to let go of the protective layers I held over myself.
Thankfully, hubs carved a safe space for me. A space where I could go just as I am, unafraid of being judged or criticised, a little cave where I could feel loved, understood and accepted.
13 ways to add trust and intimacy in a relationship
We deepen our trust and intimacy whenever we:
1. Turn toward each other more than you turn away (video). As Daphne de Marneffe writes in her book The Rough Patch, “Couples turn away from each other for any number of apparent reasons, but underneath it all, it’s usually because they feel misunderstood, unheard, or unable to agree.”
2. Support each other in times of failure or discouragement.
3. Establish rituals of connection, like a goodbye hug or a 10-min chat before bed.
4. Speak well of each other, especially in front of others.
5. Believe in the other—and express that in words or actions.
6. Express who we really are and what we really feel inside (even when it may lead to a disagreement).
7. Celebrate each other’s successes, however small.
8. Sit with the other person’s emotions—even if you feel just as lost or hopeless just make an effort to not turn away or shut the emotions out.
9. Express unconditional acceptance of each other.
10. Practise listening without judgment. Whenever we do this, we provide a safe space for more sharing and disclosure to happen in future.
11. Acknowledge and appreciate the other’s strengths.
12. Make time for things that each other enjoys (including sex of course).
13. Forgive, often.
Eliminate these top 5 intimacy stealers
1. Digital devices—Yes, digital devices are so sexy that they often tend to divide and isolate even the best of us. Keep them away from bedrooms if possible, and especially during date nights or movie nights with your spouse. This tells your partner that your eyes are for him/her only.
2. Ignoring your spouse when he/she is trying to talk—Not really listening counts to. We all know when someone isn’t really listening to us, even when they give eye contact.
3. Frequent and drawn-out cold wars—Cold wars, if frequent, can drain the passion and energy from a marriage. It can make us question the strength of our marriage and doubt or distrust our partner. To resolve the issues, communication is key, and here I’m going to use the analogy of the golden ring (The Rough Patch, Marneffe).
In the golden ring mindset, “partners figuratively stand alongside each other and look together at their shared problem, collaborating rather than competing.” I love this analogy because each partner brings their need into the ring and are able to think about the problem more objectively.
4. Criticism—Frequently criticising your partner or putting them down (especially in public) can make them feel insecure and unappreciated. Instead of being blowing up flaws or negative traits, try to add more positive and affirming words to your vocabulary. This doesn’t mean that you sweep all the negative things under the carpet; there is still a time and place for dealing with certain recurring issues. But do so with love, compassion, and respect as it will allow your partner to be less defensive and more open to feedback.
5. Ignoring small problems—Is there something you wish he would do but he doesn’t? Or does he do something that annoys you to no end? (Maybe leaving his dirty clothes around the house?) If the issue is a nagging one and it’s causing resentment, it may be better to nip it in the bud. Find a time/place that is conducive for talking and give each other a headsup so you’re prepared. (Try the ring analogy I shared in point 3.)
What is one thing that has helped you grow closer to your spouse?