Seasons greetings, fellow halves of couples.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’re likely experiencing the sure signs that the month of emotionally invested holidays is right around the corner — expectations, overspending, negotiations, wishing, tension, disappointment and compromise arrive with bells on. We don’t intend to become part of the fraying of good will, it just kind of happens…like a tradition…that sucks.

The remedy? More tolerance? More giving in? More “cheers”?

I’m liking this one better – more intimacy.

Here, at the starting gate, let’s define terms. “Intimacy” is only euphemistically related to sex. We use the term to soften the effect of a loaded three-letter word.

Intimacy also means close familiarity or friendship, a cozy and private or relaxed atmosphere, and closeness of observation or familiarity with a subject. In short, it’s the effort to be close because you want to feel closer. What happens from there might well be euphemistic, if you catch my drift, but it doesn’t have to be.

So, here’s a little idea to infuse warmth into your celebrations:

What if, before things become too jingle-jangley, you and your partner created, then exchanged, intimacy wishlists? You can put anything your actual heart desires on the list, but it should probably follow a few basic guidelines for enhancing closeness.

As an intimacy wishlist maker:

1. Don’t ask to cross boundaries.

2. Be prepared to cross off anything that doesn’t please your partner…then let it be.

3. Start with wishes that bring you into close proximity, but not that close. (Read the full definition of “intimacy” above as many times as needed for it to register.)

As an intimacy wishlist receiver:

1. If something about the other’s wish makes you anxious, speak it out loud softly.

2. Receive the list knowing it is a statement of utter vulnerability. Practise compassion.

3. Be game to try new things. No grimacing. (Remember: no boundary-crossing.)

Here’s mine, in no particular order of priority, and edited a little for reasons you can probably guess:

· Reading in bed next to each other, talking about the writing or what we’re learning.

· Foot massage.

· Making the occasion to be absolutely alone together – no complaining, no stress.

· A discussion about bucket-list items, preferably over favourite beverages or dinner in a quiet café or restaurant.

· Being noticed in moments of goodness (i.e. doing good things) or attractiveness, but particularly in moments of goodness.

· Having my hair played with.

· An evening together without phones or screens.

· A slow morning without interruptions, ringers off.

· Curling up on the sofa together for an old favourite movie.

· Talking about our deceased son and how we are each feeling about then and now.

·  A “what I love about you” conversation.

· A letter exchange based on that convo, so there’s something to refer back to on those occasions when the temperature plunges.

Hopefully that nudges some thought for you.

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on

The Herculean task of intimacy wishlist creation is the execution of it all. It will take more determination and desire to facilitate than you can imagine, not because the wishes are so difficult, but because conflict in nature is endemic. Expect random resistance from pretty much everywhere. Although it threatens spontaneity some, plans may well need to be made to ensure things happen like, say, an overnight without interruptions.

Largely, though, it’s simple — the sharing of wishes by your partner is an expression of hope, need, and desire to experience closeness with you. Don’t feel compelled to schedule playing with her hair or rubbing his tired shoulders – just do it when the inkling arises.

Remember: In some time past, there was nothing you wanted more than to make this person truly happy – to be a rock, a believer, and an intimate partner in all ways. Deeply, you’ve felt that the personal sweetness of your own life was inseparably connected to theirs. Trust your soul to remember that language and whisper it back to you. You’ll know what to ask for, and what to do.

So, before the holiday season bustles, honks or ka-chings its way between you and your love, gather your wishes together, make the lists, and follow them through.

Give intimacy

Heather Burton is a freelance writer, mom, and smörgåsbord enthusiast who is about to celebrate her 31st holiday season with the love of her life, Allan. Hence, the article. More of it all here:


  • Heather Burton

    educator, writer, whole foodie, coach, wistful idealist. Keeping it real {to make it better}.

    My life is pretty glorious and messy: nine awesome kids, working mom (teacher), writer, struggling member of the 5 am Club, believer. I'm thinking "life awkwardness empathy" should probably be my unique value proposition -- if it weren't so long and awkward. Did I mention my messiness loves company?