If you’re looking for more intimacy in any of your relationships, I’ve got you covered today. I wondered what the internet had to say about how to deepen relationships, so I went into research mode. After reading dozens of articles posted by everyone from Psychology Today to relationship counselors to researchers doing studies on long term marriages, I’ve compiled a list of 25 strategies you can use in your daily life in all of your relationships.
One of the things I found a bit surprising in my (admittedly not scientific) research was the consistency of the suggestions. I expected to be able to generate a list of 50 effective things easily and quickly. That wasn’t really the case. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is what I’d consider the best suggestions. Some of them are no-brainers, some of them are common sense if you’d taken the time to think about it (which face it, how many people intentionally think about this—that’s why they’re paying counselors!) and some are a bit more surprising.
The items on this list can generally be applied to any relationship you want to take to a more intimate level, from creating better friendships to deepening intimacy with a spouse. I’m going to use the generic term “companion” in the list below…but feel free to substitute friend, co-worker, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend for what makes the most sense in your situation.
25 Ways to Deepen Your Relationships (in no particular order)
- Accept your companion’s uniqueness. All of us have quirks, back stories, likes and dislikes. Focus on creating a safe place for your companion to be themselves instead of figuring out how to change them into someone they’re not.
- Have realistic expectations. Unrealistic and unmet expectations kill intimacy in a relationship quickly. So, pay attention to how your expressed and assumed expectations are affecting your relationship.
- Do random acts of kindness frequently. Recent research is showing that accumulated small gestures are far more important in the long run than grand gestures. So, make a habit out of looking for ways to delight, serve, and encourage your companion in small ways on a regular basis.
- Devote 10 minutes a day to connecting. Relationships take time and it’s easy to spend most of that time talking about the household, family, or life details. Make a point to spend ten minutes a day connecting about things that aren’t day-to-day necessities.
- Get to know each others’ friends and family. Studies show that men especially benefit in relationships by their companion knowing and appreciating their family and friends. We all live in a web of relationships and the more connected those webs are, the tighter the support system.
- Be a caregiver. Relationships need internal support. Be someone who loves within their relationships by being intentional about serving and caring for the others’ needs. Be the first to do so.
- Keep it fun. Life is hard enough and laughter is good medicine. Include intentional fun within your relationship. Make a point to do things together that are fun for both of you.
- Be real. Healthy relationships that last have authenticity as a hallmark. We could unpack those two words in a lot of ways, making for a much longer post than this will already be, but at the very least it means being both personally vulnerable and willing to say hard things with love.
- Don’t play games. Seriously. Just don’t. At some point we need to be adults and act like it. Decide to behave in an emotionally mature way and hold yourself to that standard. Even when it’s hard and you want to fall back into old habits.
- Communicate in healthy ways. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to speak, disagree, encourage, and love. Take responsibility for your own communication habits and work hard at being healthy in all the ways you communicate.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV. Put down the phone. The fastest way to deepen any relationship? Spend distraction-free time together.
- Be honest. Honesty requires courage, vulnerability, and grace. Work at eliminating untruths from your actions and speech. They sneak in so easily, even if we’re not intending to be dishonest. For example, how many times have you responded to the question, “What’s wrong?” by saying, “Nothing.” Odds are, that’s not the truth.
- Show your appreciation. People thrive on encouragement and appreciation. Fill up your companion’s emotional tank as often as possible by expressing genuine encouragement and appreciation. We don’t get enough of it in our daily lives!
- Create fulfilling routines. Create consistent small and large routines that create intimacy. A friend and I spend a week at the beach with each other every year. Another friend of mine has a “love bench” in her kitchen where she and her husband share a few minutes of time together each day. That’s a large and small routine that both create intimacy in relationships.
- Date each other. Get away from your day-to-day and spend one-on-one time with your companion. Stepping away from your normal routine on a consistent basis gives the relationship time to flourish without the pressures of life and family.
- Grow together. Do things together that intentionally grow you. Learn something new. Try a new activity. Develop yourselves…together.
- Be patient. Patience gives a relationship and a companion room to grow. Time to heal. Space to expand. We often expect things so quickly in our culture, but plants take time to grow roots and so do relationships.
- Be on the same page with finances. Yep, the money thing. This applies to friendships just as much as committed relationships. If the main activity you participate in together is shopping or eating out and one of you has a tighter budget, it will create strain on the relationship. In a committed relationship, it’s one of the biggest areas of stress. Learn how to talk about, manage, and approach your finances together.
- Have meaningful conversations. Meaningful conversations don’t usually happen by accident. Be intentional about having conversations about important things. Developing a habit of consistent conversations about meaningful things will also help form a safe foundation when difficult topics need to be discussed.
- Share yourself. Being vulnerable is difficult, but so very important for forming bonds in a relationship. Take small steps first and grow vulnerability over time. Inappropriately over-sharing is just as harmful in a relationship as not sharing.
- Do memorable things together. Create memories that stand out by doing memorable things. These don’t have to be crazy things, but could just be things out of your normal routine, interesting things, or just plain silly.
- Suffer together. Do hard things together. While this might not sound like the most attractive item on this list, it is a sure-fire way to create closeness in a relationship. All of our lives have trouble in them, so you may not even need to go looking for hard things (but you can do that too). Going through those trials as a truly shared experience will deepen your relationship.
- Commit to something you don’t already have. Choosing to work toward something that requires effort on both parties in a relationship will create a bond. There’s a reason teams develop close bonds in the workplace, sports arena, and military. Just make sure the goal is equally desired by both of you.
- Be an active listener. Listening well encourages intimacy and is something that you can practice every day.
- Ask questions. Ask why. Ask silly questions. Ask questions that are “getting to know you” questions, even if you’ve known them for 20 years. Ask how you can serve, love, honor your companion better. Ask the hard questions. Become an expert in asking questions, listening, and taking action on what you learn.
I hope this list will give you a toolkit of ways you can pour into the relationships you want to grow.
25 Ways to Deepen Your Relationship with Christ
Now. Many of you reading this are Christ-followers. Here’s why I really generated this list. I’m interested in growing my relationships with friends and family. But, I also want to be really intentional about growing my relationship with Christ. I wanted to take a list that we could understand in a person-to-person context and see if that could help us in our spiritual life as well. So, here’s that exact same list re-interpreted for your relationship with Christ.
- Accept God’s uniqueness. Understand, trust, rely on, and know the ways that God is unique and different from our human experience. Understanding who God truly is is vitally important in your relationship.
- Have realistic expectations. Understanding your (often unconscious) expectations of God and aligning them with his word is critically important in your relationship.
- Do random acts of kindness frequently. Creating a rhythm of worship in your life will help keep your perspective in the right place.
- Devote 10 minutes a day to connecting. Relationships take time and it’s easy to ignore that time with God, but it’s just as important in your spiritual life as it is with your friends and family.
- Get to know each others’ friends and family. We’re made for community. We need the family of God and Christian fellowship is a critical element of a growing Christian’s life. Community helps point us toward Christ in so many ways.
- Be a caregiver. Nurture your relationship with Christ. He desires your love and obedience. He desires closeness and intimacy. Take responsibility for growing your relationship.
- Keep it fun. Our gift of salvation is good news. We should be people of great joy! And, God obviously has a sense of humor, have you not seen a platypus?
- Be real. God’s not interested in you playing religion. He’s interested in real relationship.
- Don’t play games. God can see through all the emotional games you might have in your arsenal. You can’t trick him, fool him, or manipulate him. Don’t even try.
- Communicate in healthy ways. God longs for your communication and he’s never too busy for you. So, develop your prayer life! It’s an incredible privilege to have the ear of the Creator of the Universe whenever you want!
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV. Put down the phone. The fastest way to deepen any relationship? Spend distraction-free time together. True of people. True of God.
- Be honest. God’s big enough to handle your honesty.
- Show your appreciation. People thrive on encouragement and appreciation and with God, that’s called worship. Express appreciation and gratitude frequently.
- Create fulfilling routines. Create consistent small and large routines that create intimacy. A once a week routine isn’t enough for a personal, intimate relationship with God. Create habits that create intimacy. Any of the spiritual disciplines will do this. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d choose reading the Bible as studies have shown that it’s a cornerstone habit, leading to others. If that’s daunting, or you struggle with consistency, check out SoulShaper Guided Moments with God.
- Date each other. A weekly date at church works!
- Grow together. Choose to intentionally grow your spiritual life.
- Be patient. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Growing your relationship with the Holy Spirit will produce patience in your life. Learning how to rely on God and wait on God’s timing will help you practice patience and develop faith.
- Be on the same page with finances. Yep, the money thing. God talks about money frequently in scripture, because it’s so easy for us to let money become an idol in our lives. Learn what God says about money, be obedient to his instruction, and manage your resources in a Godly way, removing that idol from your life.
- Have meaningful conversations. Meaningful conversations don’t usually happen by accident. Be intentional about having conversations about important things. Developing a habit of consistent conversations about meaningful things will also help form a safe foundation when difficult topics need to be discussed. Understand with God, that these conversations are possible through the practices of prayer and scripture reading. Conversations don’t happen the same way they do with your family, but God absolutely is interested in speaking with you. And he wants more than recited lines.
- Share yourself. God want’s all of you in the relationship. All the messy, icky things that don’t work as well in human relationships, he can help you with. He already knows about them anyway!
- Do memorable things together. Create memories that stand out by doing memorable things. Obey him when he calls you to do things out of your comfort zone, when he invites you to things bigger than you.
- Suffer together. Do hard things together. Doing hard things without God is so much more difficult. He’s able to comfort you and guide you in ways human relationships fall short.
- Commit to something you don’t already have. Act in faith. Your relationship with God is perfectly designed to grow your faith, resulting in an ever deepening relationship.
- Be an active listener. Listening well encourages intimacy and is something that you can practice every day. It’s a critical component of your prayer life. If you want to hear God speak, you need to learn how to listen. Another way listening becomes active in your relationship with God is obedience. Obedience is God’s love language and shows that you’re listening to his Word.
- Ask questions. Ask why. Ask silly questions. Ask how you can serve, love, and honor God more fully. Ask the hard questions. Become an expert in asking questions, listening, and taking action on what you learn.
Can you imagine if you put this list into practice, what your relationship with God would look like a year from now?