Top Five Bonding Boosters
It’s no secret that when it comes to sex and intimacy, men and women are wired differently.
Says Sydney sex therapist Dr Rosie King: “For him, sex creates intimacy; for her intimacy must be present before she feels sexy.”
Or to put it another way, “Men need a place to have sex, women need a purpose.”
So easy then, for partners to get their wires crossed and hopelessly misunderstand one another’s needs.
Top Five Ways you can build closer bonds – and help your sex life while you do it.
1) Non-Sexual stroking
We’re not too far away from our mammalian origins, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest non-verbal nurturing behaviours do wonders for oxytocin levels – the hormone that helps us feel safe, relaxed, and loved. The more we receive this “petting” the more receptive our brain becomes to oxytocin.
So it’s important that these exchanges take place daily, and that they are generously offered (not done under sufferance watching the clock – “Can I stop now?”)
Studies suggest “non-goal oriented contact” – ie not foreplay – provides the most effective human bonding.
Typically this includes:
· smiling, with eye contact
· skin-to-skin contact
· providing a service or treat without being asked
· giving unsolicited approval, via smiles or compliments
· gazing into each other’s eyes
· listening intently, and restating what you hear
· forgiving or overlooking an error or thoughtless remark, past or present
· preparing your partner something to eat
· kissing with lips and tongues
· cradling, or gently rocking, your partner’s head and torso (works well on a couch, or pillows)
· holding, or spooning, each other in stillness
· wordless sounds of contentment and pleasure
· stroking with intent to comfort
· massaging with intent to comfort, especially feet, shoulders and head
· hugging with intent to comfort
· lying with your ear over your partner’s heart and listening to the heart beat
· touching and sucking of nipples/breasts
· gently placing your palm over your lover’s genitals with intent to comfort rather than arouse
· making time together at bedtime a priority
(Original information from Lazy Way To Stay In Love)
2) Investing in the Love Bank
A similar idea, but framed differently, is Dr Rosie King’s advice to think of your relationship as a Mutual Goodwill Account. You make deposits into this account by meeting each other’s emotional needs. When both of you are constantly working to create a happy relationship, you add to the goodwill balance of your fund every day.
Early in the “infatuation” stage of your relationship this happens effortlessly; but anytime from nine months to three years after meeting, it’s likely you’ll need to make more specific and conscious efforts to understand and meet your partner’s emotional needs.
When you stop contributing, you are effectively making withdrawals on the account – “robbing the bank” by trying to survive on earlier deposits. Every time you behave badly you are making large withdrawals.
Ways you “rob the bank” include dishonesty, criticism, refusing to apologise, lying, swearing, being threatening or sarcastic, expressing contempt or giving the silent treatment. No good will usually ends up meaning no sex.
You can make deposits by offering support and nurturing – everything from giving a shoulder massage, to a compliment, to cooking a meal, to getting breakfast in bed to . . whatever will most please your partner – find out!
3) Playing on the same team
This can mean simply being loyal to your partner, and displaying that – for example regularly complimenting him or her in front of friends.
But Dr Alex Lickerman M.D suggests there is an even more important bonding opportunity when couples actively compete together — “on a volleyball team, a treasure hunt team, or even the same team for a group board game—it enhances their sense of cohesiveness, often even if they lose.” —Alex Lickerman, M.D., Happiness in this World: Reflections of a Buddhist physician
Use this insight as an encouragement to undertake projects together – it could be saving a local park, running a youth group or sports team. Tennis anyone? Share the load and play on the same team.
4) Observe the 5:1 ratio
Marriage therapist Dr John Gottman (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How you Can Make Yours Last) has gained fame as the practitioner who coined the five to one rule.
His work with couples struggling to avoid divorce showed that those who expressed more negative than positive exchanges ended up apart. He developed a ratio – five positive acts or comments for every one negative as an antidote to the gradual erosion of the love bonds.
Monitor your communication with your partner, and ensure it is heavily weighted on the positive.
Research has shown following this rule increases oxytocin in both male and female brains, and for men that also decreases blood pressure, so we’re actually “changing our brains” with our positive behaviour.
5) Laugh Together
Research shows laughter is a good medicine, and laughing together is a great way to deepen bonding. In a Psychology Today blog on Bond Boosters, Gil Greengross, Ph.D., (Humor Sapiens: The laughing ape and other insights into the nature of funny ) suggests:
“Catch a funny movie or hit up a comedy club. Sharing a laugh together is always helpful, but often couples are too stuck in their routines to crack each other up. Letting someone else tell the jokes takes away pressure.”
Image from: vir4l.com