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3 Ways to Impact Your Intimate Life

I was having lunch with one of the students from my old positivity club the other day when he surprised me by telling me that what means the most to him now is learning how to feel. I asked him what he meant, and he said, “I used to think my feelings. I thought I was ‘sad’ or ‘angry’, but it never quite registered in my body. Now, I know I am feeling when it happens in my gut or my chest. When I feel most alive is when I can’t not feel what is happening.”

The truth is that we all need to feel more and turning up the dial to register our feelings as the visceral responses they are also turns up our ability to impact our intimate relationships. I have long been warning about the myriad ways in which our lives become dominated by our digital devices consuming not only our attention, but also our capacity and interest in the complex rich world of connecting to others.

Magical things occur as we learn to express these feelings and listen to the deep experience of those we love. Our nervous system learns to mirror those around us, informing and enlarging our identity in ways that only relationships can.

So, this year take one of these intimacy resolutions and make it your own.

Remember that a little goes a long way when it comes to the kinds of personal changes that really impact life. Committing to a small change consistently – even just a 5% change – is way more effective than deciding to do a total makeover.

1. Be Kinder

Extensive research has demonstrated that the single most important attribute in any successful relationship is kindness.

And the first relationship to begin with is with yourself. Arguably the foundation for all other relationships, how we think about and talk to ourselves is the well we draw upon in our communications with others. It took me a long time, and some meaningful relationship endings, before I truly understood how valuable my own attention and kindness was. I had always only known my capacity for kindness as I gave it to others.

I still remember the day that I found this quote from the Buddha: “You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” It was like a revelation, and yet one that took quite a bit of practice and attention to make real.

2. Be Emotionally Courageous

Lasting relationships are constructed of action verbs. It’s about what we do with our emotions, not what they do to us. Getting over our confusion between the biological intensity of falling in love and the hard work of loving someone over time is how we show up for our promises.

Most of us are risk averse when it comes to matters of the heart. This is why so many things that need to be shared are never uttered. It also explains why so many relationships expire long before the work is done. Staying connected is only possible through the work of taking emotional risks, of having your heart out there on your sleeve. Other people, even our most intimate people don’t know what is in our heart unless we show it. Hooking up is oddly less risky than asking someone out. Defying the possibility that you might be rejected or that someone might not understand what you are trying to say and extending yourself anyway is how we know who we are as our most basic human selves.

Resolve to try this bold and daring act once a week. Take a risk with your heart and see what happens. I guarantee it will surprise you.

3. Pay Attention to Your Attention

Realizing that our attention is an even more limited resource than our money and treating it with the same respect that we do our bank account will clarify where you are wasting the precious time of your life. How much attention we give to digital media is more than just a distraction; it is killing our capacity to fully attend to our intimate relationships and isn’t helping our mood much either.

Choose a specific time every day or even once a week when you put away your devices and choose a task that requires all of your attention. It could be cleaning out a closet or organizing a meal with friends or spending some solitary time on a walk.

Just do it wholly, without interruption or distractions. Notice what happens with your thoughts when your attention is undivided. Even more gratifying, notice how other people respond when you give them the gift of your full attention.