Written with love, by Karley Kiker
Welcome back to our conversation about cultivating intimacy in marriage! Today we’re going to talk about four practical ways to deepen our forever-long relationships. Before we dig into that list, though, let’s wrap up the backstory from last week’s column.
Like I said, although I may have thought that continuing to foster intimacy after saying “I do” was going to be easy, in reality, it has demanded that both of us put forth ongoing effort. See, Taylor and I took vows that included the words “until death do us part,” which means I’m kind of a sure thing...and vice versa. Taylor has already won my heart—but for our marriage to be the best it can be, he has to make the daily decision to continue to pursue it...and vice versa. So without further ado, here are four practical ways that Taylor, myself, and our team of experts (AKA two of my friends who gave me their input via text message) seek to cultivate ongoing and ever-increasing intimacy in marriage:
By setting aside time to communicate—Communication is simultaneously a Marriage 101 Prerequisite Class and a Husband-And-Wife-For-Life Graduate Degree. When we were dating practically all Taylor and I did was communicate—again, we dated long distance, so up-until-3-am phone calls were the norm. Now that we live together, however, it’s easy to take communication for granted. How quickly “Tell me your deepest secrets” can morph into “How was work” and “What’s for dinner” and “I’m out of underwear can you please do a load of laundry,” right? And yet, through the power of conversation, we have the ability to create new moments that are deep, real, and intimate, which in turn has the power to remind us of all the beautiful qualities that drew us to our respective spouses in the first place—something that really comes in handy when we’re lacking in the patience department due to the aforementioned underwear scenario. A practical way to open the door to meaningful conversation: “Pray together and keep a prayer journal, or read either a devotional or marriage book at night before bed together,” suggests my friend Ericka, who is currently re-reading The 5 Love Languages with her husband.
By doing projects together—My husband and I recently built a small backyard garden together (look out, Chip and Joanna Gaines). I would describe my thumb as a puke-ish shade of green and woodworking certainly isn’t Taylor’s favorite pastime, but you know what? We did it. We planted a garden. And whether the plants grow or they shrivel—spoiler alert: half of them are already total goners—that garden is ours. And we are (mostly) proud of it. Growing intimacy in this way doesn’t necessarily demand growing a garden, though. Also, projects don’t have to be sexy in order to lead to something sexy, as any woman whose husband has ever surprised her by doing the dishes can testify. Ahem. “I love working on things together, whether we’re cooking meals together or just doing something the other person likes,” says my friend Hannah. Which leads us to suggestion number three…
Saying “yes” to their interests—My husband loves to play basketball. I, on the other hand, have lost every round of HORSE I’ve ever played. But because I know he enjoys basketball—also lacrosse, football, frisbee and/or disc golf, regular golf, and the list goes on—I have tossed a ball with a LAX stick, thrown a football and a frisbee, taken a golf lesson, and the list goes on. I will be honest: Sometimes I tell Taylor to leave me alone and just let me read my book when we go to the beach. But other times, I say “yes” to what he wants to do, when he wants me to do it, because I know it will make him happy. Just like it makes ME happy when he says, “Hey, why don’t you take some time to paint today?” You may not be great at whatever hobby makes your spouse’s heart sing, but that’s not really the point—the point is letting your spouse know that you think it’s cool that they think something is cool. Besides, laughing together is another fabulous way to increase intimacy, so if losing a game of HORSE leads to that, all the better.
Creating a No Phone Zone—Creating a No Phone Zone is a practical way to recapture quality time together (see section three) and to create the right atmosphere for rich, intimate conversations to take place as well (refer back to section one for details). A No Phone Zone could look like…
Not using your phone at all in an agreed-upon room of your house, such as the bedroom. If you use your phone as an alarm, simply switch on the Airplane Mode before walking into the room to help you avoid the temptation to mindlessly scroll through [insert social media platform of choice here] right before bed.
Leaving your phone behind on certain agreed-upon occasions, such as date nights. Let’s get real: When we’re so focused on showing everyone else what a great time we’re having, the person we’re actually with in real life is no longer having a great time. So what if that Pad Thai looks totally Instagrammable? Sometimes—make that pretty much all of the time—it’s better to eat the food while it’s hot instead of taking pictures until it’s as cold as the look your spouse is giving you from across the table. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.
Starting and stopping phone usage at a certain agreed-upon time each day. Meaning if your “start hour” is at 8 a.m., you won’t check your email before then, and if your “stop hour” is at 8 p.m., you will resist the urge to look at Twitter to see what everyone else is saying about tonight’s episode of The Bachelorette.
So there you have it: four (practical) ways to cultivate intimacy in marriage. If you’re struggling in one or more of these areas, please know that you’re not alone—we aren’t nailing the suggestions I outlined on a daily basis, either! Deepening a marriage relationship is easier said than done, especially when difficult or uncontrollable circumstances come into play. If intimacy feels far off right now, just pick one thing to try and work on together and go from there.
Do you and your spouse have any other suggestions for growing closer as a couple? Feel free to join my “team of experts” by commenting below!