Sharon and I have been married for over 26 years now and been together for almost 30. The secret to a long-term relationship is a topic we get quizzed on often and it’s one we struggle to answer. We have seen others in our community of friends and family, fail in their quest for a long term relationship, seemingly happy couples shocking everyone with their decision to split. There seems to be no rhyme or reason, although we would be confident there is.

I am constantly fascinated by older couples that still walk hand-in-hand. Eating ice-creams along the beachside boulevard, oblivious to the world around them, caught up with each other. Taking the time for and with each other, gentle stroking of the arms, it’s clear to all observers that their relationship still holds a special place within themselves.

And in today’s rushed world of hustle and grind, many don’t take the time to relax with the one they love and share the intimacy it brings. Everywhere we turn, we are challenged in our quest for bringing real intimacy into our relationships. We are bombarded by social media, apps like Tinder appealing to our selfish emotional needs. Bombarded by online dating sites, and even social media feeds that distract people from each other. The challenges in building an intimate relationship are all around us, the movies we watch, the media we turn to, the distractions we face.

To maintain intimacy in a lifelong relationship is the domain of a few. For many reasons and for large parts of the population, intimacy is replaced by boredom and routine. Removing intimacy from relationships usually causes pain through bitterness and feelings of rejections. The starting place for bitterness is boredom.

The older couples I witness highlight that intimacy can be real in life-long relationships. The physical contact of holding hands, the gentle stroking of the arm and the amiable conversation were just the things that the world sees. It’s what lies underneath it, that builds it.

The thrills of first love brings passion but it’s here that intimacy is built from our behaviours. Intimacy is more than sex, even though physical touch is important. Intimacy is fueled by our actions and not from expectations. Love is blind but to build intimacy, it can’t stay blind.

We must remain open to each other. Passion is awesome and amazing and for everyone that has been there, knows this. As we know, passion fades, the energy it consumes dictates that passion doesn’t last. Passion is short term, intimacy is long term.

Intimacy is emotional yet physical. For many the focus may be on the physical but it’s more than just sex. It’s long nights talking in front of a fire drinking hot chocolate; it’s long walks along the beach holding hands. True intimacy holds you close during the ebbs and flows of our lives and relationships.

Relationships hurt when confusion reigns. Confusion breeds disillusion and dissatisfaction. Disillusion creates a blame mentality and when blame exists in a relationship, the relationship doesn’t.

It’s Not About You
The real key to any long-term relationship is understanding. The understanding that it’s not about you. Selfish people in relationships will struggle to build the needed foundation in relationships. Understanding this is critical. Your needs and desires, while important, should never be your dominant thought. By focusing on yourself you cannot focus on what is truly important, your partner and the relationship itself. When we focus on ourselves we create expectations, when we focus on our partner, we create experience. Appreciate our partners for everything they bring to your life, show and share that appreciation and experience is created that builds the foundation for a life-long connection.

Connection in a Relationship
Connected couples, exhibit the desirable trait of empathy enabling intimacy to be built. They develop a deep connection empowering them to journey through a life of ups and downs; celebrating routine as well as spontaneity; and sharing the laughs and the losses winding our way through the magic of a life together.

The Power of Empathy
There is a real power of empathy that exists in relationships. It enables a deep understanding and an even deeper compassion. It allows us to truly appreciate and dish out kindness with our loved one. It reduces confusion.. We read the signals. We know when to provide a hug or when to give space. Having empathy is not just about our partners. Understanding our own need for self-love is also important.

Knowing when to deliver self-kindness, taking time out for ourselves and recharging is vital. Acknowledging our triggers and taking the appropriate steps is important for your own well-being and being healthy emotionally and physically is a component in providing the intimate environment needed in a life-long love story.

Intimacy means to me some very simple things. It’s the kiss that lingers, the fleeting touch that connects, the smile that stays after the laugh. It may be the domain of a few, but it’s a domain that is available to all, it just takes some work.

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