Is Your Marriage More Intimate Than You Think?

Women will often say that they want more intimacy in their marriage. If you’ve had feelings like this, I want to give you something to think about.

Typically, when a wife complains about a lack of intimacy, she means that she and her husband are not having deep and candid conversations about things like each other’s true feelings, thoughts, and dreams.

However, intimacy can take different forms in a marriage. Some men — especially those with a more traditional upbringing— have an easier time with nonverbal intimacy than with building intimacy through conversation.

Paths and Roadblocks to Intimacy

When your husband seeks intimacy more physically than verbally, it’s easy to misunderstand his motivations. You may think things like, “It’s all about sex for him” and assume he’s only seeking you out to fulfill his own desires. Usually, the truth is more nuanced. Yes, he’s probably enjoying sex. However, he’s also seeking connection and intimacy with you in a way that just feels more comfortable for him.

When you seek intimacy through conversation and he seeks it through physical connection, neither of you is wrong. You just need to see that these are two different paths to feeling closer, and find a way to honor both.

To set the stage for more intimate conversations with your husband, make sure there’s an atmosphere of safety and respect in your marriage. Listen when he talks. (Put down your phone!) Be curious about what’s going on with him. And don’t micromanage or criticize him — would you want to open up to someone who is constantly getting after you?

Enhancing Nonverbal Intimacy

In addition to deepening your connection through conversation, appreciate the various forms of nonverbal intimacy in your marriage and look for ways to increase that too. I’m not just talking about sex. You could also…

  • Offer physical comfort.
  • Reassure or encourage with a squeeze of the shoulder or a gentle touch.
  • Hold eye contact.
  • Hold each other.
  • Wink and smile.
  • Gently caress his face, hair, or arm in a cherishing way.
  • Sit close to each other.
  • Speak quietly and lovingly.
  • Lean on each other.
  • Reach out and hold hands.
  • Embrace.
  • Kiss.
  • Give him a pat on the butt.
  • Walk arm-in-arm, holding hands, or arm-over-shoulder.

On their own, these gestures will bring the two of you closer together. They could also make it feel safer for your husband to risk opening up to the intimate conversations you’ve been longing for.

A Minute of Silence

I want to leave you with one of the most vivid reminders of the power of nonverbal intimacy that I know of. Perhaps you’ve heard of Marina Abramovic’s work “The Artist is Present” in which she sat across from strangers and shared a minute of silence with them. That’s intimate enough itself! But when Abramovic’s ex-love sits down, look at how much passes between them before they even speak a single word.

As Abramovic shows us, there’s nothing more powerful than the connection between people. Make it a priority to constantly build your connection with your husband, whatever form that intimacy takes. My book, Strong Women, Strong Love, can give you more ideas on how to stay close no matter how busy and hectic your lives are.

How to Make Date Night Better With One Easy Shift

date night

How many articles have you read about the importance of having regular date nights with your husband?

From what I’ve seen, though, date night can backfire sometimes. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re determined to have a “real date,” so you hire a sitter and make reservations at a nice restaurant or buy tickets for a special event. The cost of the evening, both in time and money, weighs on you, and so does the expectation that this date will somehow work magic on your relationship. Not surprisingly, the whole thing ends up being more stressful than fun.

Here’s another common scenario: That nice dinner out (or other creative date night idea) is simply not possible for you right now, whether because of scheduling, finances or both. So you end up feeling that there’s something wrong with your relationship, or that you’re somehow missing out.

Change Your Idea of Date Night

Let’s take some of the pressure off you. Look, I’m the first one to recommend trying something new with your husband — like going on a fun adventure or checking out a new restaurant — to stoke the passion in your relationship. But if you can’t right now, that’s fine.

The point of having a date night isn’t to do something you can brag about on Instagram. It’s to connect with each other. That’s why I recommend broadening your definition of what a date is. What if you were to think of date night as any time the two of you can be fully present with each other? Date night could mean snuggling and talking on the couch in the quiet time after the kids go to bed. It could be having a candlelight dinner in your own dining room. Date night doesn’t even have to happen at night! If possible, how about sneaking off during your work day and grabbing lunch once in a while?

Look for opportunities to turn overlooked moments in your day into times to connect. Perhaps, you could you take a couple of minutes to catch up with each other after work before jumping into household tasks? Could you create a bedtime ritual that brings you closer?

You can make date nights as big or as small as you want them to be. The best dates for the two of you depend on your specific relationship and what’s going on with you right now. Try to go on at least one “date” this week. And for more ideas about strengthening your marriage, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

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It’s Not About the Nail — So What IS It About?

If you’ve never seen the short video “It’s Not About the Nail,” take a couple of minutes to watch it now: https://youtu.be/-4EDhdAHrOg. You’ll probably enjoy a laugh — and feel a twinge of recognition.

As you can see, “It’s Not About the Nail” captures a common situation in marriage. Spouses often go into an interaction with very different expectations, and that can lead to conflict. For example, one spouse doesn’t get their needs met during the interaction and becomes upset. Then the other spouse becomes confused and frustrated because they don’t know why the other spouse is upset and what they need.

It’s All About Communication

Fortunately, there’s a way to avoid this confusion. It’s simple, but not always easy to carry out. The next time you’re in a situation that could turn into an “It’s Not About the Nail” moment, let your husband know at the outset what you’re seeking from the interaction. For example, do you just need to vent and feel heard? Or would you like him to help you solve a problem? Vice versa, if he’s coming to you with a problem, confirm with him what he really needs — even if you think you already know.

Sometimes we skip this step because we think our partner should “just know” what we need and how to respond. But it’s important to remember that each of you brings different experiences to your marriage, and that affects how you react to each other. What seems obvious to you isn’t so obvious to him, and vice versa. This is why being clear about your needs is one of the most loving and helpful things you can do for each other.

I love how the “It’s Not About the Nail” video uses humor to share some real wisdom about relationships. And I hope you’ll remember it the next time you feel like your husband just isn’t getting what you’re saying. For more advice on communication in marriage, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Are You Stuck in a Rut? Here’s How to Re-Energize

Have you been feeling like life is just the “same old, same old” even though we’re in a new year? Getting stuck in a rut can happen all too easily, especially for busy wives and moms.

Why does this happen? Well, we can blame some people who are very important to us: our kids. Or, more accurately, we can blame a culture that’s obsessed with kids and parenting. When you see other parents laser-focused on providing the “best” for the kids (education, extracurriculars, birthday parties … you name it) no matter what it takes, it’s only natural to try to fall in line. We all want to feel a sense of belonging with our peers.

In this case, however, fitting in comes at a high cost. Losing yourself in kid-centered routines isn’t good for you, your marriage or even your children.

To restore balance to your life, it’s time to devote some energy to you. Consider these questions:

  1. When is the last time you did something for yourself?

I’m betting it’s been too long. You don’t have to escape for a spa day to practice self-care. (Although I encourage you to do so if you can!) Even taking 10 minutes a day to be alone with your thoughts can be hugely beneficial.

  1. When is the last time you did something you enjoyed?

Do you always do what your husband or kids want to do? Do you even remember what you like doing? Staying connected with your favorite hobbies, interests and other activities fills your well so that you can give to others. It can also help affair-proof your marriage.

  1. When is the last time you tried something new?

Routines and structure are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you need them to keep your family life running smoothly. But, on the other hand, if you never deviate from your routines, the days can turn into one big, boring blur. Sharing a new experience with your husband — even something as simple as taking a cooking class together — can help rekindle the passion you felt earlier in your relationship.

  1. When is the last time you took a risk?

I’m not talking about anything dangerous. I’m talking about being bold enough to step outside of your comfort zone in the way you relate to others. For example, it might feel risky to clearly ask for what you need from your husband instead of dropping hints, but the potential rewards are rich.

  1. When is the last time you were just present?

Life moves fast, and our minds often fixate on a single question: What’s the next thing I need to get done? But when you live this way, you miss a lot. Spending more time out of your whirling thoughts and in the present moment can be enough to transform your life.

I hope that these ideas will help you break out of your rut and more fully savor 2019 with your husband and your family. For more practical strategies like these, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love

Best Marriage Advice From 2018

Did this year fly by for you, too? If you’ve missed any of the marriage advice articles from 2018, here’s your chance to catch up with the most popular posts. These are the five articles that resonated most with readers of the Strong Women, Strong Love blog and newsletter this year. To read each article, just click on its title. I’ve also included some suggestions for further reading so that you can continue to explore the topics that are most relevant to your marriage.

Why Does Marriage Get Worse After Kids?

I’m not surprised that this article was so widely read, since this is a very common situation among couples. The key takeaways here are: 1) Talk openly about household responsibilities so that everything doesn’t fall on your shoulders. 2) Take couple time to maintain your intimate friendship with your husband. 3) Be aware of the pressures on parents to do everything “right.” Let go of perfectionism.

More marriage advice on this topic: Do Parents Have to Be Less Happy?

In Negative Times, Add Some Positivity to Your Marriage

Even during the holiday season, there’s still a lot of negativity pervading our lives  — from news headlines to colleagues who love to complain to rude people we encounter on the road and in stores. All of that can take a toll on your marriage if the two of you aren’t deliberate about building a “fortress of optimism” together. Taking good care of yourself also helps shift your mindset.

More marriage advice on this topic: Turning the Scariest Moment of the Day Into the Best One

How Your Brain Reveals Your Love Story

This article further reinforces the importance of positivity in marriage. In longtime happy couples, there’s reduced activity in the part of the brain that skews negative, researchers have discovered. Another fascinating finding: The brains of happy couples show more activity linked to empathy and emotional self-control.

More marriage advice on this topic: Can Brains Be Male or Female?

‘I’d Spend More Time Being, Not Doing’

I really love the video of older women looking back at their lives that’s featured in this article, and many of you responded to it as well. What can we learn from them? As I wrote previously: “Amid all the doing, take time for simply being. Right here. Right now. As the women in the video remind us, the years will pass quickly. And you don’t get a second chance to recapture the moments you lost.”

More marriage advice on this topic: Take Time for Joy This Summer

Divorce Is Contagious — But You Can Inoculate Your Marriage Against It

It’s a sobering reality that divorce can spread through a social circle. But the good news is that you can build your “immunity.” Put the time and energy into nurturing yourself and your marriage. And remember that what you do in even the smallest moments can either strengthen your relationship or tear it down.

More marriage advice on this topic: Why Your Marriage Needs Regular Repairs

Thank you so much for reading this blog in 2018! I hope that you’ve found insights here that have made your marriage happier and more fulfilling. I’ll be back in January with more articles that will help you keep your relationship strong amid the stress and busyness of everyday life. Until then, enjoy the rest of this festive season!

P.S. As you shop for gifts, consider picking up a present that you and your husband can share: a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love. I’m very grateful to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of this book, and I’m so happy that it’s made practical, down-to-earth marriage advice accessible to more couples.

10 Signs You Actually Have a Great Marriage

Sometimes looking at your social media feeds can give you an inferiority complex about your relationship. Other couples seem to be taking more romantic trips, giving more beautiful gifts, posting more effusive birthday tributes to each other, living in fancier houses and even looking more in love in their photos.

It’s time for a reality check: 1) You don’t know what’s truly going on with other people. 2) The things I described above don’t actually have a lot to do with how good a marriage is.

Instead of comparing yourself with other couples, there’s a better way to gauge the health of your relationship.  Take a look at the list below. If statements like these describe your marriage, then you and your husband are doing awesome — even if your life doesn’t seem very Instagram-able sometimes.

  1. You Fight Fair

Having a great marriage doesn’t mean that you never disagree. How often you fight matters less than how you fight. For example, if you can argue without attacking each other’s overall personality or character, that points to a strong relationship. For more on arguing in a healthy way, check out my article “The Right Way to Fight With Your Husband.”

  1. You Manage Ongoing Issues

Whether it’s your hypercritical mom or his needy ex-wife, some things will always be a source of tension. That doesn’t mean your marriage is bad. According to leading marriage researcher John Gottman, almost 70 percent of disagreements in marriage are recurring. The key thing is learning to manage the issues you can’t resolve.

  1. Your Sex Life Is Right For You

Do you have a friend (or even a celebrity you follow on social media) who claims that she and her husband are going at it all the time? Your own marriage might feel less sizzling by comparison. But the truth is that frequency of sex varies a lot among happy couples. The important things is that both of you are satisfied with the amount of sex you are having.

  1. You Have Your Own Lives

There’s a romantic ideal in our culture that your spouse should be this magical person who fulfills all of your needs and whom you never want to be away from. But couples who believe this are actually putting a lot of pressure on their marriage — and making it boring. Each of you needs strong friendships outside of your marriage to get all of your emotional needs met. You also both need space to pursue your own hobbies and interests. When you cultivate yourself, you change the whole energy you bring to your marriage.

  1. You Know How to Apologize

Nobody’s perfect in marriage. You’re going to make mistakes, and so will your husband. What keeps your marriage on track is knowing how to apologize and recover from mistakes.

  1. You Own Your Stuff

Great relationships don’t just happen to people who had happy childhoods and parents who modeled what a healthy marriage should be. If one or both of you came into your relationship with emotional baggage, you can still have very satisfying marriage — if you work together on your issues. I talk more about this idea in my article “How Attachment Styles Affect Your Marriage.”

  1. You Speak Up

Some people don’t want to make a big deal out of anything — even if it is a big deal! They think that a good partner should have infinite patience. But this can backfire. Little things can spiral into big issues if  you don’t deal with them. In healthy marriages, each partner feels comfortable raising concerns and can talk about them in a way that isn’t hurtful to the other partner.

  1. You Respect Each Other

Romance gets all the attention, but respect is what keeps marriages together. If you’re in a period where passion is low (for example, after the birth of a child) and you still treat each other respectfully, that’s a great indicator that your relationship is still strong — and that you’ll eventually rekindle your passion.

  1. Your Lifestyle Supports Your Marriage

We all get lots of messages about the things we’re “supposed” to be doing, having or achieving. Successful couples know what’s important to them, and they know that their relationship has to be among their priorities. They’re not afraid to say no to what they don’t value.

  1. You Know It Takes Work

There’s a misconception that true love should be effortless, but happy couples know that’s not true. They realize that, like everything else, a marriage needs maintenance to stay functional. That’s why they’re deliberate every day about noticing positives, showing appreciation and giving their spouse moments of focused attention.

I hope that this list has highlighted all the things that are going right in your marriage and that you take a moment to appreciate all you and your husband have created together. To keep your relationship going strong, and work on any trouble spots, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.