Intimacy

Beyond Touch and Thought: The Lasting Effect of Spiritual Intimacy on a Relationship

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Romantic relationships vibrate on different frequencies.

We have to think beyond the purely physical and explore emotional, mental and spiritual intimacy as the pathways to a long-lasting relationship.

Out of all intimacy types, spiritual intimacy receives the least attention. Not many people think of spirituality in today’s secular, science-first culture, but it persists even when you think you’re not a spiritual person. Spiritual intimacy waits to be harnessed to its full potential.

Once you find it with your partner, you’ll see how indispensable it is to your partnership.

But what is it? In the simplest terms, spiritual intimacy is revealing your spirituality to your partner and listening to their spiritual disclosures with support and understanding. Similar to mental intimacy, you share each other’s selves, but instead of big thoughts, you share deep beliefs.

Spiritual intimacy doesn’t require you to be religious

Perhaps when you hear the word spirituality, your mind goes to the rigid framework of religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. Yes, being religious and practicing the same faith fall into the definition of spiritual intimacy, but religion is not the be-all and end-all.

Many successful couples come from different religious backgrounds or belong to no faith. There are couples made of agnostics and outright atheists, who still achieve fulfilling spiritual intimacy. Spirituality is not encompassed solely by religious faith.

It’s the greater belief in virtues such as justice, compassion, patience, generosity, temperance, love, fortitude and gratitude, which are in many cases the foundational pillars of the religions mentioned above. Only they come in the purest form and remain strictly individual.

“Spirituality is a sense of internal wellbeing and how you connect with something greater than yourself—whether that’s a higher power, nature, music, art or humanity as a whole. It’s the ideals and beliefs you form throughout your life that form your own unique spirituality,” explains Carrie Wester, a chaplain at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ.

What does practicing spiritual intimacy look like?

As is the case with emotional intimacy and mental intimacy, your best friend is good, old-fashioned communication. With honesty and vulnerability as your tools, you can overcome any threat to your relationship and connect spirit to spirit.

Listen to your partner with respect and without judgement

You can’t achieve spiritual intimacy without attentive listening and acceptance of your partner’s personal beliefs. Create the necessary space for your partner to come to you with their deeply held beliefs whether in their religious practice or in some other sense. You might not believe in an all-powerful, all-seeing God, reincarnation or chakras, but for your partner these could be inseparable parts of who they are and their personal cosmology.

Long-lasting love requires us to open the door to every part of our partners – especially the parts we might not understand or believe in ourselves. Furthermore, spirituality doesn’t look like it did a century ago. More and more people leave organized religions, but we see the renaissance of spiritual practices like tarot reading, horoscopes and crystals. The spiritual wellness industry has found its footing as well, so it’s far more common to meet people with an active spiritual life.

Another aspect to consider is cultural differences. Do you come from a culture that has specific spiritual beliefs regarding the afterlife, ghosts and entities, but your partner doesn’t? Perhaps it’s the other way around. Having an honest conversation on these sensitive manners and approaching them with respect is how you develop spiritual intimacy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that either of you should convert the other. Belief doesn’t work like that. It’s not a war of world views that needs to have a definitive winner to prove who’s right. No relationship runs on the moral superiority of one partner.

Perform spiritual activities together

Here’s how to engage with your partner spiritually. Perhaps they’re an avid churchgoer. A good idea would be to join them for service and meet their church community since it plays a big role in your partner’s spiritual life.

Do you feed your spirituality through meditation? Have your partner join in on a meditation session together to connect to your bodies and breath. Yoga also does wonders for spiritual wellbeing.

Other ideas to test out include visiting each other’s significant places, spending an afternoon in silent contemplation without electronics, performing acts of charity and volunteer work.

Dare to radically forgive each other

Forgiveness is an act of spiritual strength and integrity. It’s one of the hardest things to do when in a relationship as we often take the mistakes of our partners as especially cruel betrayals.

Many couples tend to fall into the harmful cycle of harboring grudges and keeping score. Fact of the matter is we’re all human. You make mistakes just as your partner makes mistakes. And you’ll both continue to be imperfect together – that’s the essence of human nature.

It’s how we handle the fallout of our mistakes that makes all the difference. Couples who practice forgiveness forge a strong bond and perfect conflict resolution skills. These couples stay together far longer and report more romantic satisfaction compared to couples, who collect grievances. The act of forgiveness requires a lot of resolve and unconditional love, as well as putting one’s ego aside.

The benefits of forgiveness are several. You release all anger and bitterness that might otherwise cloud your thinking, and unburden yourself so that you’re much more present in the moment. People, who forgive their partners, report a drop in anxiety and depression according to Dr. Lisa Firestone in an article for PsychAlive. (1)

There’s also power in asking for forgiveness. The act demonstrates attrition and the willingness to take accountability. Please remember that it’s OK to be wrong and it takes a lot of strength to admit when you’ve been hurtful with your behavior. Justifying your actions might preserve your ego but doesn’t serve the relationship in the long run.

Whether you seek forgiveness or grant it, you’re called to bare your soul and reach a new height of vulnerability and openness with your partner. This is spiritual intimacy in its rawest form.

Cultivate inner peace and live in the present

This tip has more to do with you as an individual. It’s often said that having anxiety is worrying about the future and depression is the inability to move from the past. Although not a diagnosis, there’s some truth to these words since both anxiety and depression rob us of the opportunity to be in the present. Taking responsibility for yourself and your mental health and spirituality betters not only your personal wellbeing, but your relationship. One of the essentials of being in healthy relationship is to be well and balanced yourself.

We live in tumultuous times, which test our mettle on a daily basis, which is why taking ownership and care of our personal, mental and spiritual wellbeing matters even more than before. You’ve probably heard about mindfulness, which is the practice of grounding yourself in the moment. Shake off the inner script that rules your thoughts and emotions. It’s so easy to exist on autopilot.

Identify your spiritual needs, whatever they may be – prayer, art or just gazing at the stars at night before bed. Take the time to be mindful and be in the present. That’s how you embrace all the tiny moments you spend with your beloved. You only have the present. Use it wisely.

The big highlights – proposals, vacations, weddings and adventures – stick into the memory, but the smaller moments are equally as sweet.

Discuss personal plans and dreams for the future

Building a shared life requires landing on the same page regarding how you see your future as a couple. Do your individual plans harmonize with each other? What do you value most? The future is a very nebulous thing. Eventually it arrives, but how one prepares for it and what they expect of it reveals much more about a person’s being than anything else.

Your partner’s dreams reveal what they value most and what they prioritize. These discussions are necessary to build the foundations of your shared story, but also open doors to deeper subjects, hopes, fears and beliefs.

At an older age, this conversation can cover thoughts and feelings about the afterlife – the final frontier. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and scary to talk about something so morbid, but if you can talk about the worst thing that happens in life, you can talk about anything. There are no barriers left, and that’s the height of spiritual intimacy.

None of this happens in a day

Reading this article means that leading a spiritual life is important to you, regardless of its shape and form. Whether that’s communion with nature, a tarot spread or visiting temple, you want to share this deeply meaningful aspect of yourself with the person whom you love most.

Loving someone is, in a sense, a leap of faith. It’s only natural to want such meaningful closeness.

Broach the subject when you’re ready to discuss what spirituality means to you, and ask what it means to them. Maybe you’re figuring out what role it plays in your life. Don’t be afraid to use your partner as a sounding board and get their perspective.

Spirituality is something so deeply personal it’s hard to put into words. Find the language that best conveys your spiritual needs and the bravery to communicate them clearly to your partner.

The rest follows naturally.