The experience of feeling seen, heard and understood brings us the greatest joy in life.
Here are five tips to deepen intimacy in any relationship—a friendship, family or love relationship:
1. Ask for help (sooner than you want).
Our attachments and intimacy with others are bred through our vulnerabilities.
The meeting of our vulnerabilities is the sweet spot. This is where we have the ability to truly see one another. The experience of being seen and seeing is called mirroring. Psychologically, it is the bridge of intimacy and forges a strong bond (attachment)—knowing someone else will accept and be there for you, even (especially) in your weakest moments.
Take a risk of to be vulnerable and open yourself up to share from the heart. What is happening under the surface of your life and the veneer of your persona? Tell your partner if you’re sad, afraid, hurt or emotional. Practice staying authentic and articulate about your emotional state and ask for understanding, tenderness or help.
2. Let your partner take the lead.
In relationships we tend focus on ourselves and assume that our needs are more important than our partners.
Flip it. Just for this month, practice allowing your partner’s needs to take priority. What if their needs are just as (or more) important than your own?!
Self-abandonment is not what I am suggesting. Assuming you have healthy boundaries, attune to what your partner wants or needs. Ask them. Let your partner take the lead. Where do they want to go to dinner? Where do they want to go on vacation? What do they want to do this weekend?
This is a Buddhist/yogic concept of expanding the definition of who you are to include the ‘other.’ Widening our perception of Self to include another breeds understanding and union. Instead of using a relationship or looking at our partners as a means to meet our needs—we elevate into a selfless, giving, generous approach. Much like building a successful business or any join venture, ask:
“How can I help you?”
“How can I give more?”
“What do you need and how can I serve?”
3. Set a daily check in with your partner.
Set aside 10-20 minutes a day to tune in to each other in full presence (no cell phones or TV, please). A great time to do this is at night. Take 10 minutes each to reflect on the day. Listen athletically to each other and offer support or feedback. When you can manage, try to go to bed at the same time, cuddle and reflect out loud. What went well? What was disappointing or frustrating? What do you intend to create for the next day?
Practice gratitude together. Get in the habit of reflecting the positive and holding each other in positive regard so you mirror back to your partner their positive attributes. Encouragement and support changes our biochemistry. Consistency in authentic connection is the glue that keeps a relationship together. Commit to a daily check in.
4. Show up with fresh eyes.
See your partner anew. We evolve and change constantly. Our hopes, dreams and skills shift. When we’re in relationship, it’s tempting to view our partner through an old, outdated perspective – who they were, how they acted or what they wanted before. Give your man (or woman) the space, just like a child, to shape-shift, change, learn and grow. Tune into them and ask them “Where are you at today?” “What are you feeling/wanting/dreaming of?”
Try silently observing and allowing them to show you who they are. Open your eyes and your mind. This creates more spaciousness to feel held and supported in who we are authentically—today. Let yourself be surprised. Seek to learn something new about your partner everyday.
5. Breed affection.
Bring more affection into your relationship. After years of listening to couples in therapy, I can tell you—it’s often (if not, usually) the smallest things that end up fracturing and eroding a relationship. Know the little things that your partner needs, wants or delights in.
How can you be more affectionate?
How can you sweetly surprise them and bring a smile to their face?
Gentle touches, thinking what they might want from the grocery store or reaching out sending them a text or a note at work in support go a long way in building a foundation and reservoir of love.
Please leave a comment below on what works to deepen intimacy in your relationships. Give us specific details.
Recently named the ‘#2 Online Influencer for Stress Relief,’ Ashley Turner, MA, MFT is an innovator in self development—combining yoga, modern psychology + spirituality.
A yoga instructor, mind-body psychotherapist, author and Ordained Priestess, Ashley is the creator of several best-selling yoga dvds, co-author of Aroma Yoga and co-founder of the popular digital program LIVE YOUR TRUTH. LOVE YOUR LIFE.Ashley will be leading a retreat to Galapagos Islands in July 2013 and works with clients worldwide via Skype.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta