Marriage is work. Even people who have been married for twenty, thirty or even fifty years are still working at it. The nature of the work changes as you pass from one stage of marriage to another, but a happy marriage is an ongoing project.
Some of us have more trouble with intimate relationships than others. We’re not as comfortable or skillful at close relationships as we would like or as we think our friends are. As Laura Doyle points out in her Huffington Post article, “It’s the Intimacy, Stupid: 6 Steps for Women to Stamp Out Divorce“, many women lacked good relationship role models growing up. But it’s never too late to learn to be a better partner. She offers six great tips to help women to build better intimacy and keep their marriages alive and well.
1. Every day, do three things just for yourself.
There’s a direct correlation between your self-care and your level of tolerance for your husband. Self-care is a profound act for opening the door to intimacy. Relationships require patience and compassion, but if you’re tired, frazzled or undernourished, you give yours little chance of thriving.”
2. Stop trying to control people you cannot control.
“When you correct your man’s driving or what he wears or does at work, you’re saying he’s not competent. That unwitting criticism is an attack and pushes intimacy away no matter how well-meaning your comment.”
3. Receive graciously, whether it’s help, a compliment or a gift.
Doyle says an interesting thing here: “Receiving is the opposite of rejecting.” She warns women not to turn down help from their husbands, even if they’re not going to do the job to your exact standards. Likewise, even if you think that sweater he bought you is ugly, thank him and be grateful that he wants to please you.
4. Respect the man you married.
Being respectful will resurrect the man you fell in love with. You’re too smart to have married a dumb guy, so if he seems dumb now, it’s because you’re focused on his shortcomings. It’s not that you made a mistake in marrying him, it’s that you’ve been focused on his mistakes since you married him.”
For men, a lack of respect from you or feelings of inadequacy in him are a surefire intimacy-killer. Build him up and he’ll be feeling (and acting) like a man in love again.
5. Express gratitude three times daily.
This dovetails with our recent post on Dr. Oz’s article on gratitude. Practice being thankful and grateful and both of you will benefit. When we feel appreciated, we draw closer to our spouses.
6. Dare to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is not only attractive, it’s the only way to get to that incredible feeling of being loved just the way you are by someone who knows you well. There’s nothing like the joy of intimacy that results from vulnerability. It really is worth dropping the burden of being an efficient, overscheduled superwoman to have it.”
No matter how awkward you think you are at intimacy or how few relationship role models you’ve had, everyone can learn to be better at it through commitment, practice and a determination to push past the things that limit us.