“What’s for lunch?”
“Have the kids eaten?”
“Have you taken the rubbish out?”
Here are the kind of conversations that commonly take place in every household between husbands and wives. These are necessary conversations, of course. However, if conversations are just limited to these transactional interactions, then we have to stop to evaluate if something is amiss in the relationship.
What is intimacy?
As a mom, it’s very easy to get caught up with the demands of the children. It’s not uncommon that we are the preferred parent! With babies, we are the main nutrition provider. With young children and teens, they somehow still tend to look for mummy for everything. (I mean EVERYTHING!) Having to juggle these other dependent little human being’s needs, along with work, house work and other responsibilities, it’s no wonder we are completely exhausted by nightfall, and the last thing we want to think about is getting intimate with our man.
A lot of times, when we mention ‘intimacy’, our minds immediately think about physical or sexual closeness. Well, ‘marital intimacy’ to me is defined as a close and deep loving relationship with your spouse. This kind of intimacy involves 4 areas – intellectual, emotional, physical and experiential. Some of them have been covered in Veron’s article here. I will be sharing my own experience and adding some ideas to keep each kind of intimacy strong. I believe that they are all required in order for a couple to thrive.
When I was younger, coming from a home where all conversation was rather transactional, I didn’t know how to express my opinions or even think about what I was thinking. I often felt blank whenever my husband asked me questions. It was very tough initially.
Through time, I learnt to understand that those questions were not there to intimidate me or challenge me, but on the contrary, I began to understand that those questions were asked because he was genuinely interested in what I thought and felt about things.
Slowly, I developed the ability to answer, and finally could enjoy intellectual discussions with him. This has been very rewarding because we can now have open conversations that build each other up and deepen our understanding of each other. It keeps things fresh and alive!
- Keep yourself abreast with knowledge and share it.
- Schedule in time for catch up. Don’t expect deep conversations when either one of you is occupied with something. Take a walk or have a coffee together when you’re both relaxed.
- Ask open-ended questions. For example, “What’s something you’ve discovered lately?”. The idea here is to get a conversation going instead of getting one-word answers.
This has led us to be emotionally intimate, because in sharing, we are trusting each other to accept our personal opinions, and we are giving each other the permission to sharpen or even correct us if we are going the wrong direction.
Because I trust that his response will always be from the place of love and acceptance, I can be courageous to be vulnerable without fear of judgement.
This is only possible if there is openness, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement and patience with one another. When done more frequently, then it becomes second nature.
- Find time to catch up daily.
- Have Walks or Pillow Talks.
- Withhold any judgement. Seek to understand and be understood.
In the household I grew up in, love was never expressed physically. Thus, it’s rather uncomfortable for me to be physically close to anyone. Even hugging can sometimes feel awkward to me.
My husband on the other hand, comes from a family that is extremely affectionate. He appreciates physical closeness.
When I was a younger wife, I really didn’t know how to handle his bids for physical intimacy. However, when I was made aware that his language of love was primarily physical touch, then,
I realized that I had not been speaking his language for the longest time.
Which meant that he wasn’t feeling fully loved by me. Oh no!
So, with this in mind, I make it a point to give him big hugs out of the blue, or give him a kiss on the forehead when I’m passing him. He is usually pleasantly surprised and is very appreciative of it.
- Show affection physically. A hug and a kiss in the morning and night does wonders!
- Give a peck on the forehead or a backrub at random moments in the day.
- When you’re in the car together, hold your spouse’s hand.
Experiential intimacy is a form of intimacy that can only be built by sharing experiences and activities together. It is intentional, like going on a date night or traveling together. When you spend the time together, your shared experiences will deepen your bond.
Recently, we had been doing a lot of Zoom sessions. He was speaking in one meeting a certain night, and I had a choice of going to my meeting, or joining him. I chose the latter because I wanted to morally support him and also be there to talk about his experience after. These are opportunities for me to encourage him and feedback on areas that he’s great at and things that could make the session better.
- Intentionally share experiences together.
- Plan a Date Night!
- Take pictures to remember the moments.
Being raised in a traditional way, it feels normal when relationships among family members are transactional in nature. Nothing wrong with that, but what I’ve learnt through the years is that if we put in intentional effort to go deeper into the four intimacy areas with our spouses, we will be richly rewarded with transformation in our marriage journey.
Luisa Yeng is an advocate for building up families and believes that they are the key to strong societies and eventually a strong nation. With a desire to see married women live fulfilled lives and have a fulfilling marriage, she co-founded Oasis by Comma and contributes her thoughts here at Comma: Rethink Life.
Luisa and her husband are also founders of Heroes Headquarters – a platform that provides family enrichment programmes, parenting courses and family coaching services to those in their community.
Her favourite pastime includes taking walks with her husband at the neighbourhood park while having deep conversations, or coming up with fun activities such as cooking or art projects to engage with her teen and younger kids. She hopes to share with others that you don’t have to be a super person to be a hero to your family. All it requires is love, commitment and a workable plan.