The key to intentionally creating an intimate relationship is having a variety of conversations, almost like adding different spices to the meals you cook.
How couples talk to each other and what they discuss determines the way partners stay emotionally connected within their relationship.
For example, dual-income couples with kids, as observed by researchers, focussed mainly on talking about household chores, daycare, and groceries.
I don’t know about you, but talking about picking up celery at the grocery store doesn’t make me feel loved.
The key to intentionally creating an intimate relationship is having a variety of conversations, almost like adding different spices to the meals you cook. Each spice offers a new flavor of deliciousness.
Some spices are rather dull but necessary to build baseline substance; some are bitter and are an acquired taste, and others create an indulgent sensation of pleasure.
Type 1: Routine conversations
Routine conversations include discussions about chores, who’s taking the kids to what and when, what’s for dinner, and scheduling events, including date night.
These conversations are essential to accomplish practical things and to prevent items from falling through the cracks.
However, most often these conversations do not create a felt sense of emotional connection and intimacy.
When couples end up unintentionally devoting the majority of their time and energy to routine conversations, their emotional intimacy will begin to fade, since they end up having nothing left over to energise their relationship.
It’s important to remember to be mindful of your tone of voice and to be conversational, rather than demanding or critical when having these types of conversations. Sometimes the routine conversation about plans can quickly lead to an escalated conflict based on how partners say things.
Type 2: Friendship-strengthening conversations
Couples often fall in love by getting to know each other. And then they often fall out of love because they forget to continue to get to know each other over the years. They stop asking questions and stop learning about each other and themselves.
Being known by and knowing your partner is what builds a strong friendship in your relationship. In secure, happy, and long-lasting relationships, partners are each other’s best friends.1
They share funny stories about the kids or work and listen to each other. Each one knows their partner’s frustrations, as well as their joys, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams.
Friendship talk is the number one way to make sure that you and your partner remain connected and in-tune with one another. The goal of friendship conversations is to have uninterrupted time to just be together and continue to learn about each other.
If you don’t prioritise having friendship talk, and you eventually stop having them completely, both partners will forget why they fell in love with one another (or even why they like each other) in the first place.
Type 3: Supportive conversations: “I have your back”
When your partner is hurting what do you do? How do you offer support that your partner needs?
“When you’re hurting, the world stops, and I listen.” – Dr. John Gottman
Essentially, relationship security is having faith that your partner will be there for you when you need them. This is the essence of a secure attachment bond.
Making time to give and ask for support is a key way in which you can show your partner that you care for them, understand what they’re going through, and have their back. How we provide that support and what we say is crucial. As much as it might be second nature to offer advice to your partner during their trials, support talk involves listening, validating, and just being there for your partner.
Not only does this help them feel secure in the relationship, but also helps put negative assumptions (“she doesn’t care about me”) at ease, so that feelings of not feeling cared for during small events aren’t triggered during more serious events.
It’s important that partners not only offer support but also talk openly about the types of support they need and how they offer support.
Like love languages, some forms of support are more meaningful to your partner, even ones that you may not find meaningful. Learning to offer support in the way that is most meaningful for your partner can drastically improve how supported your partner feels and vice versa.
Type 4: Conversations centered on affection & appreciation
To build a strong relationship, it’s vital to create a culture of love, respect, and care. You can do this in small ways that can create lasting changes over time.
Make an intentional effort to think relationship-enhancing thoughts and to verbalize or make loving gestures towards your partner.
Saying things even as simple as, “I appreciate that you took the rubbish out today. I love how I can count on you to help out around the house.” or “I love how you listen to what’s going on in my life. It makes me feel important and I appreciate that I can share that with you.”
Can you imagine what your relationship would be like if you and your partner regularly made statements and gestures like this to each other?
Type 5: Relationship-enhancement conversations (conflict)
As much as we may hate conflict talk, it is necessary to make sure challenges, disagreements, and conflicts are dealt with constructively.
All relationships have conflict, but how lovers talk to each other about challenges determines how well the couple manages the problems to create win-win solutions.
Type 6: Sensuality & sexuality conversations
As I shared in a previous article, Couples That Talk About Sex Have Better Sex. This includes not only sexual acts but also forms of foreplay and romance.
Trying to guess what turns your partner on by the sounds they make in the bedroom is kind of like pinning the tail on the donkey blindfolded. You’re guessing. This is why openly talking about it can be helpful. 6
Furthermore, research has estimated that 85% of sexual challenges can be resolved by giving partners permission to explore their sexuality and having accurate information about desire, arousal, and sex. 7
In long-term relationships, the tendency is to skip the sensual aspects of lovemaking and get to the mechanics of the peak act.
The lack of time and energy spent playfully and curiously exploring each other’s bodies and minds can lead to partners feeling like they are growing apart or that they are used as an object, rather than being relished as a sexual being.