For better or for worse, what you do with your partner before bed can have a profound impact on your relationship — especially when it comes to your levels of intimacy. As psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez says, "It might be the only time all day where you are allowed to be alone, just the two of you. This is a quiet time to connect and be close with each other."
So take a moment and evaluate your mutual nighttime routine. Do you go to bed at wildly different times? Or spend a few moments cuddling before falling asleep? The former can prevent you from winding down with your SO in a meaningful way, while the latter can help build those intimate bonds.
Remember, though, that I'm not necessarily talking about sex. "Sex is great, don't get me wrong. But touch and affection that is just for the sake of touch and affection can strengthen the emotional bond a couple feels," relationship therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells Bustle. Same goes for lying in bed and talking, sharing a few thoughts and concerns, and ending the day knowing you're both on the same team.
"The foundation of a healthy, happy relationship rests on the principle that 'I can count on you and you can count on me,'" Derichs adds. "Connecting with you partner before bed gives you an opportunity, every night, to let your SO know, in meaningful ways, the 'how's and whys' you are there for them." Read on for some great ways to do just that.
1. Getting Ready For Bed Together
Sure, you can brush your teeth next to each other and have toothpaste-y chat. But why not take your nightly grooming routine to the next — possibly sexier — level by showering together? "Even if you're a morning person and like to shower to get your day going, it's nice to set just one night a week where you and your partner shower together," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "Washing each other builds intimacy and makes you feel pampered."
2. Taking The Time To Catch Up
It's important to grab a few minutes of "pillow talk" before bed to check in with each other and reconnect — as long as it's sweet and supportive. "Don't start a fight or make big decisions right before bed," says Derichs. "Instead, take turns talking, show genuine interest, communicate understanding, and try express a 'we against others' attitude. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together. That you are a team."
3. Turning Off Your Technology
Even though it doesn't seem like a big deal to text while in bed, this habit can really drive a wedge between you and your partner. "Sending the message that you are not available gets in the way of intimacy," says Derichs. "For instance, keeping the TV on and playing games on your device at bedtime ... sends the message that you have to get through the program on TV and the end of the game in order to have your SO's full attention. Partners tend to give up and go to bed feeling disconnected." And that's not OK.
4. Actually Saying "Goodnight"
If you share an apartment, or see each other every night, the novelty of saying good night can quickly wear off. But the ritual of kissing, hugging, or sharing an "I love you" before bed is not one you should give up on. "These words or actions help you feel connected, feel loved, and help you end your day on a positive note," Hershenson says.
5. Going To Bed At Different Times
While it's not always possible to climb into bed at the exact same time, you should do so whenever possible. "When your wake and sleep patterns are different from your partner, it is difficult to find time together and connecting is more difficult," Hershenson says. "Time together at night allows for serious conversations, shared activities, and more time for sex." Even if you just snuggle your SO for a few minutes, before getting up and going back to what you were doing, it'll be worth it.
6. Creating Physical Space Between You
Even though you might be doing so unconsciously, "blocking" your partner, or shutting them out physically in bed, can create emotional distance in your relationship. "Ninety seven percent of communication is unspoken, so ... turning the other way to lay [or] putting a pillow in between the two of you, all create a message of distance and space," says Martinez. You don't have to cuddle the whole night, but paying attention to your body language in those moments before sleep can make a big difference.
7. Sleeping In Different Beds (Or Separate Rooms)
When it comes to sleeping arrangements, you gotta do what you gotta do to stay rested. So don't feel bad if you set up an arrangement where you sleep in one room and your partner sleeps in another. Do, however, keep in mind that this habit can create distance if it's being done unintentionally. "People sleeping in separate rooms, or sleeping very different hours, can create distance," Martinez says. "Lying near each other in an open manner is a low level sign of intimacy and connection that people take for granted."
8. Cuddling Before You Go To Sleep
Again, you don't have to be on top of each other all evening. But taking some time to get close is key to building more intimacy. And remember, it doesn't have to lead to sex, if that's not something you feel like doing. "Couples can try a 30 second hug or a 15 second kiss that doesn't to lead to sex," Derichs says. You'll both feel closer and more relaxed. And then you can pass out.
9. Making Peace (Or Putting An Argument On Hold)
When it comes to creating intimacy — and getting a good night's sleep — you definitely don't want to go to bed angry. "While resolving ... conflict may seem implausible in the hour before bedtime, studies have shown that going to bed angry affects sleep patterns, the prevalence of bad dreams, and the overall mood one can experience upon waking," San Diego-based counselor Jeff Larsen MA, LMFT, BCPC tells Bustle. So do what you can do to calm down and make peace. Or at least agree to reconvene in the morning.
10. Having (Or Not Having) Sex
As far as sex goes, feel free to have as much of it as you want right before sleep. But don't feel bad if it's not a great time for you or your partner. "If you’re going to reject your partner, do so with kindness," relationship expert Samantha Burns, MA, LMHC tells Bustle. And then offer an alternative. "How about in the morning or when you first walk in the door in the evening?" It's not so much about having (or not having) sex before bed, but about doing what's best for your relationship.
11. Getting Enough Sleep
As far as actual sleep goes, it's important to be getting plenty of it. "Sleep deprivation can place a heavy toll on a relationship, so it's important that couples get adequate sleep," says Hilary Thompson, a health and wellness consultant for SleepTrain. If you two have been arguing lately or feeling disconnected, creating a a bonding nighttime routine — and going to bed on time — can help.
Because, if you think about it, nothing's better than knowing that, after a long and stressful day, you'll soon be snuggled in bed with your partner. If you two can stick with this, and spend time connecting every night, your relationship will definitely be healthier.
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