Get Closer -- Even Now
5. See each other in a new light. If he's never heard you sing in your church choir, he needs to go. If you've never cheered him on at his bowling league, you should do so. The rewards from making this effort can be numerous. For one thing, you can feel the pride and joy of seeing him being successful at something, and being respected and admired by others, says Rowe. Also, he can feel the flattery of your attention, and the elation that comes from sharing something that's special to him with you.
Ellesor Holder of Greenwood, South Carolina, is amazed at how close she feels to her husband since they started building a 4,000-square-foot house together (especially since people warned her how stressful a building project could be on a marriage). Her husband, an engineer, is doing most of the construction himself with a small crew. "I'd never really seen him at work before," she says. "But now I've watched him up on the scaffolding figuring out complicated electrical issues. I've watched him negotiate with subcontractors, handling things calmly and with integrity, and getting good prices. I can't tell you how much more I admire him now, knowing the passion and skill he's brought to this project that's so important to both of us."
6. Take a daily temperature reading. It sounds absurdly basic, but talking every day -- not about the ordinary details of life, but about yourselves and what you are feeling and experiencing -- is vital to intimacy. "Sharing your feelings provides the connection that makes all the other talking worthwhile," says Flo Rosof, PhD, a marital therapist from Huntington, New York. If you can't find the time for a discussion at home, talk at the office or send an e-mail. A well-timed call or e-mail to find out how an important meeting went helps drive home that you care about what he's doing and feeling.
Making time for good conversation is what helped Elise Silverman, the mother of two who dreamed she was pregnant, and her husband get closer. "We turn off the TV after the kids are in bed and sit across from each other, eye to eye, so that we can really tune in," she says. "We talk about how the things that happened that day make us feel."
7. Be generous. This entails all sorts of acts, from buying simple, unexpected gifts, to responding cheerfully to requests, to doing small favors. For people who have a generous nature, this is easy; those who don't will need to make a more concerted effort -- and may need some guidance. "Our routine used to be that my husband, who always gets up before me, would make his coffee, and I'd make my tea when I got up," says a California mother of three who has been married 12 years. "One morning, I was up before him and made his coffee and put it in a thermos so it would stay hot. He was so surprised. Nothing was said, but ever since then, when he gets up first, he'll make his coffee along with my tea and put it in a thermos so it's hot for me when I get up. He just needed me to show him how powerful those little considerations are."
The message in these simple acts is, "I'm thinking of you," says Solomon. Sending this message on a regular basis works to deepen the good feelings two people have for each other. "We all want to feel that we matter," she says. "What a great gift -- to give that feeling to our partner."
8. Make a list of 25 ways you feel loved, and have your spouse do the same. This could include everything from "giving me a shoulder rub when I'm stressed" to "checking the oil in the car." Exchange lists -- if you can't think of 25 ways, start with 10 -- and see how many items on your spouse's list you can do every week. Make copies of the lists, suggests Popcak, and post them in places where they'll be seen every day -- the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, beside your bed. "This way you can't forget," he says.
"Close relationships are nurtured daily in the little exchanges between two people. Major efforts, like taking a weekend away, are also important, of course," says Popcak. "But real love is played out in the simple consideration and attention that a couple shows each other every day."
9. Catch each other doing something right. Express your gratefulness when he's been thoughtful -- like making your sandwich while he's making his -- or when he's done something that you like, such as fluffing up the sofa pillows. It's human nature to take notice of things that are not done the way we like. It requires vigilance to look for the good and not let it pass without comment, but the payoff is worth it. Noticing good acts makes the doer feel appreciated and likelier to do more of the same.
10. Be playful. Fun and laughter are often the first things to be squeezed out of a marriage by the demands of everyday life. But knowing how to enjoy yourselves together, even if you're not on a special date or outing, can keep you close.
"Humor is a huge part of intimacy," says Solomon. "Because when the tough times come, laughter may be the one thing that can carry you through. Problems always seem less ominous if you can keep your sense of humor. Also, when you can laugh together and enjoy each other's company, the unspoken message is that the commitment is still there." Being able to laugh at yourself is particularly intimacy-enhancing because it shows that you trust the other person enough to be vulnerable.
So tell jokes, flirt, tease, play pranks, be goofy. "Sometimes my husband and I have pillow fights," says Rowe. "I like to make him laugh. Being playful keeps us young and our relationship fresh and new."