Have you ever been in the presence of your partner, longingly looking at them and hoping they will notice your desire for touch and connection? Have you ever heard your friends complain about how their partner never plans anything romantic for them? Why does it feel so hard to ask for what we want and need from our spouse?
We all have desires within relationships, but it can be difficult to put those desires into words. We’ve been given messages from family and our culture that we should expect this fairy tale fantasy where we’re swept off our feet or that we should act like the dutiful spouse – giving it all and wanting nothing in return. These messages leave us confused about our own desires. They leave us wanting, angry, desperate for connection, and stuck in our loneliness. If you’re ready to cut through the script in your head and make a bold, vulnerable move toward connection in your relationship, here are some tips to help you get started.
Check-in with your feelings and your body
In those moments, when the desire for connection comes up, pay attention to what you’re feeling and what’s happening in your body. What feelings follow desire? Maybe you feel numb, block out the desire, and look for a way to retreat from yourself. Or you feel the anger rising and your body gets ready to launch into attack mode. You begin to catalogue all your past hurts in your mind and arm yourself for an argument. This self-observation provides clues about your default self-protection mode. This is how you armor up and wall off from your desires and attempts at connection.
Question the story
Now I want you to explore your self-protection mode. How do the messages from your family and culture impact your ability to reach for desire? What life experiences led you to develop your default self-protection mode? How do these messages and experiences prevent you from connecting with your partner? You have the opportunity to choose if these stories are no longer serving you. Be the author of your own life and decide how you want to show up in your relationship.
Reality check on your expectations
When you consider desire for connection, what is it that you really want or need? Whether it’s emotional or intimacy, read the room and consider what’s happening in your environment. Is the kitchen a mess? Did the baby keep your wife up all night? Use this information when respectfully asking for connection. It may need to be a slow build up of little moments of touch leading to a sexual encounter at a later time. Recognize your partner’s headspace but don’t be a mind reader and make assumptions that your spouse doesn’t want connection, won’t be available for you, or isn’t attracted to you.
Take the risk
Reach for your partner, let them know how you’re feeling, and ask for connection. It may sound something like, “Honey, I’m feeling a little silly and nervous to say this, but I really miss being intimate with you. I know you’re tired and we have a busy day ahead of us, but I wonder if we can work together to make time for each other tonight?” Or “Babe, I’m feeling lonely, and I would really love a hug and time spent snuggling on the couch and talking with you.” Whatever the desire is, be specific and make it a “we” effort in making it possible, so your partner doesn’t feel pressured or alone in finding the time in both your hectic schedules to make things happen.
We’re all worthy of love and connection in our romantic relationships. The next time you feel distant yet desirous, try these steps to discover your self-protective mode, change the narrative, and risk vulnerability. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it right the first time. It takes time to change these messages and patterns of behavior. If you’d like support reconnecting with your partner, reach out to a couples therapist. We’re here to help you reach for the love and connection you deserve.