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Increasing Intimacy

Tips for a stable, fulfilling relationship

Romantic coupleMany couples make a special effort to plan a romantic Valentine's Day — from dinner at a swanky restaurant to an intimate night at a hotel downtown. But what about the other 364 days of the year?

The truth is, with jobs, kids and other daily responsibilities commanding much of your time and emotional energy, you may not be giving your relationship as much attention as other aspects of your life — and that neglect can lead to serious problems.

Though it may be difficult to balance all the demands on your time, intimacy with your partner can't wait until you retire or the kids go off to college. Here are some tips to help you fit romance into your busy life year-round from Ann Hartlage, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the Marital and Sex Therapy Program at Rush University Medical Center.

  • Schedule some time. Just as you put your work meetings and the kids' lessons on the calendar, schedule some personal time for you and your partner.
  • Escape the norm. It's good to get out of your normal surroundings, even if it's only for a walk in the park with your partner or a trip to the museum. This way, you are exposed to new stimuli and separated from all the projects around the house that seem to call to you whenever you have a moment free.
  • Manage your stress. If you are under stress, it can put a strain on your relationship with your partner. You cannot eliminate stress, but you can manage how you respond to it. Find an outlet that helps relieve your stress, such as exercise or recreational activities.
  • Share your thoughts. You may find that conversations with your partner tend to focus on practical aspects of your life, such as what to have for dinner or the family budget. If that's the case, try to spend some time talking to each other about your deeper thoughts, goals, hopes and other feelings.
  • Figure out sustainable child care alternatives. Babysitting can get expensive. Explore cheaper methods to free up your time such as trading off child care responsibilities with another couple or setting up a regular visit for the children to spend time with a family member.
  • Turn off the technology. Often your cell or smart phone can interrupt conversations and divert your attention from your partner. Instead of always being on alert, try turning off these distracting devices and giving your partner your full attention.
  • Let the kids in on your relationship. It's healthy for children to see physical displays of affection between their parents, such as hugging, kissing and holding hands. You should also feel comfortable telling your children when you and your partner need some time to yourselves.

Using these tips, you and your partner can figure out together how best to make room for intimacy in your busy lives. You and your partner, as well as your children, will benefit as a result.

February 2011