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Intimacy in Relationships

The word intimacy, depending on who you are as well as your gender, could mean something totally different. The real question is “what does intimacy mean to you?”

Some people may answer that question with:

  • It’s holding hands and kisses for no reason.
  • It’s hanging out and doing stuff together.
  • It’s the look we give one another from across the room.
  • It’s the way we hold one another when we’re together.

Almost every person wants to feel deeply connected to another person on a deep level. They all want the amazing relationship that is built on trust, respect, mutual admiration for one another, and yes, intimacy.

Women, on many levels, have a more emotional connection to the person in their lives. It’s part of their makeup, their DNA. Women tend to love the soft caresses, the little kisses, and the late night conversations while lying on the couch or in bed. Most men, on the other hand, consider intimacy as the moments of playing together, planning a hiking trip together, and the occasional hug. Men and women alike can see intimacy differently. It is not as if the men and women who are not really intimate mean to be. It is just that their definition of what intimacy is may be different than yours.

Intimacy is about building up the relationship and establishing a connection with one another. When looking to build up the intimacy in your relationship, consider the following:

  • Take time to do something simple, yet meaningful, such as drawing your partner a hot bath after a long day.
  • Take a walk together, holding hands and talking about each other’s day.
  • Give each other a massage after a long day.
  • Plan a weekend getaway.
  • Cook a romantic dinner for two.

In order to build an intimate relationship you need to remember that communication is the foundation. Being open with one another is important. It’s also about getting in a comfort zone to where you feel free enough to express your opinions and beliefs. There is something about feeling validated that brings you closer together.

Intimacy in a relationship doesn’t always happen right away. As with anything, it takes time and has to be nurtured. You also have to separate sex from intimacy. Having sex and being intimate are two totally separate things. Can intimacy be intertwined in sex? Yes, but it is still a separate thing from sex.

Too often people associate intimacy with sex and that is what it quickly becomes linked with. You have to know that there can be intimacy outside of the bedroom, and it’s that level of intimacy that keeps the home fires burning.

When you take the time to make even the smallest moments a chance to get closer to your partner, then you will see that the level of intimacy within the relationship will increase. After all, everyone wants to feel needed and wanted. We all want to feel desired. So, take the time to validate your partners’ wants and needs, and intimacy will be something that you naturally have within your relationship.

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Fostering A Healthy Relationship

In terms of Maintaining A Healthy Relationship, in this article we are going to discuss how to foster a great relationship with your partner.  Maintaining a healthy relationship takes time, energy, and work.  With these guidelines to lead as an example, relationships can not only maintain, but also blossom.

Have A Solid Friendship – Ask yourself what kind of friend you are being to your partner.  Apply the same openness that you have in your other friendships to the partnership.  Think about the “get what you give” philosophy – if you want a good friend in your partner, then be a good friend to them.   Provide encouragement and support to your mate to make them feel special and show them that they make a difference in your world.

Know Your Partner – Your partner possesses qualities that make them special to you, as well as a unique person in their own right.  Your partner likely has areas of sensitivities and vulnerability, in addition to their preferences, interests, and values.  Being aware of what makes them “tick” and engaging in behaviors that nurture and support those special qualities can enhance the intimacy and vibrancy of the relationship.  Remember what you honor and respect about your partner.

Strive For Emotional Intimacy – Emotional intimacy has been described as “unbridled mutual self-disclosure” – which implies a willingness to share from the heart.  It means getting in touch with and letting the other person know our feelings.  It is also being authentic; it is through emotional intimacy that relationships grow.

Make Time To Be Together – Cultivate passion and intimacy.  Make time for dates and romance while treating that time together as special and sacred.  Find strategies to create time together that work best for you as a couple.  Some couples devote the first 15 minutes of their morning or last 15 minutes of their evening “their time”; others have a standing date night.  A daily ritual that you both can look forward to being together, while being uninterrupted, will help intimacy and attachment grow.

Let Your Partner Influence You – Many issues in relationships have nothing to do with the “facts” and everything to do with the feelings about the issue.  We are emotional beings, emotions are bound to rise up, especially in our relationships.  It is important that you both understand each other’s positions.  Some issues have no solutions and oftentimes understanding and mutual respect are all that you really need.  Couples learn to simply contain the issues and not let them escalate through positive communication and empathy.

Solve The Solvable Issue – All couples will likely have a few issues that will never be resolved fully, due to difference of opinion and background.  What is important is to develop a dialog with your partner about this set of irreconcilable differences.  Treat them as you would if you were coping with a chronic bad back or trick knee – you don’t like them, you wish they were not there, but you learn to work around them by talking and learning how to live with them.  Having patience will be helpful in these situations, as well.

Create Shared Meaning – As a couple, having some concept of what you both think a relationship and a partnership are supposed to be would be useful.  Perhaps write down your definitions of a successful relationship and do your best to live up to those definitions.  Focus on the fundamental things that are going to make a difference in the long run.  Create specific goals as a couple, and also individually, on how you want to improve your relationship, and then follow through with them.

Maintaining a healthy relationship requires, well, maintenance.  Using these tips and tools will help keep your relationship in balance and maintained.

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Maintaining A Healthy Relationship

Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is something that can be done throughout the year.  In this article, we will go over the stages of relationships, as defined by Harville Hendrix.  Harville has crafted relationships into five significant stages.  As you read over them, begin to think about where you are currently in your relationship.

Stages of Relationships  

Romantic Love – Couples begin marriage in a state of romantic bliss.  During this euphoric phase, which usually lasts the first to third years or marriage, newlyweds wear the proverbial “rose-colored” glasses –  life and love are perfect.  Differences tend to be discounted and faults are few.  This is the time that spouses seek the intimacy they crave.

Disillusionment or The Power Struggle – This second stage is disappointment time, often with faultfinding.  Partners realize that the other’s behavior is irritating or even hurtful.  This stage can be frightening and it is when many couples see divorce as the only option.  Often, the lack of effective communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to compromise and negotiate leave many couples stuck indefinitely in this stage.  Also, the battle of wills occur, and to successfully leave this stage each individual must find a way to adjust to the ways of his/her partner.

Cooperation: Knowledge and Awareness – Stage two can leave the couple feeling stung and hurt by the damage rendered by the turbulent times.  If the couple perseveres and is willing to learn the communication and negotiation skills to navigate the power struggle, a new sense of acceptance and willingness to change enters the relationship.  Learning new relationship skills, and cultivating creativity within the relationship often accompany this shift in thought.  Partners take responsibility for their own problems and shed the illusion that their partner is the key to their happiness.

Acceptance – Stage four is often called acceptance, commitment or mutuality.  You and your partner realize that regardless of whom you are with, there will be problems, so you might as well stay in the relationship and work them out.  Togetherness just feels secure, and there exists a heightened sense of belonging.  The unhealthy patterns that dogged their relationship seem like ancient history.  This acceptance is the bridge to ultimate transformation and a love that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

Transformation – Couples who put in the time and effort reap this final reward.  Intimacy is second nature.  The attitude is “we grow together.”  This is also called “co-creativity.”  Stage five couples develop a web of meaningful relationships that support the marriage and deepen the joy.  In this final stage, couples know what the fairy tales neglected to mention: Love is hard work.

Were you able to identify where you currently are?  In another article we will go over the behaviors that intensify conflict (and behaviors that diminish conflict) along with how to deal with differences.

 

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How Self-Aware Are You?

 

Self-awareness refers to both awareness of your body – meaning the heartbeat or respiration rate and the feeling of what is on your skin – as well as what you feel emotionally.   Have you ever had someone say to you “you seem angry?” and your response was “no, I’m not angry.”?  Or vice verse? It could very well be true that you or the other person was indeed angry and giving off the energy, yet not aware. Many of us at times have bouts of failure of self-awareness, which comes from the insula.  The insula has what is called a viscerotropic mass – viscero refers to the interior organs and tropic refers to the placement, the representation of those organs.

People with a very active insula seem to be extremely self-aware, both emotionally and physically. When  we discussed positive outlook and the ability to bounce back from a setback (being resilient), it sounds as if only one of the ends of this spectrum is the place to be as who would not want to be happy and ore resilient, right? However, this is not necessarily the case and with self-awareness you tend see where you may need to improve on yourself even more.

Self-awareness starts with just that – awareness.   When you begin to analyze and pay attention to your mind (thoughts) and body (heartbeat, touch, etc.) you become more self-aware. Once one becomes even slightly self-aware, especially when analyzing where they currently are in their lives, they will likely try to change if they feel that it would improve their life. This is a great step towards a better life and better relationships.

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Changing Negative Beliefs or Patterns

The first emotional styles we have is resilience to adversity. The adversity can be a wide range of so-called setbacks – from the most trivial things such as someone cutting you off in traffic to the more significant setbacks such as the passing of a loved one. The second emotional styles is outlook – meaning whether you have a positive or negative view on life.  The emotional styles of I’m discussing here is how our patterns persist or change.

With brain patterns, these questions may come to mind: How long have they been there? It is a brain pattern that existed (or that was established) during childhood as the brain develops? Was it present at birth? Can it be changed?

When Dr. Davidson did research on day-old infants, in the experiments he found that even at birth, there were clear individual differences and left/right asymmetry in terms of activation. Everyone’s genetic makeup is different, but the big question is do these differences persist? Dr. Davidson helped discover that what you are born with is not necessarily what you are dealt with as the brain and behavior can change.

Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain can change – either for better or worse. The brain has the ability to change in both structure and function. Consider learning and memory – these are constant examples of how our brains are able to change form. When you learn something new and also when a new experience enters your memory, this is the brain changing – expanding and retaining.

Brain structure and function can change in response to two forces:

  1. The life you lead
  2. Thinking yourself into a different brain.

The life you lead, meaning the experiences you have – physical as well as emotional or mental – are signals from the outside world. This is similar to your brain collecting memories and learning new information. The other way the brain can change structure and function is in response to purely mental activity. This is similar to the second brain emotional style of outlook. Higher left activity is associated with a more positive outlook; higher right activity is associated with more negative outlook.  To change the brain grooves, you can think yourself into a different brain by working on a more positive outlook (or negative, as the door does swing both ways).

 

Photo courtesy of sattva and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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Communicating With Family During The Holidays

Happy Holidays!  This week’s post is about family communication, which tends to be more prevalent during the holidays.  Building healthy families is about learning to communicate openly, honestly, and sensitively to maintain relationships that can withstand the challenges that families often face.

All families experience problems at one time or another, especially during the holidays when people tend to be under more stress due to extra events and added expectations (click here for how to manage stress during the holidays).  Differences of opinion and disagreements are a normal part of having relationships with people, especially with the ones you live with and call family.  It is likely that you are not exactly the same – you probably come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences.  Keeping that in mind will help to keep the situation calm when differences arise.

Setting The Stage For Great Family Communication

Share Your Feelings
When you communicate how you feel, you create an atmosphere that encourages and allows others to respond in a kind way.  Often times, if you do not speak up about whatever it is that you feel, it will not get addressed and could possibly build up into something more stressful down the line.

Listening and Understanding
Paying attention to one another is of essence to understanding one another.  Having non-verbal cues in communication is important; how what you do not say with words can be more vital than the words you do say.  Take notice to what your partner or child (or other family member or friend) is communicating through their facial cues and posture.  Also ask questions to receive the best clarity.

Be Flexible
As with any changing and or forming relationship, flexibility is important to keeping the relationship on track and satisfactory to all parties.  Once you have said what you needed to say and have heard what your partner needed to say, begin to practice changing for the situation to get better.

Show Your Appreciation
Tell the other person how grateful you are for them and all the wonderful things and feelings that you get to experience because of them.  Having gratitude is often the key to a more successful relationship, especially when it is acknowledged by both parties.

Above all, the holidays are meant to be a special time with friends and family.  May your holidays be blessed with joy, laughter, love and successful communications!

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What Makes Relationships Work?

To achieve optimum physical and emotional health, we must have rewarding and enjoyable relationships in all locales of our lives. Humans function best when they have an understanding and accommodating relationship environment. Single people search for the ideal mate, and those who have a partner seek ways to make the relationship work. This relationship advice allows you to nurture your relationship and find a balance in your life so you and your mate will be better satisfied.

Rules, Roles, and Rituals
Many of society’s social and cultural rules and taboos have already been broken down. Some of these guidelines are not even feasible for a multi-cultural society, much less a modern relationship. However, to have emotional security and safety in our relationship, we must have boundaries and rules. For many couples, relationship needs go unstated, leaving one or the other partner guessing. An principal rule to have is that each person expresses what is needed from the other. Another rule that is a crucial part of this relationship advice is that you respect what your partner requires, compromising when necessary and negotiating when possible.

Roles must be well-defined and distinct in a successful relationship. Each person is essential to the other and should have an individual role in the liaison. While age and sex determine some tribal roles, ability and inclination determine today’s modern ones. Once past the initial part of dating, gender roles become more evident. Some men and women grow up in ‘traditional’ homes, while others are reared in gender-bender environments. Make sure that you understand what your partner expects your role to be and express what you feel comfortable doing. Many times, a person’s sexuality depends on his or her role within a relationship.

Another vital piece of relationship advice is realizing the rituals that bind you together as a couple. These rituals are a glue that bonds two people together. In trying times, rituals tend to be forgotten. So, make an effort to consciously keep these personal practices going. Also, every now and then, make up a new one and stick with it. Incorporate sexuality and erotica into these personal rituals.

Commit to Love
Once you have committed to love the other person, be sure to actively express this love frequently. While infatuation is the spark that begins a lasting relationship, deciding to love the other person allows your devotion to maintain. If you refrain from expressions of love, the devotion could dissipate. Also, be mindful of your partner’s sexuality. Choose times for love-making when your partner is ready.

Establish and Maintain Trust
Trust should be established on all levels. This mutual trust should allow you to understand and respect one another and should be founded in loyalty and respect. Be sure to keep your word and fulfill your promises. This will allow your partner to feel the much needed security for which he or she longs.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The best piece of relationship advice available involves communication. Communicate about everything and anything. Have conversations that allow you two to share your wishes, needs, hopes, and dreams. Be sure to encourage your partner’s ambitions and goals, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and discuss values and beliefs regularly.

Sex and Relationship Advice at Midlife
When you have been with the same individual for a while, it is critical that you get to know your partner once again. Sex and relationship advice at midlife may sound silly to some, but middle-aged couples often find their relationships dull and unfulfilling. An essential thing to do is to check in with your partner on a daily basis. Make sure he or she is aware that you are truly interested in hearing what they have to say.  Also, keeping sex exciting allows for the two of you to maintain a healthy relationship. Try new sex positions, watch erotica videos together, and explore toys and alternative devices.

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What Makes Relationships Work? When the Simple Things Matter Most

No one enters into a new relationship thinking about how it might end. Most new relationships are filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope. Even years down the road, unless love and compatibility is lost, or serious issues creep into the relationship, few people actually want to see things end. In fact, many couples who believe the end is near have allowed certain vital aspects of a strong relationship to fall to the wayside, and they are desperate to figure out where they have gone wrong and to rekindle that fire that will save them from the end.

Relationships take some effort to maintain. This is not to say that love itself is “work,” but neglecting any aspect of your partnership can result in miscommunication, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. And often, even the most communicative of couples will suffer in silence, avoiding talking about their concerns simply because they blame themselves or do not want to start a fight or hurt their spouses feelings. It’s only when those held back feelings are compounded that the bomb explodes and simple issues become major problems. Many factors go into making a relationship work; however, in this article, we are discussing the subtle and simple things that can make a significant difference to you and your partner.

Mind Your Manners
Few of us made it out of childhood without knowing the value of saying please and thank you.

We also learned early on that duties are better shared than left to one person. These values do not fly out the window when we reach adulthood. Never take your partner for granted or let them even think this is the case. If you have a request, say please and talk it over. Don’t just make the decision on your own, leaving your partner out in the cold without any input or choice. If your spouse does something for you, around the house, etc., thank them. Gratitude shows your appreciation, making each task or special effort much more worthwhile. To further show your undying appreciation, share the duties of your life together. Don’t embrace gender roles and leave certain tasks up to one or the other. If something needs doing, get in there and do it, offer to help, or join forces and complete tasks as a team.

Ask and Listen
If you work outside the home, you know that your days can become hectic, stressful, and nerve wracking. The same goes for your spouse. And if one of you happens to be a stay-at-home parent, a homemaker (even without children), or self-employed/working from home, your days are no different from a partner working a conventional job. Each partner should be genuinely interested in the others thoughts, feelings, and activities. Take the time each day to ask your partner about his or her day, and spend some time listening and even talking about concerns, stress, etc. Communication is key to any relationship, and this type of open communication conveys genuine care, concern, compassion, love, and appreciation. By sharing your daily but often separate lives with one another, you build a strong bond of friendship and can rely on one another as confidantes. Even if you have the type of job that requires confidentiality, you can still discuss your concerns and activities in a general way that allows your partner to be a part of this aspect of your life.

These two simple acts make a huge difference in your relationship. Communication and relationships go hand in hand. You must communicate your sincere appreciation, love, and concern on a regular basis. Neglecting to do so can leave your spouse feeling unloved and uncared for. Don’t let such misunderstandings lead to destructive resentment when it is so easy to just take the time to think about your partner and to show them the simple things that matter most.

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How to Switch Off Relationship Autopilot

It’s 6:30 am and your alarm goes off. Although you’d love to stay wrapped up in the warm coziness of your blankets, everything that you have to do today floods your body, causing you to jump out of bed.

Autopilot has kicked in.

You begin moving through your day like you are speeding down a highway, driving along as if hypnotized, going from one thing to the next. You drop the kids off at school, go to work, attend meetings, navigate conflict with a coworker, pick the kids up from school, run to soccer practice, get home to make dinner, help the kids with homework, feed the dog, clean the kitchen, half-listen to what your spouse is telling you about their day, and put the kids to bed.

You pause for a brief moment and collapse back into your bed, only to start it all over again at 6:30 am the next morning. You can feel anger and resentment bubbling to the surface.

“Is this really my life?”

This is your life on autopilot: half-awake, frustrated, disconnected from yourself and those around you. Of course you need and want to “be there” for your children, your spouse, and your co-workers, but your inner voice can’t help but cry out, “There has to be a better way!”

How do you get yourself off autopilot so you can really live? It all starts by shifting your focus. The key is to become aware of your feelings, habits, patterns, and general “busyness” so that you can learn to mindfully step outside yourself the moment you notice you’re engaging in your usual autopilot behavior.

Below are three strategies to disengage autopilot and live an awakened life:

Tune in to your body.
The first step to an awakened life is to tune in to what you are feeling. Take in and become aware of everything your body is sensing. For example, as you take a shower, focus on how the water feels as it runs down your back. As you drink your morning coffee, tea, or juice, take a moment to enjoy each sip instead of gulping it down. Pause throughout your day, really focusing on how you feel as you interact with your friends, coworkers, and those you love. Be aware of bids for emotional connection and turn towards them. The point here is to become mindful of what you feel, hear, see, and smell. Become aware of each and every sensation, paying close attention to any faint whispers from your “gut instinct.”

As you begin to get in tune with your body, you will begin to identify when autopilot is taking over. From this space, you can choose what you want to focus on, for yourself and within your relationships.

Identify and set your intention.
Focusing on your relationship with your partner, take a moment to tune in to what you want. What is your intention when you are with them? Your intention might be to listen more deeply, let go of blame and criticism, or simply to be more honest, vulnerable, or present. Whatever your intention, set aside a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect on your desired outcome.

With kindness and self-compassion, take responsibility for and release what is preventing you from fully engaging. Without judgment, be mindful of what is happening. For example, if your intention is to deepen your sense of connection with your spouse, start by sensing the situation between the two of you.

Have a daily ritual of connection with your partner.
With this newfound focus on your feelings and intentions, identify one daily activity or routine with your partner where you would like to be more awake, mindful, and engaged. For example, have a stress-reducing conversation where you only talk about stress outside of your relationship. Actively listen and pay close attention to what your partner has to say. Whatever your chosen routine or daily activity, commit to giving it your full attention and focus. Ask yourself, “What really matters here?”

Getting stuck on autopilot happens to the fittest of relationships, so be patient and stay focused on your desired outcome. In addition to these these three steps, disengaging from autopilot and leading an awakened life also involves mindfully having compassion for yourself and others, practicing forgiveness, and living with an open heart.

Switching off autopilot allows you to see life from a fresh perspective and frees you to make different and more mindful decisions. As you begin making choices in this awakened state, you’ll notice your actions naturally begin to align and become more consistent with your desired outcomes – in your relationship and in your life. Learning to connect from a place of deep presence will enable you to hear what your heart is saying, ultimately empowering you to respond rather than react.

 

Resource: Gottman Blog
Photo: Courtesy of  Feelart on Freedigitalphotos.net

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When the Simple Things Matter Most

No one enters into a new relationship thinking about how it might end. Most new relationships are filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope. Even years down the road, unless love and compatibility is lost, or serious issues creep into the relationship, few people actually want to see things end. In fact, many couples who believe the end is near have allowed certain vital aspects of a strong relationship to fall to the wayside, and they are desperate to figure out where they have gone wrong and to rekindle that fire that will save them from the end.

Relationships take some effort to maintain. This is not to say that love itself is “work,” but neglecting any aspect of your partnership can result in miscommunication, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. And often, even the most communicative of couples will suffer in silence, avoiding talking about their concerns simply because they blame themselves or do not want to start a fight or hurt their spouses feelings. It’s only when those held back feelings are compounded that the bomb explodes and simple issues become major problems. Many factors go into making a relationship work; however, in this article, we are discussing the subtle and simple things that can make a significant difference to you and your partner.

Mind Your Manners
Few of us made it out of childhood without knowing the value of saying please and thank you.  We also learned early on that duties are better shared than left to one person. These values do not fly out the window when we reach adulthood. Never take your partner for granted or let them even think this is the case. If you have a request, say please and talk it over. Don’t just make the decision on your own, leaving your partner out in the cold without any input or choice. If your spouse does something for you, around the house, etc., thank them. Gratitude shows your appreciation, making each task or special effort much more worthwhile. To further show your undying appreciation, share the duties of your life together. Don’t embrace gender roles and leave certain tasks up to one or the other. If something needs doing, get in there and do it, offer to help, or join forces and complete tasks as a team.

Ask and Listen
If you work outside the home, you know that your days can become hectic, stressful, and nerve wracking. The same goes for your spouse. And if one of you happens to be a stay-at-home parent, a homemaker (even without children), or self-employed/working from home, your days are no different from a partner working a conventional job. Each partner should be genuinely interested in the others thoughts, feelings, and activities. Take the time each day to ask your partner about his or her day, and spend some time listening and even talking about concerns, stress, etc. Communication is key to any relationship, and this type of open communication conveys genuine care, concern, compassion, love, and appreciation. By sharing your daily but often separate lives with one another, you build a strong bond of friendship and can rely on one another as confidantes. Even if you have the type of job that requires confidentiality, you can still discuss your concerns and activities in a general way that allows your partner to be a part of this aspect of your life.

These two simple acts make a huge difference in your relationship. Communication and relationships go hand in hand. You must communicate your sincere appreciation, love, and concern on a regular basis. Neglecting to do so can leave your spouse feeling unloved and uncared for. Don’t let such misunderstandings lead to destructive resentment when it is so easy to just take the time to think about your partner and to show them the simple things that matter most.