This means that in order to create and maintain long-term intimacy in a marriage, the primary focus in skills needs to be around your ability as individuals and a couple to handle change. First you need to be able to notice changes happening in yourself, your partner, and your relationship, or to be able to initiate change if needed in yourself.
Then it’s important to own your role in what’s happening, whether it’s your behavioral patterns, beliefs, or expectations. And then address these changes or needed changes in a responsible way. This includes listening, communicating effectively, and being open-minded and creative. All of this works best with a foundation of ongoing kindness to yourself and your partner.
Based in research and my client private practice over the past 15 years, I believe there are three keys to creating and sustaining emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy in the long term:
1. Self-awareness & self-acceptance. Identify and work through your insecurities and fears, or else they can undermine your well-being and that of your relationship in unexpected ways. This includes both emotional awareness and articulation, and also work through any insecurities, fears, and shame in the sexual realm. What are you avoiding and why? This can and will change over time.
2. Facilitate teamwork. This is being able to talk about all topics with your spouse/partner in on-going conversations that are open, honest, safe, and respectful. Don’t brush things under the rug until the “small hurts” become really big relationship-threatening hurts. This includes being able to discuss both unhappiness, hurt, disappointment, and fears, and also celebrating joys, gratitude, successes, and pleasure.
3. Think outside the box. Be creative in how you keep things fresh and new – mentally, emotionally, socially, and sexually. Be curious and maintain a growth mindful to always learn more, even when it’s uncomfortable, awkward, scary, or time-consuming. Also cultivate a playful mindset and be willing to take on new challenges to disrupt your patterns in a good way.
These three keys are at the core of meaningful and sustainable intimacy. They take awareness, kindness, and a willingness to get messy when needed. And the acceptance that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, Sociologist, Relationship Coach, & Intimacy Speaker