~ Intimate Connections ~ Understanding the tender & tough sides of a growing relationship, By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

Have you ever noticed that some couples can quickly move from being fired up with romantic passion for their partner to acting like a bully-boss who just wants to passionately fire them like a needless employee. It’s no wonder that people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person, because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts. Everybody talks about wanting a relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being hurt again, which makes it easy to wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?”

Intimacy is about seeing into someone’s heart and mind and learning to connect with them in multiple ways to feel close, accepted and loved on the inside, no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. Listen to the word if it is slowly spoken… ‘In-to-see-me’ since true intimacy is about complete openness, and coming closely together to connect in the most intense ways that God designed for married partners to share over a lifetime of love.

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need to understand both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationship where romance is the primary goal; and a Christian view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside romance to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short term infatuation to build long term success in your marriage.

This relationship exercise is designed to guide you through the process of identifying strengths and weaknesses so you can develop more closeness in every area of intimacy. Simply score your relationship on how well connected you believe it to be in each of the twenty areas listed below.

There are four types of connection possible for each type of intimacy- Strong, Weak, Nonexistent or Untested/Unknown. Score each type of intimacy using the following:

Strong- draw a circle around an area that is well connected, perhaps 50-95% of the time
Weak- underline areas that are weakly connected, perhaps 5-50% of the time
Nonexistent- place an “X” in front of areas that are never to barely connected or full of conflict
Untested/Unknown- place a “?” in front of areas that you are unsure of in your relationship


TENDER CONNECTION through ROMANCE
(These are the softer sides of relationship which may feel fun, exciting or fulfilling)

Sexual- connecting physically through the stages of flirting- foreplay- sexual union and after-play

Emotional- connecting through feelings, moods, attitudes or being on the same wave-length

Intellectual- connecting through the world of current events in news, blogs, magazines or books

Educational- connecting through shared learning experiences in classes, seminars or workshops

Aesthetic- connecting through experiences of beauty in fine art, craftsmanship, antiques or nature

Creative- connecting while sharing ideas about designing or developing projects together

Recreational- connecting through shared sports, hobbies, exercise, travel or theme parks

Social- connecting through parties or events at work, church or with friends & family

Entertainment- connecting through music, TV, films, concerts, dining or shopping

Humor- connecting through shared laughter, giggles, comedy or silliness in any situation

How did you do? Count up the number of types of intimacy in each tender category you scored.

_____ Strong areas of connection _____ Weak areas of connection
_____ Nonexistent areas of connection _____ Untested/Unknown areas of connection


Now score your relationship in the areas of tough connection, which are more about daily responsibilities and disciplined choices than ‘warm fuzzies’. Measuring which type of connection best describes the intimacy you experience in these areas using the same scoring process.

Strong- draw a circle around an area that is well connected, perhaps 50-95% of the time
Weak- underline areas that are weakly connected, perhaps 5-50% of the time
Nonexistent- place an “X” in front of areas that are never to barely connected or full of conflict
Untested/Unknown- place a “?” in front of areas that you are unsure of in your relationship


TOUGH CONNECTION through REALITY
(these are the harder sides of a relationship which may feel boring, difficult or challenging)

Work- connecting through common tasks, daily chores & responsibilities at home or in career

Time- connecting together with scheduling, planning, clocks, calendars or daily routines

Financial- connecting through shared values on budgeting, spending, saving or investing goals

Caregiving or Co-parenting- connecting through shared responsibility to care for others (or pets)

Conflict- connecting through differences in strongly held beliefs with mutual respect or admiration

Crisis- connecting through problems, pressures or painful events, especially in reaching out to others

Commitment-connecting through the shared belief of honoring marital vows as sacred promises

Spiritual- connecting through shared religious traditions, beliefs, ethics, values & worship styles

Communication- connecting verbally or nonverbally to share the ‘real you’ or listening to your partner

Trust- connecting through shared feelings of respect, honesty, integrity or confidence in your mate

How did you do? Count up the number of types of intimacy in each tough category you scored.

_____ Strong areas of connection _____ Weak areas of connection
_____ Nonexistent areas of connection _____ Untested/Unknown areas of connection

?Notice the differences between the two types of Intimate Connection:

Tender Connection is about Romance & Chemistry

Media images tend to define the ultimate degree of love as feeling happy with that person you are spending time with right now instead of investing into a partner for life
If you only have a tender connection in your relationship, it leaves a potential gap open for a married person to essentially function as a ‘single person’ with the mindset of serving self over their spouse, resulting in a person feeling very, very alone. (View this as the ‘Me-My-I” mindset of the self-absorbed or pleasure seekers that avoid taking responsibility for their behavior or blame shift problems away from their selfish decisions to find a reason to show that it’s really your fault that they are the way they are or do the things they do.)

Tough Connection is about Reality & Consequences

Biblical images of defining the ultimate degree of love as choosing to reach out to build a long term relationship as married “Partners” during the fun or frustrating times of life
If you have included the reality of a tough connection in your relationship, it closes the gap of being a self-serving or single person in the marriage, since the mindset and goal is of building marital unity. (View this as the ‘We-Us-Our” mindset of building a relationship together with each person taking ownership and responsibility for their part of the marriage as they serve and give to one another in love )

Improving your bottom line score: No matter your score on these levels of intimate connection, it can improve if you decide to work on it together. Ask your mate their ideas as you both develop a game plan of ‘hot buttons’ areas to avoid because they most often explode; as well as considering the areas that always work well so you can ‘overload’ on it together as you build back some fun and positive momentum into your marriage. Plus, you could build an intimate connection through creative ways that aren’t listed on the evaluation above, for instance through helping others through a non-profit group like “Habitat for Humanity”, co-leading a support group at your local church, helping to coach a child’s little league team together, redecorating or painting a room together, or becoming involved through the common connection of shared community or spiritual values, (like Toys for Tots or working together as foster parents for abused kids). The key issue is to take action to enjoy your relationship as the best part of your day, instead of the worst as you experience the blessings that come from a well connected marriage relationship full of intimacy on every possible level.
Remember, if you get stuck and want to ask a question to stabilize or solve repetitive areas of conflict, you can always contact a professional Christian Counselor at the LifeWorks Group, 407.647.7005 or confidentially send an email to any of their team of experts at LifeWorksGroup.org

Build intimacy into your relationship with a combination of these important factors-
? TRUST- the foundation of every form of every relationship at every stage of life
? TIME- the easiest way to show that you love someone is by taking time for them and with them
? TALK- sharing ideas, information and insights about any topic is essential to draw close
? TOUCH – healthy relationships are safe places of caring expressions of physical closeness
? TENDERNESS- gentle expressions of affection through emotions, words or actions
? TOGETHER – developing companionship by sharing in any activity to draw closer as a couple
? THEOLOGY –growing together in what God’s Word teaches about healthy relationships
? TRADITIONS- reaching back to see what traditions were safe, connected and meaningful

Dwight Bain Bio: Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Professional member of the National Speakers Association and Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Access more strategic Life Coaching Strategies as well as practical Counseling Resources at: http://wwwLifeWorksGroup.com/

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