“We used to be intimate all the time. I don’t know what happened.” I hear a lot from the couples I work with. Their relationship began so passionate and romantic. Now, years later, they find a lack of intimacy, and don’t know why.
Is the honeymoon over?
Part of the reason is what most people think: the honeymoon phase is over. Of course, there is a lot of truth in this. Dr. John Gottman calls these early days “limerence.” It’s a time when bodies release wellness hormones that give you that feeling of deep connection. As great as this period is, it cannot last forever. While passion fades a bit over time, this is often not the only (or even main) reason why intimacy and romance fade.
The research of Dr. Gottman discovered a direct and very strong correlation between the amount of affection and admiration in a relationship and a couple’s satisfaction with romance, passion, and sex. Couples who say they feel love, appreciation, and admiration from their partner also reported more passion and sex in the relationship.
Sex is a very vulnerable act. It makes sense that most people hesitate to have sex with someone they weren’t even sure they liked.
A proportion of love
What I see a lot in my practice is that couples usually love, respect and appreciate each other, but actually no couple. It’s heard this in the relationship. Often this is because there is not enough positivity in the relationship. The research of Dr. Gottman showed over thousands of couples, for his partner to do feel loved, respected and appreciated, there must be 20 positive interactions for any negative interaction. This means that every time you accidentally hurt your partner’s feelings, lose an offer, or have a stressful moment in the relationship, you need to balance it with 20 positive interactions so that your partner continues to be loved, respected, and admired. . (Editor’s note: the other ratio commonly referred to is 5: 1, which applies specifically to inter-conflict interactions; more info here)
This statistic surprises most of my couples. However, the brain is wired to notice and respond to the negative. It is necessary for survival. What this means in relationships is that any negative interaction you have with your partner will stay in your mind. It will take 20 positive interactions to counteract this. So if you miss the romance and passion your relationship used to have, you and your partner may not be reaching the 1:20 ratio.
Tips for sharing affection and admiration
The good news is that there are many ways to increase the positivity of your relationship so that you both feel appreciated and can rebuild intimacy. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make a genuine compliment to your partner. One of the most powerful ways to show your partner that you admire them is to express your gratitude for the specific traits they possess. For example, you might love them to be generous, loyal, affectionate, funny, adventurous, or a great parent. Often the couples I work with believe, “My partner already knows I like this about them.” While this may be true, expressing it out loud can have a huge positive impact on your relationship. I often feel that people didn’t really know their partner felt that way. They love to hear the compliment.
- Catch your partner by doing something “right” and thank them. Most couples end up in a place where each has their designated responsibilities. Over time, they often lose sight of all the ways their partner contributes. Pay attention to the things your partner does and express your gratitude for that, even if it’s “their job”. For example, you can thank your partner for taking out the trash, making dinner, making dishes, picking up children, paying bills, and so on.
- Share a fun or favorite memory of your past together. Think about all the good and / or romantic moments you have spent together and share one with your partner. You might remember the day you met, your wedding day, a passionate evening, or any other special moment.
- Tell your partner how proud you are of them or how proud you are of the relationship. Include everything you’ve achieved as a team and the storms you’ve overcome together.
- Tell your partner that you love her. Every day!
- Be physically affectionate with your partner. Kiss them, hug them, hold their hand and hug them.
- Express gratitude by the ways they have supported you, such as helping you fulfill a dream, hearing you talk about a bad day, or being there for a loss you have suffered.
- Surprise them with a gift just because you thought of them.
- Schedule a date, a trip or a holiday together. This lets your partner know that you want to spend time with her and that it is important to you.
- Write them a love letter or leave a note informing them that you are thinking of them.
The options are endless. Whatever way you express your admiration, be sure to do so more than any negativity you express. When you both feel loved, admired, and appreciated in the relationship, set the stage for romance and passion to flourish.
Learn to share affection, admiration and more at the upcoming Love Art and Science workshop. In this two-day live virtual event, you and your partner will hear from Gottman-trained experts on how to keep your emotional bank account full and romance alive. Register today!
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