Create a new way of 'playing' with your partner that refreshes the intimacy and keeps it growing.
Four years into their relationship Kate and Eli wondered where the fun and excitement had gone. What happened to the thrill they experienced of hugging each other after a day at work? How did they get so bogged down with family duties, housekeeping routines and bill paying concerns? Their interactions revolved around checking in with each other about getting things off the “to do” list. The day to day tasks of life consumed more and more of their time.
Kate tried to make romantic candlelit dinners, but there was always a reason why Eli couldn’t be there or if he was the conversation focused on duties and tasks rather than their connection with each other.
Eli felt alone and unfulfilled. He no longer seemed to have a partner who was interested in his feelings or experience. He had to keep it in, and escape into sports events on television.
Kate felt sad about their lack of connection. It was as if something precious that they once had had slipped away without anyone noticing. All that was left was a gaping hole. Eli seemed more interested in sports than in her. He no longer suggested weekend activities that they could do together. He stayed up later than her and they had no time for affection or physical intimacy borne from spontaneous or natural desire.
Kate became irritable and upset. She would snap at Eli and then regret it. Eli would feel hurt and withdraw. Any tenderness or affection he may have felt for Kate evaporated.
Kate wanted to hug Eli and recapture those warm, loving, comfortable perfect moments of intimacy that they seemed to have in abundance in their first year of marriage. She wanted to bring it back so badly that she was hurt and scared when her efforts to attract Ellis failed. That’s when her anger would surface.
If it was there once why can’t it be there again? The things I’m doing now worked before, so why aren’t they working now? Kate would mutter to herself, and then take out her frustration on Eli by snapping at him – it had to be his fault since he wasn’t responding.
Eli and Kate both felt a loss of connection. Each one silently blamed the other for changing. They were at an impasse, desperate to rekindle their intimacy fire and bask in its glow.
So how can Kate and Eli rescue themselves from this pit of loneliness and disconnection?
They have to have a new wish for intimacy in the here and now and hang onto it. But they also have to give up the wish to return to the early days and just relive the experience. The new wish is real and achievable. The old wish is a fantasy and isn’t available in the real world.
That wish to have emotional and physical intimacy at this moment, four years into their more mature relationship holds the secret to improving the quality of the connection with each other.
Tapping deep into that wish is a vision of play:
- Play is a carefree and joyful way of connecting
- Play removes the cloaks of duty and task completion that covers up their natural and authentic love for one another.
- Play equalizes the couple so they come together with no baggage or expectations of each other.
- Play frees their minds from judgment and preconceived ideas about how it should go down.
- Play is creative and spontaneous, helping them get to know each other in fresh ways.
But what kind of play?
Play that connects rather than separates.
When I first suggested playing to Eli and Kate they were embarrassed and dismissed the idea. They thought it was silly and childish. They thought it was a crazy idea.
Here is the advice I gave to Kate and Eli. Play WITH your partner instead of alongside your partner.
• playing ball in a pool
• playing in the bath or shower together
• playing in the sand on the beach
• making a joint collage or scrap book
• Inventing recipes together
• planting seeds and nurturing plants/vegetables/fruits together
It does not mean golf, or board games that are competitive or intellectual. Those formal games set up all sorts of expectations fed by past experiences. They create distance. Playing with your partner brings out a desire to engage from a place of spontaneity, enjoying the moment of togetherness for its own sake. Intimacy has a space to grow safely and remain available after play time ends.
Kate and Eli agreed to do one playful thing that they had both enjoyed in the past –cycling on a tandem bike. The physical closeness outside of their normal environment made them actually ‘feel’ each other again. They bumped and jostled together. They felt out of breath together. They drank juice and dribbled together. There was no embarrassment or self-consciousness. There was in the moment mutual experience that created an intimacy that lasted. They sat on the couch and laughed about their bike riding experience together. They caressed each other’s bruises and massaged each other’s sore muscles. Physical and emotional intimacy was revived and they felt wanted, special and important to one another.
Here are the benefits for you and your partner of getting into ‘play mode’
• You are in the moment and present with each other
• Old wounds don’t have room to infiltrate the moment and cause friction
• Witnessing your partner laugh and let their hair down brings the emotional climate to a warm and affectionate temperature
• Defenses are down and you see one another as you really are
• Trust builds
• Intimacy thrives
• You choose to stay close because it feels good
Copyright Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2011