If you wish to have a “happily ever after” relationship, here are a series of intimacy skills that you will need:
Treat your your spouse/partner with kindness and friendliness, and afford him/her the benefit of doubt.
Be true to your word, clarify the limits of what you can do, and respect differences. (Frequently we want to eliminate differences, which will cause conflict because your partner will not want to lose him/her self.)
Seek to understand before you try to be understood. You can accomplish this by listening more and talking less, which most of us are not good at doing. And pick your battles, because you will only win so many before you will begin losing your partner.
Edit yourself. Don’t verbalize all the critical thoughts that you think or feel; that will just make your spouse feel criticized or judged. Decide what is most important, and ask yourself whether what you’re about to say is necessary. If so, be tactful and diplomatic. Remove reactivity, hostility or sarcasm from your discussions, and refrain from threatening the relationship, put-downs, belittling words, nitpicking or being disrespectful. If you use names that are designed to hurt, those words will forever remain out there, even if you apologize. Learn to express hurt, anger and frustration in a more skillful and kind manner.
Defensiveness kills intimacy. When your partner addresses a grievance with you, if you feel attacked and then blast your partner for what s/he has said, you will shut down communication between the two of you. Your relationship will then grow more distant, because your partner won’t feel as if she has a voice around you, or that you care about what he feels. Your partner has to tell you what’s bothering her; repair work doesn’t happen otherwise. Defensiveness is designed for survival, but it shuts down intimacy. If this isn’t a survival issue, don’t destroy closeness and intimacy by being defensive.
Take the emotional lead for making your relationship closer. Don’t wait for your partner to take the initiative. Take the lead yourself.
Express warmth and be physically affectionate on a consistent basis, and not just when you have ulterior motives. Use endearments, affectionate touch, flowers, compliments, date nights, surprises and romantic gestures. We all want these, don’t we?
Create fun, playful activities and novel events. They help to keep the relationship alive, enjoyable, entertaining and interesting.
What is it that you love about your spouse? Like about her? Respect about him? Admire about her? Find attractive about him? Value about her? Appreciate about him? Make it a point to tell your partner all these positive feelings, and do so frequently.
Every so often, check in with your partner about whether s/he has been hurt or offended by something you’ve said or done. If the answer is yes, it is important for you to do repair work, and look at what you could do to mend wounded or upset feelings. Problems get worse when you ignore or avoid them, or dismiss them as insignificant.
Do one thing every day that assists your partner in feeling valued and cherished.
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