Building Or Strengthening Your Relationship

Part of what sparked my interest in writing this article was a very stressful episode my wife and I went through. As many of my readers already know, I underwent arthroscopic surgery for a rotator cuff injury to my left shoulder. The post surgery experience with physical therapy proved to be more daunting than either one of us ever expected.

Aside from post surgical pain, I was dealing with the side of effects of prescribed pain killers like oxycodone (No one will ever convince me that its not an evil drug), stretching exercises at physical therapy, wearing a brace and sleeping upright at night and dealing with feelings of depression that frequently accompany surgery.

My wife and I, married over forty years, noticed that this experience brought us even closer together than before.

That is the topic of an article written by Robert Epstein for Scientific American magazine, called "Keeping Love Alive, Scientific American Does Its Part."

His research on relationships revealed that emotional intimacy is fostered and maintained by the following:

1. Strong sexual attraction.

2. Engaging in physical activities together such as going on bike rides and the gym.

3. Gazing into each other's eyes. This is not staring. The difference between staring and gazing is that, in gazing two people consent to look into one another's eyes. As Epstein points out, there is an agreement to be naked in front each other.

4. Doing new things together, whether its travelling or going to new events and adventures.

5. Feeling vulnerable and allowing your partner to provide comfort or allowing yourself to give that comfort.

Epstein states that studies show that, world wide, people in other cultures who are in arranged marriages, gain the same type of intimacy and closeness through these types of activities.

So, if you want to work on improving your relationship, these are a few of the ways to do it.

In addition, if you are looking for an intimate relationship then these same activities are also important. That mutual gaze can really help ignite a friendship into a romance.

Please remember, relationships take hard work.

What are your experiences, please share them, and your opinions and comments?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

  • Rajesh yedida

    Dear Doctor,

    Well said relationships are lot of hard work. I got married four years ago when I was 27. Now we had a baby boy of 19 months old. Ours was an arranged marriage. We haven't even seen each other before marriage. But we had a mutual friend who arranged the marriage. Anyway everything was great for us. But after the baby boy my wife is busy with the kid. Some times I feel as if we are growing apart. Surprisingly she thinks the same way. She complains that I am not supporting her in raising the kid. But I am usually busy with my work and I can't put in too much time for the kid. So I suggest her to stay at her parent's place whenever she feels like she needs some help. But she ignores that and resents me as an irresponsible husband. Sometimes I feel very stressed our about it. In India its normal for women to stay with their parents whenever they need help.

    Now I really feel its lot of hard work to manage all these.


    Rajesh Yedida

  • Cathy

    Two thoughts: (1) There is an epidemic of selfishness these days so I believe that attaining the good old fashioned relationship is extremely difficult (2) Speaking of gazing into one another's eyes, well, I have always heard that the eyes are the windows to the soul and again, these days, I have noticed that very few people in general are able to make eye contact for more than a second if that. I have found that when interviewing for a job that old "make eye contact" generally tends to make the person interviewing me uncomfortable. Well, I would suggest that anyone wanting a good, solid relationship get a dog - and make sure it is the four-legged variety not the two! Cats are nice and a guinea pig is one of my personal favorites!!!

  • Linda Meyer

    Hi Allan

    I would most certainly agree with your article. When a couple is faced with an unplanned event in their life or their relationship needs some healthy changes the adjustment, tolerance and commitment of the relationship can be jeopordized

    The best of relationships can be truely challenged and finding ways to come to a complete neutral and safe understanding of each other is the key whether it is gazing into each others eyes or finding a new mutual sexual experience with each other, each relationship will have it's own unique ways of surviving.

    As you said though it can make a relationship stronger as it did mine. After my illness changed our lives forever, my husbands commitment to take care of me and our 7 children has made our relationship a much more tolerant one and our attitude about family and commitent has been changed for the better. We now experience a heathier more intimate mental and physical relationship with a much better understanding of what really matters in life and how fast that can change forever.

  • Allie

    Rajesh sounds like you had an excellent start to your marriage. I'll give you my take on what is happening in your marriage from a woman view point. It may help. As you said, she wants you to participate with more closely and actively in raising your child. She does not appear to want to do the traditional thing and go to her parents she wants u. U have to invest more time in the relationship by being present with her. Her dissatisfaction will effect the future happiness of the marriage. There is always a pocket of time that you can consistently devote to being with her and the baby. You must find it, look at sports less on TV, skip the afternoon hang out with the boys, resign from the cricket team to be with the woman you love. She needs you not her parents do what you can to answer her need. One source of stress will dissipate

  • Ruby.F.H

    i have a bit of a problam . i have a hard time trying to express my true feelings to this guy that i have been seeing for about 9 months and he is 5 years younger then me . i am not sure if he wants the same things as me or we don't really talk about relationship stuff at all . i just feel lost in this relationship and i don't know what to say to him about it or how to dring it up with out having a fight about it ether . i do love him a lot and he means so much to me . i just need some help with this and a good friend to talk to about stuff like this . it so important to me i don't like to feel trapped .