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4 Things You Need To Know To Help You Foster Connection And Appreciation In Your Relationship

Repeat after me: no matter who it is with, every relationship requires work. Despite all the internet memes telling you to get rid of your boo after any mistake, what we need to remember is that when you bring two human beings together - no matter the shared values and chemistry- there will always be work to be done. Now, this doesn’t mean that your relationship has to be difficult, it’s simply a realistic understanding that we are all beautifully unique and choosing to be in relation with another, requires sacrifice and compassion.


With that said, it’s common knowledge that after the heat and intensity of the honeymoon period come the challenges of not only unifying your lives, but choosing to stay together thereafter. This fine dance of communication and understanding help build the foundation of your relationship. So, what do you need to know about your partner’s unique perspective on love and intimacy, and how can that information help you build a better relationship?




1. Authenticity, Vulnerability, and How They Relate to Intimacy

Affectionate couple in the kitchen

What does it mean to be authentic and vulnerable, and how does that affect your ability to be intimate with your partner?


Being seen for who you really are- authenticity- is a vulnerable feeling. That is where we often see that intimacy = into me I see. The idea of being seen for you and to see your partner for who they really are is fundamental in building a healthy relationship. A relationship based on the truth of who you each are, want, and desire. Finding acceptance and appreciation for who your partner is- not who you want them to be- and vice versa, is crucial for creating a relationship that can stand the test of time…. And challenges.


“Authenticity is a fundamental building block of healthy and fulfilling relationships.”


Why is Authenticity Important?


Authenticity means remaining true to one’s self regardless of the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others. It is the willingness and ability to see and be seen by our partners for who we truly are. If couples are not able to be authentic, real, and vulnerable with each other, the relationship ultimately will not last. We cannot consistently hide, conceal, or suppress parts of ourselves- our personality, thoughts, feelings, experiences and stories- and expect to be happy and satisfied within a relationship. If you’re willing to be honest about who you really are, and open-minded about who your partner is, your relationship will grow stronger.


What does it mean to be vulnerable in your relationship?


Authenticity and vulnerability often go hand in hand. We are more able to be authentic when we practice vulnerability with ourselves. This can then be extended to others as you are secure in knowing who you are, your strengths, and your weaknesses.


Vulnerability requires courage to sometimes relinquish our need for power and control, while also coming to terms with the fact that we don’t always have it all together and we all need help at times. Embracing vulnerability in your relationship opens the space to fully express your wants and needs to your partner. In healthy relationships, it’s being able to share your true thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism or contempt. Staying in love takes a level of vulnerability that isn’t always comfortable. This is why creating a safe space within your relationship for honest and open communication is of high value and importance. Even for the sake of sexual intimacy, vulnerability is linked to letting go and surrendering, which is essential for climax/orgasm. The more you can cultivate feelings of safety when you are vulnerable with your partner, the easier it becomes to feel secure in your relationship.


2. The Importance Of Feeling Safe and Secure



Feeling safe in your relationship creates the necessary environment for you and your partner to show up as yourselves. In Emily Nagoski’s reflection of Sue Johnson’s attachment work in “Come As You Are” training, she mentioned that in order to feel safe and secure within relationships, couples need to feel and believe that their partners ARE in fact there for them:


“ARE you there for me?”

  • A: Accessible (and paying Attention)

  • R: Responsive (and Receptive)

  • E: Engaged (and Empathetic)


What can ultimately be helpful is to learn and know about your partner’s attachment style as well as your own. When we develop the self-awareness of our own attachment style, we can begin to understand what our triggers are within the relationship. This not only helps us better understand ourselves, but how we relate to our partner. The same idea spans to your partner: the more you understand their attachment style, the easier it becomes to pick up their triggers and understand their behaviors.


Covering The Attachment Styles & Their Impact In The Bedroom


There are four main attachment styles: anxious, dismissive avoidant, anxious avoidant, and secure. So… what does that even mean?


Attachment Theory was developed by British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby in 1958. It is a categorization for how we relate to others and is formulated in our human need for a secure home-base in early childhood. Simply put, as children we need to know that we are safe, seen, and loved. Our attachment style is developed by the consistency and responsiveness from our caregivers in early childhood. If we come from a household that was consistently responsive about our mental, emotional, and physical needs, we may have developed a secure attachment style as an adult. If we were raised in states of inconsistency or unresponsiveness, however, it is more likely that you developed one of the insecure attachment styles (anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant).


Anxious Attachment

People with anxious attachment are usually more directed towards the other. They tend to be people who are more willing to sacrifice their own needs, and need constant reassurance. The more anxious a person is in a relationship, the more likely they are to be fearful of rejection, have fears of abandonment, and carry a more fragile sense of self-worth.In the bedroom, this type of person may use sex to meet their emotional needs and tends to sacrifice their own needs and desires to please their partner.



Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Someone who is dismissive-avoidant in their attachment style may appear withdrawn and highly independent. They may feel as though they do not need close, intimate relationships, preferring not to be dependent upon others, nor have others depend upon them. People who are dismissive avoidant tend to be more emotionally distant and are less likely to connect on an intimate level. They can experience discomfort with closeness, feeling that it is imposed upon them. In the bedroom, these individuals can see sex as more of a transactional experience and less of an emotionally intimate connection.


Anxious Avoidant Attachment

Someone who is anxious-avoidant may be very hot and cold. These individuals have a combination of both anxious and avoidant attachment styles leading them to be very inconsistent in their behavior around love, intimacy, and relationships. Relationships can cause high anxiety, driven by a fear of rejection and abandonment and simultaneous feelings of distrust can lead them to expect betrayal while also craving love. In the bedroom, these individuals can have poor boundaries and compromise their own needs for the sake of not being abandoned by a partner while possibly forcing emotional detachment in fear that it could happen.


Secure Attachment

We all aim to feel securely attached with our partner. People with this attachment style are more likely to have a strong sense of self and are less likely to struggle with lack of self-worth. This leads partners feeling safe to express their vulnerability and show up as their authentic self without fear of rejection. Someone with this attachment style tends to be more confident in the bedroom with an ability to respond to a partner’s sexual preferences without compromising on their own needs and desires.



3. The 6 Types of Intimacy



Why is knowing the different types of intimacy so important to fostering connection and appreciation for your partner? Well, there are many ways to express love and connection within your relationship. Knowing what ways you’re already connecting intimately with your partner can give you a better understanding of what areas you can work on. Which type of intimate connection are you currently practicing and how often?


Emotional Intimacy


When people refer to safety and security within relationships, they are often referring to feeling emotionally safe and secure. Emotional intimacy is the ability to mutually express and share thoughts and feelings in a deep, meaningful way, feeling seen, heard, validated, and understood.


This is vital for both partners, while especially important for women - being able to share thoughts/feelings without the fear of judgement, criticism, or being put down.


Both partners need to know that whatever they share will not be thrown in their face or used against them later. This is how open and honest communication can be established.


Spiritual Intimacy


Spirituality does not mean religion. Your spirituality can include practices like prayer and meditation. Your relationship with the spiritual does not necessarily rely on organized religion, but it can be, as well.


This type of intimacy can also include having a shared faith in something greater than yourself, or relate to shared values and morals.


Joint spiritual connection creates a strong and powerful emotional and physical closeness with one another and removes the mask you share with the rest of the world.



Intellectual Intimacy


This type of intimacy bids the ability to have meaningful conversations around mutual interests. If your interests are not mutual, intellectual intimacy can still be achieved if both partners are open and willing to listen and learn about what each of you considers important.


To develop a meaningful intimate relationship, we must be willing to embrace and honor each other’s differences instead of using them as points of tension. It is also important to consider that some areas of intimacy may not be as strong as others, and that’s okay, as long as both partners are willing to strengthen the areas of intimacy that are most important to each of you.


Recreational Intimacy


Recreational intimacy entails the ability to spend quality time together, where both partners are able to enjoy and indulge in the time that is being spent.


This can include date nights and planned activities such as concerts or sporting events, it can also include partaking in physical activities together, such as working out or recreational sports.


It can also foster the feelings that lead to more physical and sexual intimacy later. Engaging in new and different experiences together fosters the feelings of adventure and excitement that our sexual self feeds off of.


Physical Intimacy


Physical intimacy is a tangible expression of love and appreciation within relationships through affection, affectionate touch and potentially sensual touch.


It's important to keep in mind that this may not include sexual or erotic touch.


Remember: One of the major goals of sex therapy is to help couples expand on their intimate/sexual experience.


Sex is more than intercourse and intimacy is more than sex! Couples often struggle with being able to separate or expand between the physical and sexual, thinking them to be one in the same - they are not!


Physical intimacy carries two of the five gears of touch created by Barry W. McCarthy - a certified sex and couples therapist.


First gear: Affectionate Touch — this