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Separateness and Togetherness: Why we need both in our intimate partnerships posted Oct 5, 2018


My life has been interesting these past few weeks. It has brought about a tension that excites me but confuses me at the same time.

In making a renewed commitment to seeing my business skyrocket in 2018, I have been reading frantically and learning more and more about how I can improve and continue to develop my skills as a relationship coach for midlife women.

I’m always wanting to learn and know more, but all my reading about relationships recently has brought about some nagging thoughts about my own relationship with my husband who I’ve been with for three decades. Long time. Seems like I should have all things relationship figured out at this point, right? I coach women in my age group and life stage to help them save their marriages or long-term partnerships before it’s too late, yet I realize I haven’t figured out my own.  If I can’t fix mine, how I can fix others? In general, I would say my relationship with my husband is strong and emotionally close, yet I have to be honest. The bedroom part has needed a bit of a makeover if you know what I mean.

So, here I am reading a book written by a world-renowned couples therapist who says that we need to create separateness in our relationships with our intimate partners in order to reignite passion and have a great sex life. What? I don’t get it. At first take, this makes zero sense to me.

I’m supposed to separate from my partner? Isn’t the way to improve and grow in my relationship all about connecting more with him? The more we understand, respect and listen to each other and empathize when either one of us is in distress, the better, right? We know we trust each other when we can empathize and truly listen to the other. Be present. BE with the other person…. in sync.  Having similar belief systems and values helps. Isn’t that a good thing? In fact, if we want to re-ignite our sex life, don’t we need to increase our sense of togetherness so we can better love each other in the bedroom?

Well, as it turns out, no.

Over time in an intimate relationship we become more emotionally connected to our partners, which is something we want and naturally happens, but in doing so we actually begin to destroy our sex lives. Feelings of passion die and with it so does sex.

So, are those of us in long-term relationships doomed? We tell ourselves, “Just get used to it. That’s what happens over time. What else can I expect? It is what it is. I can’t bring back those first days when we were so in love and had great sex.”

Is there a better solution than this feeling of resignation? Is it possible to be connected to your partner AND have a great life in bed?

Well, as it turns out, yes.

What’s necessary to get that passion back is to introduce separateness into your relationship, to create a sense of “otherness” between the two of you. How do you do this? It’s actually a simple concept and fun to start implementing.

I work more in-depth with clients to help them create separateness, but I list a few ideas below that I am implementing in my own relationship now, and if you’re at all like me and experiencing a bit too much boredom or sameness in the bedroom, or potentially worse (no sex), you can take these to heart and begin to implement them in your relationship.

Use your imagination! Spend a few minutes imagining yourself making passionate love to your partner in a place that is exotic, special, out of the ordinary.  Imagine the details of the place-- the smells, the sounds, what you see, what you two are wearing… or not wearing, whether you’re in bed or somewhere else. Imagine it all and imagine these places regularly.

Humans can easily experience the power of anticipation. We have the ability to imagine something happening while it’s not. There’s nothing actually happening and everything happening at the same time. It’s powerful and our brains can’t tell the difference. I love this quote, “It’s our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person.” If you engage your imagination, your sex life can come alive!

Create mystery.  Attend an event or gathering where your partner is shining with radiance and confidence. Maybe it’s a speech he’s giving on stage. Maybe it’s an award she’s receiving in recognition of her years of service. Maybe it’s a sporting activity he’s talented in and you go watch him take part.  Maybe it’s a party where others are drawn to what she is saying.

The idea is to create space and observe your partner in his or her element versus participate with your partner. “Mystery is not about traveling to new places, it’s about looking with new eyes.” When you see your partner standing removed from you doing something he or she is passionate and confident doing, you are separate and can experience the mystery.

Infuse your daily life with novelty, surprise, and playfulness. Dress up for a date night dinner at home. Surprise him with flowers when you come home from work. Turn up the volume of the music, take her hand in surprise and dance across the kitchen floor.

Anything you can do to bring in an element of surprise and play ignites desire and passion, and that’s all you need in the bedroom!

It’s an interesting paradox we live inside of our relationships with our intimate partners. We need and want intimacy, closeness, and connection with our partners and the predictability and safety we experience with that, yet we also need and want adventure, novelty, risk, and surprise with our partners and the unpredictability and uncertainty that comes with that. It’s a constant balancing act and as long as we are aware that our relationships need both togetherness and separateness, we can build our passion and happiness and best of all, re-ignite an amazing sex life, even at age 50 or 60 and beyond! Who doesn’t want that?

2120 PointsGold

Kimberly Riley

/ Midlife Transition and Relationship Coach