The quality of our intimate relationships in 2020 has been laid unflinchingly bare thanks to the global pandemic. For some, it’s been a time of acknowledging they actually have a great relationship, allowing them to thrive more than ever. While others have realized they do not. You are not alone if your relationship is struggling in this unpredictable terrain, with recent reports showing that up to 42% of people are experiencing worsened relationship quality.
If you desire an exceptional relationship that flourishes through challenging times, intimacy is the key. The caveat? To create intimacy with anyone else, you must have it with you, first.
Before going any further, let’s bust a big myth of intimacy right out of the gate: Sex. Sex is not intimacy. Sex and intimacy are two entirely different categories. Sex can exist without intimacy, and intimacy can exist without sex. Of course, you can have both intimacy and sex in a relationship but having one does not automatically generate the other.
If sex isn’t intimacy, what is? Here are the five bullet-proof ingredients of lasting intimacy, and how to add them to your life and your relationships.
Gratitude creates intimacy. Judgment erodes it. Are you grateful for what you have and who you are? Or do you judge what you haven’t got and what you believe you are not? With relationships, do you focus on what they lack, or what they contribute?
Gratitude is a choice. Start being grateful for everything about you, and for everything about your loved ones. If they empty the dishwasher, give them a kiss on the cheek and say, ‘Thank you so much, I love it when you empty the dishwasher. How did I get so lucky to have you in my life?’ Every day, ask: ‘How did I get so lucky to have this person and these things in my life?’
Let’s get clear about trust: Trust is knowing that if your partner left the toilet seat up when you started dating them, they’ll most likely continue to do so. Trust is not, ‘If you love me, you will change.’
True trust is about allowing you to be you, and them to be them, not about fulfilling your expectations.
Criticism and expectation are not intimacy – it is control and ownership. If you want something to own or train, you’d better get a puppy. If you desire intimacy, when you get critical, lighten up!
Try this: next time you are frustrated with your partner, make it a rule that if you are going to talk about it, you both get naked first. Then see how significant and serious you are, or does something else show up?
For a relationship to have true intimacy, it must be honoring of both of you. This means not giving up parts of you or what you love. How many people do you know who stopped doing something they loved, like bike riding, surfing, dancing or even socializing with friends to be in a relationship? A truly intimate relationship should create greater and add to both of your lives, not require you to be or have less.
Is there anything you gave up when you started your relationship? What could you add back to your life that is just for you and just for fun? Start rediscovering what you love to do and encourage your partner to do the same.
Intimacy requires vulnerability. No more lying to yourself. Only then can you begin to explore what that can be like with somebody else.
If you are not enjoying your relationship: do you really want one? It is projected constantly in our cultures, societies, and stories that you should want a relationship, that you should have one, that you’re not complete without one. But what if that was a lie?
If you are going to create a relationship, make it a great one. If you had no judgment of what was right or wrong in a relationship, in a partner, with sex, what would you ask for? Get brutally honest. What do you truly desire?
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had fairy tale relationships where everyone lived happily ever after? Except, we don’t work like that. There is no ‘ideal’.
We are all different – and what if we allowed for that? What if we didn’t judge it? You don’t have to create your family or relationships based on how you grew up. Take the parts and pieces that work for you and create your own reality! To get in touch with what that is for you, ask yourself daily: ‘If I were choosing my reality today, what would I choose, change and create?’
The greatest gift of creating true intimacy in your life and relationships is that you never have to wait for anyone else to be happy. You don’t have to wait for the people around you, or for the world to change. You don’t have to wait for the pandemic to end. The choice is always yours.