Let’s face it, committed relationships are tough. We often fall out of sync, pulled in different directions by our jobs, children, health issues, wealth (and the accumulation of it), friends, extended family, and so on. But, “coupling up” is what we humans do.
So, to enjoy being together “forever,” we must learn how to be emotionally naked with each other in safe ways, and to do so before the layers of defensive armor between us grow thick and impenetrable.
In romantic relationships, we talk a lot about sexual intimacy, where you eventually shed your clothes together and ‘make love.’ (Personally, I’ve often found that phrase curious. We don’t ‘make’ anything. Instead, we ‘experience’ love, connection and sexual pleasure.)
But, here’s what experts know: sex is always better when true connection and intimacy are involved. Don’t get me wrong, sex just for sex is great, but it’s not the same as loving, whole-hearted intimacy.
So, to keep your committed partnership going strong, here are 6 ways to create lastingintimacy by getting emotionally naked with each other first to make your relationship (and your sex life) even better!
1. Get to know what you don’t know.
Don’t be so sure you know every interesting thing there is to know about your partner. Instead, practice asking your partner to share something meaningful and then really listen, without judging. Maybe it’s something from his or her past, a squashed dream, or a previously un-shared goal or desire. When we’re first attracted to each other, we only show our best self, but there is still so much more to explore in one another. Make it a point to discover something new about your partner as often as you can.
Get to know ALL of your partner, the good, the bad, and the ugly (or, at least, not perfect). Just stop, ask, and truly listen.
Do this: Ask your partner, “What would you share with someone you’ll never see again about your biggest wish?” and follow-up with, “Would you share that with me?”
2. Love yourself first.
Yes, you’ve heard it before, but it’s absolutely true: Before we can love someone else fully, you must care for yourself. Before you can fall in love with someone, you must fall in love with yourself. Loving yourself attracts healthy people to you because people who love themselves are a delight to be around.
You must first create space within yourself to admit what’s truly bothering you or to let your naked truth shine. Only then can you begin doing that kind of sharing with your partner more often.
Do this: Say “Yes” to some extreme self care this week. Get a 2-hour massage, go to a museum by your self, spend time alone at the beach or a lake, plan a get-away with a disconnected friend. You’ll feel rejuvenated and more radiantly alive for your partner afterward.
3. Choose to speak and share with loving intentions.
Love is a verb and a choice. And not simply a rational choice, but rather, a willingness to present yourself to to others fully and without pretense.
What does this statement mean to you? When love is not the feeling anchoring you in any given moment, what feeling are you choosing instead? What has entrapped you? Share this nakedly with your partner. Don’t expect a certain response or help. Just share from a loving place and feel the release of shedding your armor. That kind of naked truthfulness is sexy!
Do this: What have you held back and feel afraid to share with your partner? Write it down. Then, read it aloud, sharing it as if your partner were in the empty chair across from you. Act as if everything is OK, even if it’s not quite. Finally, share this with your partner, and be amazed at the freedom brought out by this naked self-disclosure.
4. Forgive often, and mean it.
To foster healthy self-love and love of another, we may need to forgive ourselves, just as healthy love of others requires us letting go of resentments, old angers, and unresolved wounds.
Forgiveness is difficult to give, especially when revenge seems more appropriate; yet, it grows out of love and can change the course of a life and your relationship.
Do this: Create a forgiveness ritual for some past transgression committed by you or another. Go to some serene and beautiful place by water, write down the memory you’re now letting go, and then put the paper on a piece of wood or leaf and just let it float downstream. Say “goodbye” and “thank you for the lesson” to that event.
Anything others do is not because of you … even if it seems that way.
When you inoculate yourself to the opinions and views of others, you won’t linger in the role of victim. You’ll finally see under the surface at the hidden fear or judgment or false belief being clung to about you or the other person.
Do this: Turn a feeling of fault that you have and turn it around by saying, “Nothing I do defines who I am. I will say what I need to right a wrong and I will not hold on to any judgment from others or me. I am a canvas yet to be painted.”
6. Remain curious.
This is the heart of being a good listener (and hence a good partner) for intimate, naked truth conversations. Just listen and remain curious. And then ask, “What else?” or “Tell me more.”
You’re a receptacle for intimacy and that creates a great feeling of closeness and connection (and it’s sexy, too).
Do this: Tell your partner that you’re feeling curious and would love to hear something that he or she has not shared before. What would magic power would he or she most like to have? What if someone granted a wish? Then what? Listen without debate or judgment, and keep saying, “Interesting. What else? Anything more?” Or, “And then what? The power of intimate conversation, once you get past the first layer of expected dialogue, is a wonderful feeling.
Paul McCartney said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”
But lovers are also naked with one another at other times, depending on their need for privacy when they get into bed together, take showers, or change clothes.
Everyone’s need for privacy is different. Some don’t mind walking from the closet naked to grab a new shirt, and yet others want the lights out and wear pajamas to bed. What matters most is how emotionally naked can you be with your lover, partner, or spouse.
When we take off our clothes at the end of the day, we feel free from the constraints and constrictions those clothes cause. And that feeling of comfort, while becoming unencumbered by constrictive clothing, is the same feeling that comes when we can speak truthfully and authentically with a partner who listens well.
And, let me be clear — emotional nakedness should not be attempted without clear intentions and safety of circumstances. Just like we don’t show up physically naked any random place we go, we, likewise, don’t fully reveal ourselves emotionally at all times. So, yeah, emotional nakedness is challenging, but it’s so worth the effort.
I suggest to my clients that “e-motion” means energy in motion, so don’t ignore what you’re feeling. Acknowledge it, embrace it, express it and move the energy in the right direction. The love you live is equal to the love you give, both for yourself and others.
YourTango Experts was born out of the idea that in order to be the premier advice site on the web, YourTango would need to bring together the smartest and brightest voices in the love and relationships community. And while our staff includes brilliant leaders, authors, and entrepreneurs, it's you, the Experts, who make YourTango Experts so unique and special. Together, we bring a little more joy and a lot of expertise to the otherwise frustrating quest for love and happiness.