It’s you and your partner sitting together on the beach. As moonlight streams down on the water, you reach for each other’s hands. You laugh together, watching as the sea foam approaches and retreats.
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Does this sound like a typical day? For most of us, work stress, long commutes, dirty dishes, and all the day-to-day demands of life pose challenges to our most fervent wish to connect with our partners.
It takes a certain kind of dedication, work and understanding to bring people together, both inside and outside the bedroom, according to clinical psychologist Dana Brendza, PsyD.
“It starts with knowing how your partner feels loved and communicating it to them in a meaningful way, ” she says.
Dr. Brendza references the concept of five love languages, popularized by author, Gary Chapman, which theorizes that different people favor different ways of receiving love.
These may be through receiving gifts, acts of service, encouraging words, affection and/or quality time. While they all may sound good, people tend to favor one or two.
When you speak different love languages
Let’s say there’s a married couple with different love languages.
The husband thinks gifts are the way to his partner’s heart so he works a lot of overtime to buy her fancy jewelry. Meanwhile, his wife happens to value quality time over gifts. She would rather he not work overtime, but spend that extra time at home with her.
Dr. Brendza says you can learn a lot by watching for what triggers the most contentment in your partner. Or you can ask your partner directly.
“Even just asking the question, ‘How do you like me to show you love,’ is showing your partner love,” Dr. Brendza says. “The courtship matters the most.”
9 tips to setting the stage for intimacy
Here are some other, practical tips for bringing you closer to your partner:
1. Move the obstacles. If you want to have a romantic night together, arrange for a special date. If it applies, hire someone to watch the kids. Or do things that make it possible to come to bed earlier. Maybe you do the dishes tonight, even if it’s your partner’s turn.
2. Demonstrate appreciation. Some actions send messages in themselves. If a person is often online during dinner, never cooks or helps with dishes or bathing kids, their partner can feel resentful and tired. Sharing the load is important, as well as small, kind acts of appreciation. Try making your partner’s favorite dinner or doing something the other person loves to do, even if it’s seeing a chick flick. These can go far in building a feeling of passion and connection.
3. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts. When you see your partner doing something loving for you, say so. Watch for these actions and note them as you see them. If your partner, who is not a coffee drinker, makes you the java every day for your long commute, thank them often for the sustained effort this requires.
4. Discuss your partner’s complaints. Too often, we might ignore or assume our partner’s complaints are just passing annoyances. But often, the complaints that regularly surface are tied to important needs your partner may not know how to communicate. You can turn complaints around by asking in a non-defensive way, “Would it make you feel more loved if I…”
5. Stay true. Consider fidelity as the highest commitment by avoiding watching porn or ogling others. Keep your eyes on your partner and express your desire to be with them. It’s helpful to stay away from temptations in the first place. Guard yourself against the things that can fracture a relationship. Remember: If your partner doesn’t feel safe, attractive or secure, there’s no space for intimacy.
6. Fight fair. Sometimes, we all lose our temper, but it’s important to fight fair. This means expressing anger without screaming, yelling or putting anyone down. Intimacy begins with comfort in vulnerability, which is highly unlikely when fighting is unhealthy.
7. Be flirty. Make your partner feel seen, appreciated and valued. Give compliments. Validate how your partner looks, and express the good things you see in them.
8. Set the scene. Make the bedroom feel cozy and clean. Shower and use cologne if your partner likes it. Make the effort to be neatly groomed. Light candles. If your partner likes it, consider giving a massage or foot rub to help you both relax.
9. Communicate your needs. When it comes to sex and intimacy, there isn’t always time for the full treatment. But if you can communicate your appetite (even if it’s not equal), there are quicker ways to serve everyone’s needs. It doesn’t have to be a night involving rose petals strewn across the sheets to be satisfying.