“Is my partner there for me?” We all want to be able to answer, “Yes.”
The following suggestions are rooted in understanding our physiological responses to connection and attachment. The truth is, we are mammals, we have hormones that make us feel good or bad in response to the way we interact with other mammals.
One of the best ways to make sure that your relationship can weather challenges to trust and safety, is be mindful and intentional about making sure that your bodies are creating good feelings with each other. Sustained and regular touching, eye contact, emotional sharing release important hormones that are vital to our mental and physical health.
An important thing to keep in mind as you read through these suggestions is that these are all invitational, not all of them will “work” or “should work” for every couple.
If the idea of doing most/many these activities feels uncomfortable or aversive, that is information that you should explore more deeply.
Is the discomfort something you can and want to push through?
Or is it something that you need to respect and back away from?
Think of this in terms of good stretching and bad stretching. Listen to your body, it's okay to push through a certain level of pain/aversion, it's also okay to say ‘too much’ and back away.
If you're backing away, that is important information. You want to feel good with your partner, so what is holding you back? It’s something to think deeply about and perhaps process with a therapist.
These activities can help us move into feelings of safety, trust, and love by physiologically releasing pleasure and bonding hormones thus building a sense of familiarity and connectedness.
Spend time most days building feelings of familiarity and safety with shared physical activity such as:
-try to locate ticklish areas on each other
-dance together (even if, perhaps especially if, it is “bad” dancing)
-sing together (ditto)
-make sounds and/or movements and mirror each other, take turns in the lead
-explore all the senses; smell, taste, ,texture, sound of each other.
-yes I am seriously suggesting that you spend time sniffing your partner.
-face each other, try to gently push the other off balance (be careful!).
-face each stand on one foot, try to keep each other on balance.
-Sustained hugging where you try not to lean on each other, but hold yourself fully, while holding the other fully
-breathe in sync
-google “circular breathing with a partner” then try it out
-take a walk together, try speeding up and slowing down and see if you can stay in sync
- (advanced) everything above plus do it naked
-establish bedtime/waking hello/goodbye rituals, for example hug/kiss when you say hello/goodbye, tuck each other in bed, create a secret handshake or other signals only the two of you know. Again this establishes a sense of we-ness or we are on the same team.
- be curious about your partner like when you first met, for example: 36 Questions that Lead to Love: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html?mcubz=0
-bonus points for answering questions while scanning each other's eyes for information and/or with physical contact. You could ask each other questions while sitting close and touching, another question while sitting across the room, another question while intently gazing into each other’s eyes. Notice how your body feels in each of these experiments. If you can stand the increased vulnerability, consider processing those feelings together.
Lisa Butterworth, LPC, NCC
Lisa specializes in women's issues, faith transitions, sexual concerns, LGBT+ journeys, trauma, anxiety disorders, body image concerns, and depression. She offers both coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families.