By Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Certified Sex Therapist
The nation is encouraging everyone to socially distance and others are being forced to quarantine altogether. During a time where we are actively called to stay away from each other, there is a deeper yearning within us that calls to do everything but that. This yearning comes from one of our most basic needs-the need to belong. Community. Connection. This is what helps us thrive and gives us the motivation to get by day to day. So how do we mitigate the call for social refrain with our deeper need for connection?
The time being spent isolated in your homes does not have to be a time of loneliness and boredom. Take the time to get creative in the ways you connect. Most people settle on their ‘’tried and true’’ ways to connect with others and rarely venture out of their comfort zones. Think of it like going to a beloved restaurant and sticking to the ‘’old reliables.’’ Here are a few ways to get creative using the 8 spheres of Intimacy:
Aesthetic intimacy refers to sharing something beautiful together. This can be a good time to look back at recorded videos of live shows or events you have attended with loved ones or appreciating your little ones art pieces they have created. Here is a list of virtual museum tours you can peruse: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
Affectional Intimacy refers to sharing affection such as holding hands or kissing. This one is a little bit more tricky with social distancing calling for 6-10 ft between people; however, keep in mind that when you and your loved ones are symptom-free in your home-,touching is not restricted. Please hug, kiss and touch as we need I even more now. For those who are in self-isolation-give self-affection! Here is a step by step guide to self-massage: https://www.earthbody.net/massage/413-guide-to-self-massage
Emotional Intimacy includes opening up to deeper, more genuine feelings by sharing emotions verbally or nonverbally. Journaling how you are feeling during this time of uncertainty can be a great practice of connecting with self. This is a good time to teach little ones about emotions by role-playing what the emotions look like and how to respond to them. Between loved ones, you can practice eye gazing: https://seattlechristiancounseling.com/articles/how-to-increase-trust-in-your-relationship-with-a-5-minute-eye-gazing-exercise
Intellectual Intimacy entails building on a cerebral connection through in- depth discussions on topics of interest. Talk it out! Spark up a conversation with your kids or partner on their current interests. What are thoughts on school? Which subjects interest them? Asking children what their life philosophies are typically yields enlightening results. This also can be a good time to update partners on valued topics such as politics, religion and new interest areas for learning. Find a list of distant learning courses being offered for free here: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-awesome-websites-free-college-courses-online/
Physical Intimacy is doing physical activities together such as going on a walk, biking, and playing ball in your backyard. As long as you are socially distancing from those you are not quarantined with outside, this should be a safe option. Just be mindful of touching objects that are common spaces in the neighborhood and not share toys at this time. This can be a wonderful option to taking in the aesthetics of the outdoors around you. If you are confined in your house, indoor games such as hide and seek, scavenger hunts, and indoor gyms can be a fabulous option. Furthermore, there are many social media exercise challenge groups you can connect with to enhance accountability and physical intimacy. If that sounds intimidating, you can connect with a friend with aligned goals and have virtual exercise dates.
Social Intimacy is doing social activities together. Date yourself and date your loved ones! If in isolation, recall what the primary role of those little rectangular devices that we look at day in and day out serve. Call a friend. Call a loved one. I also hear that Siri has some engaging banter. Playing games of discovery with your loved ones can also build on friendships-an important foundation to a lasting intimate relationship. Try this Love maps Maps game, developed by Gottman Couples therapy method, here: https://healthymarriageandfamilies.org/sites/default/files/lms/CH2-Act2.pdf
Spiritual Intimacy includes sharing a spiritual or religious connection, such as through group meditation or worship. For many people, gathering in large groups makes up a great deal of their spiritual intimacy. Religious organizations worldwide have closed their doors and have opened up alternative options of meeting as such through virtual platforms and group chats. I encourage taking advantage of these options. Meditating and/or praying with loved ones in your home can be effective for this form of intimacy. If you are in isolation, spending time connecting with your higher power can make being alone feel a little less lonely.
Sexual Intimacy involves all the ways you can explore and engage sexually. There has been lighthearted jest surrounding a global baby booming all will experience 9 months from now. Despite being all in fun, this form of connection is one many are familiar with and often align to the word intimacy. During this time of social isolation either alone or with loved ones, it is encouraged to emphasize play and exploration. Approach with a healthy dose of curiosity and consent and have fun. Get to know what kind of touch you and your partner enjoy. Furthermore, this may be a good time to initiate or update discussions with little ones on personal space, body parts, and other age appropriate discussions to have around sexuality. Feel free to use the attached guide for ideas on what to discuss at what age.
If you are wanting to improve your intimacy, time in quarantine is the perfect time to slow down and find each other again. If you would like help with that, or you are struggling with barriers that you want to overcome. Schedule time to talk with me! My counseling practice focuses on working with couples who struggle with intimacy, anxiety, and barriers to connection. Click below to schedule your first intake call. I look forward to working with you!