If you ask me, the idea of "working on" a relationship has an unfairly negative connotation: you can be comfortable, happy, and secure in your relationship and
still desire to improve it. No matter how long you've been in a relationship with someone, you should always be making an active effort to build intimacy with your partner, because it shows that you're committed to growing your emotional and sexual connection. But even if you're totally ~in love~ and have an amazing connection already, maintaining a happy, healthy long-term relationship takes a lot of effort on the part of both partners.
"If you want [your relationship to last], you'll need to put in some effort,"
Chad Elliot, Confidence & Communication Coach and Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. "But that doesn't mean hard work. It's fun to play with your partner. It's exciting to explore new activities with them. And it's rewarding to develop ever deeper levels of intimacy together."
Whether you just started dating someone new who you want to form a connection with, or you just want to
rekindle the intimacy with your long-term partner, here are six games and exercises you can try with your partner that will build intimacy and make you feel closer than ever before.
Ask Each Other The "36 Questions To Fall In Love"
For new couples, asking each other the
36 questions to fall in love is the perfect way to get to know your new significant other. The questions — which first appeared in a New York Times "Modern Love" column titled "To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This" — are meant to help two people (even strangers) get to know each other and form a connection. The exercise asks you to face your partner and ask each other about all kinds of intimate stuff, from your upbringing to your greatest accomplishement to your worst memory. Even if you've been dating forever and are already in love with your partner, the 36 questions exercise can help you form an even deeper connection.
Do A Sex Questionnaire Together
Opening up about your sexual preferences to a new partner (or even a long-term one) is easier said than done, especially when it comes to describing the nitty-gritty of what you like and dislike in bed. It's important to feel comfortable
communicating about sex with your partner, but that takes time and trust. If you need a helping hand to get the conversation started, doing a sex questionnaire like Mojo Upgrade can be a less awkward way to talk about your secret turn-ons and fantasies with your partner. It'll boost your intimacy and help you get more sexually comfortable with each other.
Practice Different Kinds Of Kissing
When you've been with someone for a long time, you'll naturally figure out
exactly what style of kissing your partner likes — but that doesn't mean there aren't different kinds of kisses out there that are equally sexy. If you want to switch up your makeout style while building intimacy with your partner, practice different kinds of kissing together, or use the handy Kisses 4 Us game as smooching inspo. Kisses 4 Us, $20, Amazon
"Each box contains 30 Kiss Cards with a description of a different type of kiss to try, as well as a fun tip or trivia about kissing,"
Kim Knollmeyer, Creator of Kisses 4 Us, tells Bustle. "Our Idea Book has suggestions on ways to use your Kisses 4 Us box, [such as] Hide and Seek: you hide the Kiss Cards around the house and try the different kisses as you find them. Intimacy will be enhanced as couples swoon and giggle trying all of the kisses!"
Gaze Into Each Other's Eyes
While a staring contest might not
sound all that sexy, if you think of it as "eye gazing" (aka looking deeply into your partner's eyes), it's easy to see how this exercise can build intimacy.
"Set a timer for 10 minutes and gaze into each other's eye, [and] don't speak," Elliot says. "At first it will feel silly and you may giggle a bit. But you'll quickly feel a sense of connection building. Continue to remain still. Also play with breathing at the same rate as them while you look into their eyes. Do this on a regular basis and you'll discover you feel much closer to each other."
Fortunately for those of us who are less-than-flexible, this "yoga" doesn't involve any stretching (unless you consider laughter a stretch for your lungs).
"Set your timer for another 10 minutes and start laughing together," Elliot says. "You can play with small chuckles, big guffaws, and waves of chortles. Laughter changes your body chemistry, alters your breathing, and makes you feel good... but it's even better when you do it with your partner. Because just like Pavlov's dogs began to associate a bell with food, you'll associate your significant other with laughter and fun."
When you first start to date someone, it's
so exciting to explore your physical connection. If you miss that fresh, innocent phase in your sex life with a long-term partner, try playing "off limits," a game where you set rules about what you can or can't do in bed for the evening. It'll be a reminder of the feeling of "newness" you had in the beginning of your sexual relationship — which will build intimacy and turn you on in the process.
"We all have some part of us that wants to break the rules, and that adds excitement to the start of a relationship, because some [intimate] things are off limits," Elliot says. "But after you've been together awhile, that goes away. So set up arbitrary rules to limit what you're allowed to do with each other. For example, you can kiss and make out, but you both have to keep your clothes on. Do that for a week and you'll be clawing at each other by the time the rule goes away."
Why Building Intimacy Is Crucial For A Healthy Relationship
When you're in a relationship, it's easy to get too comfortable, slip into a routine, and
lose the intimate connection you once had. But if you want your relationship to stay healthy, you should want to continually build on your emotional and physical connection with your partner — which means not being afraid to be vulnerable.
“Healthy adult vulnerability
is called intimacy," William Benson, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and founder of The Mental Gym, tells Bustle. "It is the very glue that bonds us to a meaningful life experience. It's impossible to have a shared experience and to build something with another if we’re unwilling to share our authentic selves.”
Being able to
share your true self with your partner and know that they fully accept you is one of the most rewarding parts of a long-term relationship. So next time you and your partner are deciding what to do for your date night in, cozy up and have an intimacy-building "game night" — it'll help you feel even closer.