Intimacy—it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a stroll along the Seine on an autumn afternoon. It’s sharing a slice of cake with a beloved friend in a patisserie on a rainy evening, heads close in conversation. It’s the softness and quiet of the first days of motherhood, breastfeeding in a sun-lit room, the clock ticking in the background. It’s jackets crumpled by the sea, a young lover’s hand, feet ankle-deep in wet sand, toes searching for and finding purchase with the earth. It’s exchanging secrets in a darkened car, and the warmth and comfort of hands on your cheek. It’s a first-person narrative read in a favorite chair. It’s the dawn of a new day when we feel a closeness with the world that seems tangible and unbreakable.
The intimacy in marriages is a far more complicated matter. The closeness experienced in the initial days of a relationship is breathtaking and all-consuming; it can feel like it will last forever. But, with time, that intimacy erodes, and distance inevitably widens. Pursuing a successful life together pushes couples in different directions—and it’s often away from each other.
Affection can fade, but before it dwindles completely there are five vital ways you can reclaim the love and tenderness in your relationship
Relive the first moments of your relationship.
Revisit the restaurant where you had your first official date. Return to that national park where you took your first camping trip together. Prepare the first dish you made for your spouse, pull out that scarf you wore in the early days of your courtship and hang photos of the two of you as you once were. Recall and revive the routines that served as a source of pleasure in the early days of your relationship, from playing tennis on the weekends and spending lazy Sunday mornings in bed with the newspaper to talking late into the night with the lights off. By surrounding yourself with sensory details that evoke the intimacy you once shared, you’ll be reminded of the closeness that brought you together in the first place—how sacred it is, and how critical it is to salvage it.
Surprise your spouse with small gestures of kindness.
It’s easy to sweep intimacy aside when we’re stressed out or upset, and reminding your significant other of how much you love support, and appreciate them will invite intimacy back into your relationship. Slip an encouraging note into the pocket of your spouse’s trousers. Order take-out from his favorite sushi place and have it sent to his office on a day that’s filled with deadlines. Send your partner a sweet text out of the blue. Plan a vacation or a grand night out. Surprising your spouse will shake both of you out of monotony, reintroduce excitement to your relationship, and reinforce your love for each other.
Set aside time each day to talk.
Rarely should this be forced, in that the expectation attached to an obligatory discussion can breed anxiety, resentment, and disappointment. Rather, clue into when your spouse is most at ease and use that time to reconnect with him or her. Ensure that your surroundings are quiet when you do so—your phone is put away, the children are elsewhere, the television is off—so that you’re both keen to listen.
Reconnect by returning to nature together.
Set your alarm early and take a morning walk with your spouse in the nearby park. Take a trip to the seashore and spend an afternoon simply watching the ocean and feeling the breeze. The glories of nature, where there are few distractions, will allow you to focus on the beauty around you and the beauty between you.
Play an intense match of racquetball, or spend a leisurely Saturday over a game of golf followed by a long lunch and cocktails. Challenge each other on a bike ride that takes you out of your comfort zone, or find a local climbing gym and give it a try. Devote one morning a week to going for runs with each other. Engaging on a physical level and watching each other flex, sweat, and the move will fuel your endorphins and spark your attraction for each other.
The intimacy you feel might be gone for good is still there—it’s simply a matter of unearthing it. And once you have it again? Nurture it, and never let go.