Ask an elderly person what they have valued most about their marriage and the answers, though undoubtedly varied, will place a high value on companionship. Whilst we may measure relationships in different ways, society places a high value on sexual fulfilment, without the recognition that sexual intimacy is more symptomatic of relational intimacy. Social intercourse before sexual intercourse. This doesn’t in any way devalue the priority of a sexually satisfying relationship, but it’s important to build intimacy first so as to have a quality relationship on every front and to avoid the humdrum of two parallel lives simply co-existing and hoping for things to improve. Let’s look at some important keys to building that intimacy for maximum impact.
- Non-sexual touch. Affirmation is so often craved in an under-fathered generation and the void can be filled with work, hobbies, addictions or sex. Some of these are inherently good, but intimacy requires giving first rather than ‘getting’. Showing love through showing interest and affection that is not connected to having our own needs met is particularly challenging for men. The quick kisses hello or goodbye, the hugs without words and the simple affirming touches to arms and backs, are all keys to demonstrating care and optimising an intimate relationship.
- Listening. This great aphrodisiac is not used as well as we often like to think. Reflecting back what we have heard, interacting with what has been said and non-critically exploring comments and associated feelings all boost intimacy. To simply refrain from speaking to allow someone else to fill the air is never enough. Our ears need to connect with people’s hearts, not their heads. This moves us from troubleshooting to tenderness!
- Focus. Distractions and procrastinations that absorb our energies away from the quality and quantity time needed to build intimacy can be deceptive. Some pursuits are clearly destructive such as pornography which always hinder and never help (see separate posts on this), but some pursuits can seem innocuous, even valid. Burying ourselves in work may be necessary, important or even timely, for example, but can also pull us away from what is needed now and not later. Time with the kids is a part of this, too, for families, because aside from attending to the needs of our children, unhappy and tense homes add stress and destroy intimacy.