Coronavirus Blog – Week 1

Intimacy. I know many of you might be thinking- intimacy? Who possibly has time for intimacy with everything that’s going on right now? I am so stressed, I have no desire to be intimate with my partner. While, it may seem counterintuitive, I assure you that now more than ever, intimacy needs to be prioritized. To clarify, I am not talking specifically about sex. Intimacy here, is referring to a much broader definition in which connectedness is achieved. That can be through a variety of means. If you are still having sex, that’s great, and I will share more on why I feel that way. Let’s start first however, with why intimacy, from a broader lens, is so crucial at this time. Couples and partnerships in general should serve to satisfy specific safety and security needs that we all possess as human beings. As a basic rule of thumb, the health or your relationship, and the increased likelihood of longevity within your coupledom, is directly influenced by your ability to mutually serve as one another’s go-to person. What does that mean? To make this less “psychological” sounding, it simply proposes that while there are others who are involved in our lives, our partner must be the one who is providing that unconditional and unlimited support. You both have a responsibility to each other to show up, no matter how late, how tired, how stressed. If one of you needs to talk, the other is always available to listen. I understand that many of you might feel like this is not the case at the current moment. Fixing that, or creating that dynamic, certainly takes time and work- specifically through acknowledgement and commitment to achieving that structure. It will also require honest communication surrounding how to manage our interactions with others outside of the relationship, so that they are navigated with that principle in mind. For now though, let’s understand this as an important construct, and work to at least heighten the current level of intimacy. Partners need to unite, at this point in time, as a unified force. Therefore, neither of you should feel as though you are facing these stressors on your own.
Let’s take this a step further and understand how this relates to anxiety.

The ability to increase your sense of safety and security through your relationship is something you very much have influence and control over. Right now, while everything else may appear grey, chaotic, and out of control, our anxiety skyrockets. By focusing on that which we can impact, it not only reduces your anxiety by feeling that you have some control, but also adds a very essential layer of safety and security that is vital at this time. Finally, when the level of intimacy is at a higher level, your ability to have empathy for you partner and perhaps even more importantly, tolerance for your partner, also increases. Thus, while inevitable disagreements may arise, especially in the face of extreme stress, the likelihood of the disagreement escalating into a larger argument is decreased.
With that being said, let’s touch upon ways to increase your level of intimacy.

First and foremost, is eye contact. This might seem too simple, but I assure you that eye contact is one of the best ways to connect/re-connect with your partner. If you are skeptical, I would advise that you actually try it. I find that it is most effective when you can incorporate this into a routine. For example, take each others’ hands and hold them while sustaining eye contact for as long as it feels comfortable. This might be less than a minute, it might be much more. I think the goal should be to increase it as much as you can each time. Completing this exercise when you start or end your day, or both, helps to ensure it actually takes place. If you can integrate this spontaneously at other moments throughout the day, in addition to your routine, even better!
Second, I want to emphasize opportunities for connection. I know most of us are inundated with new responsibilities. Whether that be home schooling our kids, working from home, cleaning, cooking, etc. We are also finding ourselves glued to the news and social media, reading and soaking up every bit of coronavirus information that’s out there. I get it, and me too. However, let’s not allow for that to totally hijack our lifestyle to the point where our normal means of connection are ignored or under prioritized. We need to cuddle, we need to hug, we need to watch our favorite show together and talk about it. We need to share our thoughts with our partners. We need to laugh together. We need to sustain and maintain those means of connection as that keeps our intimacy intact or increases it. Please remember that this is the life force of our relationships and letting it take a backseat to our stress will inevitably lead to dysfunction and arguments with our partners.

Finally, sex. This might not be an option, and that’s ok. I’m not saying this is a requirement. I simply want to remind us all that sex is incredibly effective at achieving that connectedness in a fairly short amount of time. Additionally, there is quite a bit of research surrounding the activity of neurochemicals that sex initiates, and feeling happier or experiencing reduced anxiety. In fact, some research has shown that this same neurochemical activity may strengthen our immune system. Therefore, while stress might make the idea of having sex right now seem ridiculous, having sex might actually make you feel much better.

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