This blog will highlight some ways for a couple to create intimacy. Additionally, the blog will review how a couple can intentionally create rituals to continue these. The practice gives the couple a meaningful way to connect and something that you can look forward to (Gottman, 2017). Finally, rituals help the couple keep on track with the new behaviors and not revert to old patterns.
The “royal road” to intimacy is emotional availability and responsiveness (Gottman, 2017). It requires constructive conflict management skills and methods for the couple to deepen intimacy. A couple can also build and maintain intimacy through play, humor, affection, courtship, romance, passion, sexual interactions, and adventure (Harley, 2011). Other ways include intellectual closeness, creative intimacy, and work intimacy. For example, work intimacy occurs when a couple shares a common task to support each and bear responsibilities. In other relationships, that can be chores around the house, raising the family, recreational activities, and finances (Harley, 2011).
Building deeper intimacy requires attention and intention, especially in difficult times. Research suggests the most significant predictor of a couple having success being intentional is how they handle external stress (Gottman, 2017). This data makes sense, as individuals often the case that we stop being intentional due to stressors we encounter (Gottman, 2017). Next, I will use recreational activities to highlight how a couple can deliberately approach intimacy to create a deeper bond. The first of the three steps is to review some questions, both individually and then together.
Initial Questions: Go over these questions for yourself and then with your partner. (Harley, 2011).
- Are you your partner’s favorite recreational companion? If not, why not? Have you ever been reluctant to ask this question?
- Would having your partner there make it more relaxing or less relaxing for you? If less comfortable, what could they do to make it more comfortable?
- Are you reluctant to encourage your partner to suspend some recreational activities until you become their favorite recreational companion?
- Does your partner join you in your favorite recreational activities?
- Are you willing to suspend your activities that your partner does not find enjoyable to search for mutually satisfying activities?
Recreational Enjoyment Inventory Assessment: Next, complete a recreational inventory assessment with your partner. As of September 10, 2020, one is at (Harley, 2020): https://www.marriagebuilders.com/download/library/questionnaires/recreational-enjoyment-inventory-6.pdf
Next, go through each activity and then see which ones are the most highly rated. Having identified activities you both enjoy, schedule a time to try each of them to narrow down your top three or five (Harley, 2011).
Create a ritual
Gottman (2017) notes rituals increase the chances that behaviors will continue and hold relationships together through shared meaning and feelings of belonging. When stressors show up, rituals create a cohesive family bond. These practices also make a couple’s identity. The following questions from Gottman (2017) help think out and planning of the recreational activities:
- What is essential about this routine to you?
- Who will do what, and when or how often will this be done?
- How long should it last each time?
- Who will initiate it?
- What will we do if one of us wants to change something?
- How long do we want to try this?
- How do we evaluate how this is working?
- How can we integrate this into our lives so we can count on it?
This process will take some time, and the structure may not be how you envision intimacy. However, whenever you’re building anything significant, it takes planning, time, energy, and resources. Do not incorrectly assume intimacy has to be organic. You may be waiting for a lifetime to experience it. In this life, we only get so many invitations to new levels of intimacy. Be open to how it can come to you. Be sure the activities are only for you and your partner. The research highlights that spending approximately six hours a week alone together results in
a noticeable difference between couples whose marriages continued to improve over time compared to those who did not (Gottman, 2017). Finally, I know in practice tan exercise like this may not be that easy for a couple. I encourage you to listen well, be patient, optimistic, and not forget to have fun! If this process highlights the everyday struggles, what might be happening is you have a communication process issue. Please check out our website on that topic or reach out to one of our therapists for relationship, marriage, or couples counseling in Chicago.
Gottman, J. (2017). Level 1 Clinical training manual: Gottman method couple
therapy. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.
Harley, W. (2011). His needs, her needs: Building an affair-proof marriage. Revell.