Some things in life, like snagging a kick-ass job or sculpting a killer bod, are seriously labor-intensive. Thankfully, forging a deeper connection with the man in your life isn’t one of them. In fact, the typical over-the-top romantic gestures that many chicks rely on to fuse their relationships usually end up fizzling, says Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., author of Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way. “Many women equate intimacy with sentimentality,” she claims. “But instead of pulling him closer, that kind of forced display puts unnecessary pressure on him and makes him feel smothered. True bonding happens when you’re not trying to push it.”
Here, we uncovered 15 subtle and surprising ways you can bolster a blissful connection. Crib these couple fortifiers, and trust us, he will feel the love.
Get Out of Your Element
Escape your safe routine and put your-selves in a new environment—whether it’s traveling to another country where neither of you speaks the language or watching a foreign film where you’re just as lost. This builds intimacy because you’re in a situation where you’re acting as each other’s comfort zone. “So you’re more likely to lean on each other, and tehre’s a greater sense of team-work and sharing,” says Perry.
Savor the Silence
As the gabbier gender, women often scramble to fill inevitable conversation lulls. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave room for spontaneous intimacy-sparking expression. Angela, 25, discovered that granting her man mental space brought them closer. “One morning, Jon and I were having breakfast together,” she says. “We hadn’t spoken because we were both dog tired. Then Jon refilled my coffee cup because it was almost empty and smiled. I felt like we were so comfortable that we didn’t have to say a thing.”
Be Sensually Physical
Sometimes we get so caught up in the pleasures of sexual contact that we forget how powerful and reinforcing touch outside the bedroom can be, says Betty Witcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Peace College in North Carolina. To foster that noncarnal closeness, give him a scalp massage while you’re watching television or gently drape your arms around him in the morning and help him adjust his tie. “This kind of touch will help him feel less stressed and more relaxed with you,” she explains.
Call Him by His Name
Sounds like a no-brainer, but think about it: How often do you use your guy’s name when chatting? Hearing his moniker gives him a subconscious shot of positive reinforcement, says Perry. So peppering your convos with his name shows that you’re focused solely on him.
Learn a Sexy Dance Together
Whether it’s the tango or the mambo, busting out some hot moves gives your twosome a one-two punch: You’re working as a unit, and your bodies are getting an erotic rush. If you can’t get him to cut loose in public, rent an instructional video and have a blast dirty dancing in your living room.
Anticipate His Needs
To reach a deeper stage of bonded bliss, try giving him what he wants before he asks for it. Rona, 30, proves that you don’t need to be psychic—just aware. “When I first met Nell, I noticed that he practically mainlined caffeine in the morning,” she says. “Since I usually wake up before he does, I brew a pot so it’s waiting for him.” Perry notes that this shows consideration and attentiveness, which can only make him appreciate you more and fuse you as a couple.
Sleep Naked with Him
Regular nocturnal nudity is a sensual way to feel comfortable in your skin together. And shocker! Dudes dig it. “Anne and I sleep without a stitch on,” says Joey, 26. “I love it even when it’s totally innocent because it feels so intimate. There is literally nothing between us.”
Tell Him a Secret Few People Know About You
Revealing another layer of yourself—even if it’s less than flattering—will jell you as a couple. “There’s something intrinsically bonding about sharing secret details about yourself,” explains Perry. “You’re showing vulnerability and trust. Men appreciate that, and it makes them more apt to offer up candid details about themselves.”
Tune in to His Tastes
A big part of feeling connected is keeping your antenna up for his unique interests. “My boyfriend loves classic pulp-fiction novels,” says Haydee, 25. “He has one book that’s so old, the cover ripped. I found an art Web site that had poster-size prints of book covers and bought him a framed print of the cover of his favorite novel for his birthday. He was beyond thrilled.”
Get Your Speech in Sync
Most people have a dominant sense: visual, auditory, or tactile. Echoing words that reflect his dominant sense can work wonders, says Anne H. Rambo, Ph. D., a therapist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Start by listening to what he says. For instance, if he usually utters phrases like “I see what you mean,” he’s a visual person. An auditory guy will say such things as “Can you hear me?” And the tactile type might state, “I have to get a better feel of it.” Try using the same technique in your conversation. Since you’re literally speaking the same language, he’ll feel that you’re mentally matched.
Share a Common Goal
Teaming up to accomplish a mutual task will reinforce your commitment as a couple, whether you’re striving to save money for a week in Davao or just trying to clean the house one afternoon. “My boyfriend and I were becoming major couch potatoes, so we decided to take a tae kwon do class two times a week,” says Regina, 26. “Pushing ourselves and supporting each other brought us closer.”
Let Him See You at Work
Being privy to how you can on the job will give him access to a whole new side of you. “Most of us never see our partners at work,” says Rambo. “Men in particular are often amazed by how competent their female partners are.” And it doesn’t have to be staged, notes Laura, 22, a hostess for a busy bistro. “Julian teases me about how stressed I can get,” she says. “then he came by to pick me up at work just as I was dealing with a customer from hell. It showed him I could handle myself in a sticky situation. He still brags to people about how I dealt with that witch.”
Mind Your Manners
Many couples destroy their bonding potential by becoming lazy about common courtesy. “People confuse intimacy with rudeness,” says Rambo. “Some couples are nicer to strangers than they are to each other.” So don’t become a total etiquette slacker, advises Lynn, 24. “Whenever Raul and I are hanging out at home, I always ask if he wants something to drink when I head to the kitchen,” she says. “It’s a simple gesture, but I know he appreciates it.”
Get Snap Happy
Take more pictures of each other. Having a camera handy gives you the opportunity to mug for the lens, and you can bond while poring over them later.
Put Him Back on the Top of Your Priority List
Take inventory of some of the things you used to do as a duo, says Perry. For instance, if you regularly met for luch once a week and you’ve let that ritual slide, make it a point to resurrect it. He’ll feel important and it will give you back coveted quality time.
Are You Causing a Rift?
Make sure you’re not guilty of any of these four stealthy love busters.
* Going too easy on him. So he flaked on plans (again) and you let him off the hook. But when you don’t call him on his bad behavior, he returns the favor by treating you like a doormat.
* Never seeking his counsel. How many guys can resist a take-charge, super-independent woman who rarely needs his advice? Lots. Asking for his ear makes him feel needed, not burdened.
* Overindulging him. Always letting him pick the restaurant, rule the remote, or grab the last slice of pizza won’t win you any girlfriend awards. Guys need to feel challenged to stay interested.
* Teasing him in front of his buddies. Men rag on each other in public as a show of affection. But a jab from you makes him feel emasculated.
Not all guys are same mare
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