4 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Say “Yes” and Increase Intimacy Right Now
Let’s face it: life is busy… and getting busier. As a licensed marriage and family therapist in Downers Grove, I see it all the time. Sometimes, it feels like everyone needs something from us: kids, family, bosses, and friends. When we are looking for areas to lighten our load, it’s often our relationship that gets put on the back burner.
It’s easy to take our partners for granted. We can justify missing opportunities to connect with excuses like “We need to recharge,” or “Zoning out in front of the TV is just what I need tonight,” or ”We’ll spend time together this weekend.”
Unfortunately, our relationship can’t handle constantly being put last. The less attention we focus on the relationship, the harder it becomes to break the cycle and start connecting. The amount of positive moments dwindle, leaving us wide open for negative interactions and fights. Before you know it, even a small misunderstanding can lead to a blow out fight. You feel lonely and want to connect, but at the same time, find yourself avoiding your partner because you fear that the interaction won’t go well, and you just don’t have time or energy for another fight.
You probably find yourself constantly moving, trying to get things done, which leaves you annoyed and exhausted. For example, dinner prep is often a hectic time. You’re trying to get food ready while keeping the kids entertained and out of your way. And then your spouse walks in wanting a kiss and to talk about the day. It’s easy to respond with “Hold on!” or “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Often, we don’t even realize that we are saying “no” to connection. I know I’m guilty of being on my phone when I should be focused on my partner. We sit down to dinner, and my phone pings to tell me I have a new text message or email. Instead of ignoring it, I take “just a quick peek,” which results in me spending multiple minutes on my phone… only to finally look up to see my husband either annoyed or now tuned into his phone.
Eventually, it becomes the norm to not connect on a regular basis. You might go days without a significant interaction. This is a normal state of a lot of relationships today. We crave more filling relationships, but it often feels like we are too busy to cultivate them.
However, if we can learn how to start saying “yes” in a few key areas, we can start recharging our relationships. It just takes a few small changes to start feeling connected again. Keep reading for the areas to say “yes” to that will give you the biggest impact in the quickest amount of time.
Say “Yes” to These Four Things for Improved Romantic Connection
1. Say “yes” to more physical affection.
Not having enough sex is a common complaint that we here in our therapy offices. Couples become very focused on this, but what most of them don’t realize is that sex in their relationship didn’t just stop one day. It was a gradual process of slowly decreasing frequency over time. And with it went other forms of physical affection.
Now if you haven’t had sex for weeks, or maybe months, and I told you to just go have some, you would probably feel overwhelmed. The longer we go without sex, the more awkward it become to start having it again. One way to increase the amount of sex in your relationship is to increase the amount of physical affection that you are showing and receiving daily.
When I think of affection, I break it down into two types: sexual and non-sexual affection. Non-sexual affection is small gestures that are meant to show love; think hugs, holding hands, quick kisses, or 10-second kisses. Sexual affection is meant to lead into a sexual encounter some time in the near future; maybe a deeper kiss, or a short or long make-out moment.
We need both, but it’s often awkward to show sexual affection when there hasn’t been any non-sexual affection for a while. When we are busy, we tend to brush off or stop doing the small, non-sexual gestures without even realizing it.
To change this, start focusing on non-sexual affection. The rest will come. Look for opportunities to regularly hug your partner or give them a kiss. Instead of sitting in your favorite spot on the couch, move over for a snuggle. In the car, try placing your hand on your partner’s thigh or holding their hand.
Most importantly, pay attention to attempts from your partner to show you affection. Say “yes” to them. I feel like I am always in the middle of something; if I waited ‘till I was done to accept the hug or kiss from my partner, I would never get any.
2. Say “yes” to more alone time.
I often hear from couples about a lack of time alone together. They share stories of how their kids are constantly interrupting their conversations, that they feel guilty going out without the kids, or how when they are out, it’s typically in a group and they spend more time talking to their friends than with each other. Do any of those describe you?
Quality time is all about undivided attention. With all the distractions of life, we rarely spend enough quality time with our partner. The good news? Research tells us couples only need fifteen minutes of quality time a day to feel connected.
While family time is important, it’s impossible to truly be romantic when you are in parent mode. There are times when it’s hard to complete a full sentence, let alone get a complete thought out before your kids want your attention. It can be tempting to put parenthood above your marriage—after all, the kids need you, don’t they? But the truth is, when you feel more connected to your partner, your stress goes down.. and that makes you a better parent.
So say “yes” to alone time with just the two of you. Depending on your kids’ ages, start teaching them that there are times in the day that they aren’t allowed to interrupt you. Even five minutes of uninterrupted time is great! Create a habit of sharing your day (and truly listening as your partner does the same) before bed. Put a monthly date night on the calendar and don’t move it for anything. I often encourage couples to schedule out the full year! That way, it’s done and they have something to look forward to.
3. Say “yes” to putting away the technology.
I will be the first to admit that I’m a big fan of technology. I rarely go anywhere without my phone. Unfortunately, while technology has its benefits, it also has some relational drawbacks.
Technology allows us to be constantly distracted, fill any moment of silence, and take away from that quality time we just talked about. When I’m out, I often notice couples more focused on their phones than each other. Those same types of couples are often the ones in my office saying they don’t have time to connect with each other.
When we are all busy, we are also so focused on our technology that we miss opportunities to connect. Those opportunities don’t have to be hours long, either. By being present in even small moments with our partners, we feel more connected.
So put some rules for yourselves in place. Start saying “yes” to time away from technology! Identify the times you are most guilty of relying on technology to pass the time. For example, do you pull your phone out and start looking on Facebook when you partner is driving? If that’s the case, commit to having half of your car rides phone-free so you can chat with each other instead. Do you end each night watching TV? Agree on one to two evenings a week where you do something tech-free instead. When you are out to eat, commit to leaving the phone in the car, or to not looking at it for the duration of the meal.
4. Say “yes” to pausing the to do list.
This may sound like the craziest thing I’ve told you so far, but trust me, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Our to do-list is always growing, which is why the idea of hitting “pause” sounds impossible. But that’s exactly why you need to!
If you wait till the to-do list is “done” to give yourself permission to have fun with your partner, get that much-needed physical affection, or just be present with each other, it will never happen.
Giving yourself permission to pause the list is key. If you don’t, you will just keep thinking about all the things you need to do while spending time with your partner. You won’t feel connected.
When you take a break to connect with your significant other, you’ll feel recharged. That will allow you to tackle the rest of your list more efficiently when you come back to it.
Pausing the to-do list is an active choice. Start by building in five-, ten-, and fifteen-minute blocks of time where you focus on connecting and being in the moment. Take time to call your partner during work and talk about the day so far. Go for a walk after dinner instead of doing the dishes. Commit to ending the night a little early so you have time to relax together. Work on creating a list of things that you want to do instead of only doing the things you feel like you have to do.
Do you want help creating a solid foundation for a healthy relationship that meets both of your needs? Give our office a call at (847) 644-9043, or fill out our online appointment request form. We’re excited to help your relationship grow!