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.

A Shortcut to Closeness with Your Husband

36 questions

Do you ever wish you could fall deeper in love with your husband, recapturing that intense closeness that you had at the beginning? The most-talked-about relationship story of the year may point the way to doing just that.

You may have already seen this in your social media feeds, but here’s a quick recap. Researchers Arthur and Elaine Aron — who are married themselves — have spent almost 50 years studying love.

For a 1997 study, the Arons wanted to find out if they could create conditions in the lab that would make two strangers become emotionally close, perhaps even fall in love, in a very short period of time. They developed a list of 36 questions for the two people to discuss. Here’s a sampling:

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  3. Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?
  4. What is your most terrible memory?
  5. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Inevitably, within the hour, respondents said they felt unusually close to the person they were paired with for the experiment.

Although they’ve been around for a while, the 36 questions didn’t capture the popular imagination until this year, when they became the subject of a Modern Love column in the New York Times.

The column’s author, Mandy Len Catron, and an acquaintance experimented with asking each other the questions and with another aspect of the Aron’s research designed to increase intimacy: staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

And, yes, they fell in love.

Catron writes:

I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be. Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible — simple, even — to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive.

Of course, there’s something deeply romantic about the idea that these questions can induce two people to fall in love. But I think it’s just as romantic to consider how they might also rekindle intimacy and trust between long-term partners.

We all know how our busy daily lives can erode those feelings between partners. The closeness with your husband can easily get lost in the stress of household tasks, taking care of kids, and managing work. It can feel impossible to get intimacy back, but Aron’s studies give us at least two clear strategies to try:

  1. Set aside some with your spouse to explore the 36 questions. The full list of questions is online at the New York Times website, or try out the Times’ app with the questions by visiting nytimes.com/36q with your mobile device. You may be surprised at what you learn about that husband you think you know so well!
  2. After you’re done with the questions, don’t forget the part about staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes. Yes, it may feel uncomfortable, but do it anyway. What kind of feelings does eye contact stir up for you?

These two exercises are incredibly powerful because there is nothing so flattering and moving as having another person genuinely notice us, want to know who we really are, and listen with true curiosity. We have a deep need to be seen, especially by those we love.

I’d love to hear about your experiences using the 36 questions. Did they spark intimacy with your spouse all over again? Share what happened by leaving a comment here or on the Strong Women, Strong Love Facebook page.

5 Ways Busy Couples Can Connect in under a Minute  

busy couples connecting

Today’s blog has marriage advice especially for busy couples — and which couples aren’t busy these days, right?

It’s easy to let the daily maintenance of your marriage take a backseat to all the other demands and obligations in your days. But it is possible to infuse your relationship with love and care even when your schedules are tight. Here are five quick, effective and research-backed ideas for building intimacy quickly.

  1. Look into his eyes, not at your phone.
    Eye contact builds connection and helps your partner feel valued. Remember, though, that this has to be loving eye contact. No shooting daggers with your eyes! When you have four minutes, try more intense uninterrupted eye contact, like in this video, to deepen intimacy quickly:

  1. Help when he’s stressed.
    Stress has a huge impact on our marriages. If your partner seems stressed out, ask what he needs from you. Maybe the answer will be unloading the dishwasher even if it’s not your night to or giving him a hug. Whatever the answer, just asking how you can help creates a sense of teamwork in your marriage.
  1. Connect with texts.
    Texting is a busy couple’s best friend. You’re probably already in the habit of texting your husband when you get caught in a work meeting and need him to pick up the kids, or when you think of an errand that’s close to his office. But try sending a text when you don’t need something. Just let him know that you’re thinking about him. Make it as sweet – or as spicy – as you like. Creating a quick connection like this in your busy day helps maintain the health of your marriage.
  1. Greet him warmly.
    We all have a need to be seen and heard by the people we love. It sounds simple, but just acknowledging him with a hug and warm smile when one of you gets home goes a long way toward making your time together emotionally positive.
  1. Reach out through touch.
    Sometimes things are so busy that you don’t even have time to talk. Don’t forget the power of touch to help you and your husband connect. A quick, meaningful kiss, hug, or squeeze of the hand can convey deep caring. The more often you touch, even if it is brief, the closer you’ll feel to each other.

My book Strong Women, Strong Love has lots more marriage advice to help you keep your relationship healthy even when you’re tight on time. And I promise it’s a quick read!