During the pandemic, more and more couples struggle to connect on a deeper level and find a way to hold on to intimacy in their relationship. This may be because spending time with your loved one around the clock doesn’t necessarily invite desire or increased attraction…shocker!
What’s that you say?… spending Twenty-four hours with your partner doesn’t make you want to spend even more time with them? Well, you wouldn’t be the first to feel cramped, frustrated, and in need of personal space.
In relationships, we often connect most over sharing external interests or individualistic activities.
Remember when you were first dating, and you were so excited to learn something new about your new partner? Well, the same principle remains that we often find excitement in novelty. So when you spend time separate from your loved ones, you look forward to sharing the updates with them. When you are both doing the same activities, it can leave your interaction lackluster.
Spending this much time with your partner within a confined space may have you wanting your escape. There is no outlet, no public areas at this time that warrants safety, and therefore it can lead to difficulty in wanting to turn towards them and becoming intimate.
Certainly, this can cause undue tension in your relationship and make it hard to feel like intimacy is accessible. Here are some ideas that may help to break out of boredom and kindle that long-awaited intimacy.
Carve out undistracted time for your partner.
It’s essential to put aside distractions such as our phones, emails, tv shows, or anything that pulls our attention elsewhere. Giving your partner your full attention tells them that you are present and ready to engage with them.
It can be as easy as taking 20-30 minutes of quality time before you begin your day, used as a transition between activities, or maybe sometime in the evening to connect.
We have a more meaningful connection when we spend quality time and are undistracted in a short period rather than when we share large quantities of time. It helps you focus on what’s important.
Plan a date!
There are various ways to plan or imagine a date. You can have an outside date where you are social distancing or have an inside date. Some examples of outdoor dates while social distancing:
going to the park together
going on a walk in your neighborhood
escape to nature near you for a hike or to enjoy the view
For you foodies out there, look up new or interesting restaurants and make a “to be discovered” list for when you have the opportunity to explore or try to be adventurous and attempt to make one of those dishes at home!
There are also options like inside dates:
take turns cooking for one another
try a blindfolded taste test
enjoy a glass of wine by candlelight and flirt with your partner
play board or card games with a new goal or act of service as a wager
Dates are meant to be fun, so be creative and try something new!
Dr. John Gottman has a great book on this called Eight Dates with some guidelines of how you and your partner can take turns planning.
Set the Scene.
Sometimes it’s just easy to break it down to bare bones. And when I say this, I mean set the stage. This is separate from planning the date. Sometimes no plan is necessary, but if you set the stage with games and candles and go from there, who knows where it will lead.
Of course, this is appreciation in the preparation, but sometimes we get overwhelmed with planning and want to make sure that everything plays out perfectly.
Suppose we worry about setting the scene for connection. In that case, whether it be a bath together, even a shower together, a simple gesture of setting an ambiance for connection can be appreciated just as much as the actual planned date itself.
Invest in Play Together.
What does this mean? Playtime can be anything from tickling, sharing humorous quips, talking about your future plans, or playing in a more sensual/erotic way.
When people hear of couples playing, they automatically think of exploring fantasies, some time of kink play, satin sheets, and playing a bedtime sexy playlist in the background.
Yes, I’m sex-positive and encourage that type of exploration in my personal life and my practice, but what about some other types of play?
Certainly, some of these gems should not be overlooked, as they can be a fruitful way of connecting in your relationship. Some ideas are talking and sharing ideas about who you want to become, imagining your next vacation getaway and planning it, or talk about goals (whether far-fetched or not), talk about what kind of partner you’d like to become for the other person, talk about your dreams, fantasies, and desires in your life as a whole, not solely focused on sex.
Talk about your sex life, and how you can bring a little desire and spice in. Would it be a little dirty talk, a bit more finger play, more cunnilingus, different positions, costumes, role play, or sex toys to get you more attuned to your bodies and the sacred experience of sex together?
Whatever it is, talk about it and remember to share ideas with your partner, but remember to check your judgment and criticism as they don’t belong in those conversations.
What your partner finds sexy or arousing doesn’t necessarily have to match you. Be curious, and listen to learn about your partner, talk about what feels safe to try, or what you might feel more comfortable shelving for more exploration. Take liberties in your play together and focus on the fun, but do it ensuring the emotional and physical safety is present.
Laughing is Paramount to Fulfillment and Joy.
Laughing is essential, and sometimes, unfortunately, it’s overlooked. On the other side of the coin, some people only focus on having fun and are forgetful that relationships are work, so it’s important to figure out what the balance is in your relationship.
There is room for both humor and serious conversations. One study found that respect and laughter were the two listed qualities in a lasting marriage for married couples that had been together for 30+ years. I’d agree with these findings, as the balance is a pivotal expression of affection and how we share the joy with our partners.
Being in a fulfilling partnership means looking over and laughing about the small things and talking about the difficult topics. Ask yourself if you’re going to remember what you’re arguing about in a few days, and if the answer is no, try to overcome or hold back on those feelings of frustration rather than lashing out at your partner. It may just not be worth injuring your partner emotionally over who didn’t wash the dishes or the fact that they were in the sink for a few days.
I promise you that it’s not about the dishes anyway, and you need to look at the bigger picture and acknowledge where it stems. Maybe you’ve been feeling unappreciated or disconnected and unattended by your partner rather than annoyed at dishes. Laugh about the silliness of it all, and change it into an inside joke. Laughing at your failures can be as cathartic and valuable as celebrating your success!
Practice Active Listening.
I have to laugh at this because most of you probably don’t know what I’m referring to, and I don’t want to project psychobabble at you - so let me explain. Active listening is an art, and we’re generally not taught how to do it.
Most of the time, when we are disagreeing, we are trying to get our point across and are often in our heads trying to figure out how we can explain our point in a way that you can understand. In doing this, we are completely disconnected and not attending to what our partner is expressing to us.
We are so activated that our forebrain (our CEO part of the brain) disconnects. We act from our limbic brain, which is the fight or flight response. In doing so, we can’t even adequately absorb any information! We are missing the opportunity of connection, and what an opportunity!
Active listening is being able to shelf our bias, critical judgment, or opinions and just remaining curious and listening to what and how our partner expresses.
I promise it’s more challenging in the actuality of practice, but that’s why couples therapists are so great in helping to facilitate and guide you in having those dialogues.
Pursue Individual Interests.
This goes back to the first part of this article when I mentioned inviting novelty and excitement. This can elicit the emotional cocktail you first experienced in the romantic phase of your relationship: dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin...and who doesn’t want to experience that again?
Find a space in your home where you can take your separate area to do some self-care. Whatever that calls for at the moment is fair game, because our interests may vary and fluctuate during this uncertain time. Connect with whatever activity truly makes you feel most in tune with your core self - stop and think about this one. You know, the one that brings a smile to your face just thinking about it, if you had no responsibilities on your plate - what would you be doing?
Often when we are doing these activities and connecting with our authentic selves, we become more alluring to our significant other. Think about it...when you see your partner doing something that brings them true joy, and you witness that - most often there’s a sense of eros or sensual, emotional attraction there.
This also gives you time to reflect on your definition of individuality separate from the partnership. You are two independent individuals with different identities, opinions, life experiences, and you are choosing to merge, partly with your partner across from you.
It’s a choice, and I like to call that a conscious relationship where you respect the other for their beliefs, value, and ideas, which may be in alignment or sometimes different than your own. However, you choose to be with them because the pros and joys of the relationship far outweigh the cons and occasional conflicts, and the fulfillment of being with that person makes you feel whole.
If you are struggling with getting the spark back in your marriage or relationship, we are here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!
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This blog post was written by Nikki Nolet, LMFT.
Nikki specializes in sex therapy, intimacy, and relationships with both individuals and couples. Nikki helps partners and individuals build their trust, reconnect through safe and effective communication, and reignite the passion in their relationships by exploring re-emerging patterns, looking at attachment in our relationships, and creating a lasting connection that serves your relationship. Nikki holds a safe space for her clients, where she works with individuals, premarital couples, and couples in relationships.
Nikki is a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator, a Certified Accelerated Resolution Therapist, an Advanced Certified Imago Therapist, and working towards a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology. Nikki often incorporates Imago Therapy and Sex Therapy together in work with her clients, helping them reconnect with the erotic connection for which they may have lost familiarity.
Her private practice is online and caters to clients of various geographical locations who need more flexibility and enjoy having the convenience of therapy from their chosen location. If you'd like to know more about Nikki, you can learn more at www.nikkinolet.com.