If you've ever been in a long-term relationship, you know that sometimes you become disconnected from your partner. You become distracted by work, tired from raising kids, and wrapped up in the routines of life. That's all normal. Long-term relationships ebb and flow, after all. But there are things to do every day to improve intimacy and help your relationship get through all of the high and low points.
A quick disclaimer: I've been married to the same person for nine years, and we are far from the model couple. We go through times of total disconnect, and times of pure exhaustion from life with two kids. We sometimes fight fairly (my therapist would be so proud), and sometimes not-so-fairly (yikes).
Some intimacy — both sexual and non-sexual — has come naturally to me and my husband, while some of it requires a conscious effort. When we're not weary and worn out by challenges of everyday life, intimacy admittedly comes easier to us. Other times, we have to work at it.
The good news is there are things all couples can do daily to improve intimacy. Here are nine simple, non-hokey, and non-time-sucking ideas to try with your partner to help you both stay connected.
1. Get Rid Of Your Phones
No one's suggesting going totally rogue here. This isn't 1995. That being said, communication sans phones can really improve a couple's connection with each other.
"The one thing you can do with your partner every day is to put down the phones, get off the iPad and talk about your day," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein told Bustle. "It doesn't have to be deep or complicated but you do need to sit and connect every day. Otherwise it's easy to lose track of each other and your connection."
2. Text Flirty Stuff To Each Other
I know I just suggested that you get rid of your phones, but not completely. Texting flirty, short messages to each other once a day can help you stay connected to your partner. You could text, "I love you," or "You are so HOT", or "I'm thankful for you." Hell, just an emoji from my husband makes me happy. It helps us stay connected during long work hours and even different time zones.
3. Take Time To Talk Without Interruption
In a perfect world you'd be able to talk face-to-face every day, but sometimes that can't happen. No matter how you talk — via phone, Skype, or Facetime, — finding time to talk for 10 minutes will help you feel closer. As noted on the dating website E-Harmony, talking freely will allow you both to find topics that have the capability to unlock something special for you both spontaneously. Additionally, Psych Central noted that you can schedule longer talks into your week just like you would a date night. Heck, you could even combine the two.
4. Go For A Walk Together
When my husband and I had two babies under the age of 2, we'd plop them in the double stroller and go for a walk because it was the only time they'd be quiet and calm. Sometimes the walk only lasted 30 minutes — less if one child got cranky — but it created closeness. Now our kids are school aged and we talk about how we miss those walks.
5. Touch Each Other Often
"Make sure to keep touching and hugging each other, particularly in a non sexual way," Steve McGough, an associate professor of clinical sexology, tells Romper. He suggests couples make it a point to give each other intimacy massages for about 10 minutes every morning (before you're worn out from the day). "It's basically a 'sensual touch' massage that doesn't end in sexual activity," he explains. "It is very good for increasing affection and connection."
6. Reminisce About A Shared Memory Together
Connecting on shared memories is a fantastic way to improve intimacy and keep sparks flying, according to the aforementioned E-Harmony post. You can talk about your first date, the first time you had sex, or the first time you met your partner's parents.
7. Work On A Project Together
Whether it's an art project or a volunteer event, working on something together can be fun. If you do a little work on your project every day you're closer to the final product and each other.
8. Read Aloud To Each Other
I read to my kids aloud before bed time. It's our quality time to cuddle, do silly voices, and love each other. The same can be said for adults who read aloud together. My husband is into graphic novels, and I'm into basically every type of word written. Either way, when we're lying in bed comparing quotes or sharing a powerful or funny line, it creates a connection.
9. Deliberately Spend Time Apart
Taking time to date yourself will help you be connected to your partner. Spending time alone helps you listen to your inner voice, be introspective, reflective, and think for yourself, according to Psychology Today. You can't have a healthy relationship with anyone else, until you learn to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
Intimacy is not always something that comes naturally for even the most loving couples. It's totally normal to have phases of disconnectedness. But, if couples make a commitment to be aware of these times and keep making an effort, they'll be bonding again in no time and getting stronger together.