Intimacy Practices are brief exercises performed with your partner, for the purpose of exploring, deepening, and enjoying your intimate connection. Intimacy here is not a euphemism for sex, but refers to a profound connection between two open hearts and two spirits. This connection takes place more in the heart and in the body than in the mind.
These body-based exercises are often performed without speaking. They offer a corrective to our overly cognitive and verbal approach which wants to direct and explain and control. Intimacy Practices are focused on listening. Listening to your body and your breath. Listening to your heart. Listening to your partner. There’s plenty of time for talking later.
Intimacy Practices Are Intentional, Conscious Choices
Intimacy Practices are like other kinds of practice: football practice, band practice, play practice, even spiritual practice. Going to the gym. Practicing the guitar. These are all intentional exercises you perform in order to get better at something. It doesn’t matter if you are wildly enthusiastic about doing your Intimacy Practice for the day. What matters is showing up, doing the Practice. You receive the benefit of the Practice by doing it.
Each Intimacy Practice is focused on exploring a particular facet of Intimacy. Their nonverbal nature is meant to block customary verbal approaches to reducing intensity by distraction and distancing from physical and emotional experience.
There is no expectation of what you might experience, or what you might feel during an Intimacy Practice. You may notice that you have different experiences on different days, with the same Practice.
Be Mindful with Your Intimacy Practice
If you feel anxiety as you begin an Intimacy Practice, take a slow deep breath and center your focus on your body. Gently release the breath, noticing the sensations of the air flowing out of your body. When you are ready take another breath, slowly drawing the air deeply into your lungs all the way down to your diaphragm. Notice the sensations in your body as you continue to breathe.
If the intensity of a particular Practice is unmanageable, don’t force it. Tell your partner you need a minute. Step away from the Practice and calm yourself in whatever way you need. When you are calmer, let your partner know what you experienced. As you talk together you may consider whether you want to attempt the Practice again that day, or wait until another day.
Reduce Drama by Planning Your Intimacy Practice
Intentionality is at the heart of the Intimacy Practices approach. The exercises are arbitrary, artificial activities that you consciously decide to undertake to further your goals of deepening intimacy with your partner. It is helpful to adopt a rather businesslike approach, agreeing upon a schedule for daily practice together that is pragmatic and workable. It helps not to be too tired, and it is good to do it at a time that will minimize the likelihood of interruption. It doesn’t matter when you do them, nor does it have to be the same time every day.
Knowing by agreement when you will do your Intimacy Practice can cut down on drama. If it’s up in the air about when it will happen, each partner may spend time and energy wondering when or if it is going to happen, and perhaps feeling some resentment that one has to take the lead to organize it. If it’s planned you don’t have to think about it, just show up.
Five to ten minutes per day doesn’t seem like much to invest in improving the quality of your relationship, does it? Yet it can be challenging to be steady and consistent. Obviously, if there is an emergency or unusual circumstances it may be necessary to miss your Practice. The sun will still come up the next day.