Into-Me-See – Prioritizing Our Most Vulnerable Sides (Episode 303)
I know the topic of intimacy can be a dicey situation for a lot of families, and I also recognize that there are different ebbs and flows and seasons of intimacy in our lives. Yet intimacy is what opens you up to those deeper relationships - where you're willing to allow another person to "into-me-see".
There are moments and there are periods of our life where attention to other areas is required. Many of us grew up with this little "wheel of life" circle where everything is supposed to be balanced in your life.
However, life doesn't work that way. It's all over the place. And, that's the beauty of life. It's not those easy, fragmented, and perfectly even chunks. It comes at you in big waves, and so you've got to deal with what comes in the moment. In the process, intimacy can oftentimes take a backseat, not to mention into-me-see.
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Do You Know Your Life Harmony?
Instead of life balance, I talk about life harmony. Even my coaching sessions are couched in "Life Harmony" packages.
It's not to balance everything out equally. There are times when I don't want work to have the same precedence as family time, or I've got a big project, and I've got to focus on work more intensely for a bit.
When we can be clear on our desires/goals/vision for this life, and how we want to show up in the world, we can more accurately look at how we want to sing our song in the moment. The core of who you want to be in this world - that can remain your melody.
Then all of these other things - your social, career, financial, physical, educational, spiritual - they then become the harmony around it.
What makes you come alive and sing your song of joy the best?
Your "harmony" becomes all of the other factors outside of your control. You can choose the song that is most true to you. And then how you show up at work, with your family, your spiritual/personal/social/emotional life, etc...these become the harmony that gets louder or softer during different seasons.
Harmony is part of recognizing when something takes more attention than others, and that there are seasons for that. You may be really hyper-focused in one area for a while, and then switch because the harmony in your home with toddlers and infants demands all your attention at home.
Maybe then your career song takes a little bit of the back burner -not forever - but for this season in your life.
Look at what's in the spotlight. What's making music for you at this moment in your life, and how can you make that continue to flow as a beautiful song?
Physical and Emotional Distancing
I say it all the time - it is hard to remain emotionally distant when you physically connect on a daily basis. And so when we're looking at our lives and how to continue to add flow and connection, touch is a part of that. And not just touch. It's the intimacy of the vulnerability of really sharing and opening up all elements of who you are.
There is physical intimacy, and there's sexual intimacy. We talked about both of those when we did our guest interview on the 6 Pillars of Intimacy, and you're going to be hearing from Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo again next week as we dive into navigating conflict.
Warning. This will be oversharing. While your life is yours to live, sometimes being open about my own life helps others to see what is possible. So, when Nathan and I were asked on a podcast episode back in 2013, "What have you done consistently for the past three years," the first response from both Nathan and I was "Make love".
Yes, our physical and most intimate connection became a daily practice. Let me stress, it's an intentional practice, not just a habit.
We have sex a lot. I'm not sure what the average is for most committed couples (at best the guess is about 1-2 times/week), but in 2010 we took our typical every other day and upped the ante to a 365-day challenge. Yes, sex 365 times that year. Notice I didn't say days. Some days we were extra frisky and others we needed a little more sleep (reminder, at that point I had just had my second baby in October '09). Maybe I should repeat that. We had sex a LOT...and had a brand-new baby and a toddler in the house.
It's been 13 years now, with another baby added to the mix in 2012. So of course the next question is "Yes, but are you even close to that now?" My answer is a resounding "hell yeah!"
We don't put dots on the calendar anymore. We don't fill up a quarters jar. We don't record at all. We simply have this as much a part of our lives as showering and brushing our teeth.
Not that it's at all routine - think about the habits we add in that are so, so pivotal to our lives that we feel amiss when we don't do it. Yoga, meditation, daily devotions, exercise, something that is for us that makes both of us feel incredible.
It's been 13 years of making physical touch and intimacy a priority in our marriage on a daily basis. And this physical closeness makes it very hard to brush bigger emotional issues under the rug. We have to face them - together. And we do.
As we strive to stay on the same page and connect daily, it means we have to nip conflict in the bud and address issues before they build up. And guess what - that is a ripple effect beyond our relationship. How we handle conflict with others can often be exemplified in our most intimate relationships.
When it comes to physical and sexual intimacy, we are very big advocates for the way to keep the song going in our relationship is to ensure that these are important components on a daily basis.
Maybe it's not to the same level that we do. What works for the two of you?
Give Grace For Seasons
I know there is a struggle with a lot of families when it comes to sex and intimacy in the bedroom. You're maxed out and touched out by young children. And there is oftentimes a point where exhaustion wins and it takes precedence over it.
Sometimes there are seasons when other things are going to take priority, and that's okay. Yet even in those scenarios, like immediately postpartum, intimacy can still happen.
Nathan did an incredible job of reaching out and connecting with me physically every day in a way that really helped me right after childbirth by giving me massages. We had our physical touch and we still had that physical connection with one another in a way that I was really able to receive at that time because I was full-on motherhood with nursing babies and my body recovering.
Seasons are a beautiful opportunity to explore other avenues and other areas of intimacy because they demand it.
Seasons allow us to grow and flex, and learn new ways to connect. And some seasons allow for more grace of rest and recovery, while others afford you the opportunity to step it up a bit and woo each other.
When You're Not In The Mood...
I have to be honest, as a woman with a different sex drive than my husband, there are times when I am not in the mood and he definitely is.
I am not advocating for muscling through intimacy. This is a very vulnerable aspect and there is a lot of baggage we can bring that impacts our comfort levels when it comes to intimacy.
But I do have sex even when I'm not in the mood. This is not just about succumbing to Nathan or forcing myself to give in.
I recognize when I prioritize the importance of intimacy in our relationship and the importance of having that sexual intimacy in our relationship, we flow in a more unified way.
There were times when I may not have been in the mood to start, so we learned what it took to really get me in the mood. Regardless of whether or not I was 100% for it, I went ahead and did it for the sake of our relationship, just like I choose kindness and compassion even when sometimes I just want to be mean and angry.
I want to continue to build that and foster a solid physical intimacy between us. And again, I'm saying this with caution because there can be a lot that can be carried in with sexual baggage and trauma and pains.
Going back to our whole focus last month of looking inward, really pay attention to what you're bringing into the bedroom. And is that really something that has a place in your bedroom?
Physical intimacy can open the door to even deeper emotional intimacy
When you make time for physical intimacy on a daily basis, it can pay dividends in your emotional and relationship health way beyond just this one relationship.
First off, in your relationship, just like push-ups or running may not be your desire every day, there comes a time when you realize just what an impact it's made in your overall life. One day, those daily habits of touching and interacting with each other become such a priority that it creates that lighter, healthier feeling in your connection, due to the compounding effect of having an open and warm heart towards each other.
I remember getting to the point that we had created such a practice in our lives of that physical connection I would really notice if we were off. After a week or so of no connection and all of a sudden, we were testier and shorter-tempered with one another. It's amazing what the power of touch can do, and we know this scientifically.
As adults, sometimes we feel so touched-out by our kids that we don't want it from anywhere and we don't realize what we're missing. Yet after creating a practice of doing it for a while, all of a sudden, you have a whole other feeling of fulfillment and a whole other feeling of connection.
And, it's so much more. My opening the door to physical intimate touch with Nathan also allowed me to better know my own body and experience the feelings of my body. It brings a closer connection to yourself as well.
The 60 Second Connect
When I work with families where intimacy is a struggle point, sometimes it's not the lack of it, but too much of it. Oftentimes it's a mom who's very touched out and the last thing she wants is to have one more person demanding affection.
Instead of waiting for someone to ask you, how about you flip that switch and initiate it yourself? This is a challenge I give to families - to start their day with a 60-second hug. This simply means you hug/hold your loved one for over a solid minute. No talking, no extra follow-up, simply a hug. It's amazing what that amount of time can do for filling up your "touch bucket" for the day...and can oftentimes give your loved ones affirmation of your affection so they don't feel the need to ask for it so often.
The stories of how this one little step has shifted families continue to amaze me. How, all of a sudden, this super needy kid that was always on their mom now is running off and running around because she got that boost first thing in the morning. Or the couple who, after 30 seconds, broke down because that feeling was such a powerful feeling when they hadn't had a connection in so long.
Being able to move into that feeling, expectation, and anticipation of being held for 60 seconds is beautiful, and sometimes can break that boundary of distrust between partners where any touch means you have to have sex. No, it doesn't necessarily.
Sex is a beautiful part that is a valuable part of a relationship. And, that's one form of intimacy. What we're talking about is opening the door of physical intimacy as well as sexual intimacy. So recognize the power of simply holding each other for 60 seconds.
When In Conflict...Connect
Sometimes it's best when in conflict, to stop talking. This is a loaded statement, I know. And...there are times when the talking needs to stop until a physical connection can take place.
When you are in a fight and you simply reach out and hold a hand, you can experience an instant diffuser.
Physical touch, when done with pure openness and love, can bridge a connection even if you are at an impasse in the relationship. Sometimes, words are too much. Sometimes, you simply need to touch.
Sometimes, instead of digesting and analyzing every emotion, you've got to stop the mind from everything that's happened in the past...and you simply need to touch. Don't talk. Touch.
You can't build up hatred and frustration and make love to that person every night. You can't build up a brick wall and not break that down when you are literally, physically naked in front of them. You can't, day after day, act indifferent when you physically are at your most vulnerable every night.
Do The Groundwork
Let me say one more thing about this - we all carry our own baggage into a relationship. Sex is a sensitive topic and one that can carry a ton of weight. Add in any sexual trauma from the past, a physical trauma (aka childbirth for many mamas), and emotional trauma...and the last thing we want to do is offer up our bodies, especially if we feel emotionally distant.
Sometimes, you get stuck in the ole' chicken or the egg: he wants sex because he feels distant, and she wants emotional connection because she feels distant. Who gives?
There is no easy answer here. Each couple has to take their own path. Each couple has to give. And the crazy thing is, when both of you are looking for what positive thing you can give to the relationship, it doesn't become about who wins or who takes - the focus becomes on the changes we are in control of; how we can best reach out and love the other. When you choose to honor and love your partner in the way they need it, and you are both choosing to do that, it becomes about the deeper connection and you both become fulfilled.
You have to be intentional. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to ask yourself what is more important. And be willing to do your own groundwork of inner healing so you don't bring that into the bedroom and beyond.
There are always excuses, always circumstances that come up, always, always, something that is not perfect. If you only wait for the perfect tropical sunset, all children to be sweetly sleeping in their beds, and the house in immaculate condition, your sexy night may never happen.
What do you need to make this a regular practice? What best gets you in the mood - a romantic movie, a massage, a bath? What can you prioritize in your daily, weekly routine so you make time for some intimacy in your relationship?
We don't allow it to be routine. It has become a habit. Our nightly ritual; our sleeping pill. We look at things like yoga, meditation, and exercise to keep us physically and emotionally fit - sex keeps our marriage fit. I say that...sex alone doesn't do it - it's sex combined with open communication, honesty, respect, humility, and teamwork.
How do you like to be touched? What makes you feel loved when it comes to your physical intimacy? Have some conversations around that. You may learn something new.
You may realize your partner really loves something that you hadn't really thought of. Have a conversation with your partner and see if you are you on the same page when it comes to your physical and sexual intimacy.
And of course, that means, first and foremost, you have to be willing to have that conversation.
If you're not willing to have that conversation, why? What's holding you back? What are you okay with tolerating?
Do you want to continue, or are you looking for the opportunity or the possibility of something more and something deeper?
We invite you to have those conversations with your partner and even go beyond that to look at how this aspect of connection with your own body vulnerability with someone else, opens you up more as a person. What I mean is, I feel that my ability to physically connect with Nathan impacts how I show up in other aspects of life, like my comfort in my own skin in a swimsuit, or ease in hugging/touching our daughters.
Pay attention to who initiates what. If you're finding yourself in a rut with only one person initiating intimacy, try his/hers/ours nights - some variation where one of you takes responsibility for having the full focus on the other's desires/needs, and take turns so both of you carry the load one night while the other just received.
Scheduling it in may be necessary. What gets prioritized on the schedule is more likely to happen. And, it gives both parties time to prepare themselves mentally/emotionally to show up for it fully.
Think about how you are motivated. Are you motivated by making something fun? What kind of fun games can you add in? And no, mind games are NOT a part of this. Is it that you like a challenge? Is it that you really want to feel supported?
Pay attention to what feels good to you, and how to cultivate more of it, and ask the same of your partner. Collaborate together to create an intimacy that serves you both well.
I challenge each and every one of you to make these tips a priority in your own relationship. Add your own tips in the comments, or share with me what's holding you back. Live, learn, and above all, love.