Can we set goals for intimacy? At first this may seem too robotic. You may feel like setting goals for intimacy feels like an oxymoron; how can you take something so personal and vulnerable and turn it into a number or a statistic?
I understand your frustrations. I grew up an English major in an engineering household. My dad loves spreadsheets, but I never wanted to quantify my experience into neat boxes. However, I learned as I grew that goals didn’t have to be mechanical. The measurable part of the goal only has value in that it inspires you to make real change. Measurable goals work not by virtue of having something to report, but as a motivator to get to the real prize (a better way of being).
New Year’s Resolutions
At this time of year, the tradition is to set goals for what you want to change in the new year. This is the time to reflect on your life; not looking for the bad (making yourself feel guilty or shameful) but to see the good and determine how you can make your life even better!
Our relationships should be at the center of our existence. In life, it will be our interactions with those important to us that will determine our levels of happiness and contentment. In the end, it will be our relationships to others that define our legacy. And there is no earthly relationship more important than our marriage.
When we look at our lives in this light, it makes sense that our most important goals should be built to strengthen our relationships and deepen intimacy. Let’s talk about how to set meaningful goals that will lead to real change in our lives.
Why is Change Hard?
My family loves to watch the tv show Phineas and Ferb. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the layout of the show, each episode had a subplot of the secret agent Perry the Platypus trying to stop the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz in his latest plot to take over the tristate area. In a special New Year’s Eve episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz actually succeeds in his plan to make everyone change their New Year’s resolution to make him their leader. However, no one actually does anything, and Dr. D is forced back to the drawing board.
The joke is that no one actually follows through on their New Year’s resolutions. Every year, gym memberships and healthy food sales soar in January, but by March and April have returned to their normal levels. Why is it so hard to make permanent changes?
In our recent post How to Change for the Better, we detailed a few of the reasons change is so hard. Our relational systems find a balanced state referred to as homeostasis. Attempting to make a change is uncomfortable. Subconsciously, we want to return to the comfortable homeostatic state. This phenomena can be exaggerated by the wounded parts of us feeling threatened by the expectation of change. Sometimes, there is some healing work we need to put in before our changes can be lasting. Follow the link to learn more about intentionally choosing to change despite these difficulties and heal our wounds.
Building Intimacy Takes Work
In books and movies we often hear about soulmates who find each other and live happily ever after. If the stories are to be believed, all the conflict happens in the dating phase, but after marriage the two love birds live happily together forever. If you are reading this post, I’m betting you know that’s not reality.
Intimacy takes work. It is about consistently choosing your spouse. It’s about trying each day to grow a little closer to them than you were the day before. It can be hard, yes, but the results are well worth it! In storybooks, we are led to believe that our happiness plateaus on our wedding day. However, we know that our capacity for happiness can expand and our marriages can keep getting better! With this in mind, let’s start the new year with hope and excitement to see what great things lie in store in our marriages.
Creating Your Intimacy Goals
To evaluate what we should work on in the upcoming year, we first need to be aware of our core values. What is it that we value most? Is it honesty? Loyalty? Adventurousness? What are some things you value that maybe have fallen to the wayside? Take this opportunity to evaluate where your habits may have strayed from what you value. Sometimes, things of little value take up the majority of our time.
Once you have sorted out what you value, this gives you a blueprint for what you want your life to look like in the new year. Now, let’s look at intimacy specifically. How do your values apply to your relationship? Have you been spending time on what’s important?
Intimacy exists on many levels. We’ve broken it down into intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual intimacy. Consider each aspect of intimacy and where you want to grow closer to your spouse.
Intellectual intimacy is about learning together. The process of expanding your minds together can be very intimate. Intellectual intimacy can also help you both feel like you are growing and maturing together instead of growing apart. Here are a few ideas of things you can do this new year to grow together.
- Start listening to a podcast together
- Read a book and discuss it together
- Teach each other about your favorite subject
- Read your spouse’s favorite book
This is the foundation of intimacy. Without the emotional side, we can be little more than friends living in the same house. This one is also the hardest to give generic ideas for because it is so personal. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me in the past.
- Create a journal of things you love about your spouse. I like writing love letters to my husband (kept in a private journal) any time I feel our relationship shifts for the better.
- Daily ritual of gratitude. Set an alarm on your phone to create a habit of reflecting on what you are truly grateful for. Without feeling ingenuine, share and show your gratitude with your spouse.
- Share what you are feeling. Make a habit of emotionally checking in with your spouse.
We often think of physical intimacy as sex; which it most certainly is. However, it is much more than that. Small touches, skin on skin contact, snuggling, and every form of touch creates chemical reactions in our brain that bond us to our spouse. There are so many different ways to better connect physically to your spouse; don’t limit yourself to just sex!
- Talk with your spouse about something new you might want to try in the bedroom. Let them know there is no pressure to do it, but seek to be vulnerable.
- Share a fantasy with your spouse.
- Ask your spouse their favorite way to be touched (forehead kisses, hand holding, butt pinching etc) and try to incorporate it into your daily interactions.
- Hold hands in public
- Offer more massages
As a Christian based site, we acknowledge the other pillar of intimacy. Bonding on a spiritual level with your spouse not only brings you closer together, but allows God to also strengthen your marriage. Don’t forget to include Him as you evaluate your marriage and set goals for the new year.
- Make a habit of praying and/or reading scriptures together
- Pray for your spouse
- Go to church or places you feel spiritual
- Serve others together
Intimacy takes work. However, that work will lead to continuously growing happiness and contentment in your marriage. Would you like a little help keeping up with your goals? Consider signing up for our Next Level program! Receive coaching, personalized help, and support from our community of other couples going through their own intimacy journey.