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Intimacy is a key part of a happy relationship.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award attgam.ca/workplaceaward.

Registration for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards have closed. Companies can pre-register for 2019 at www.employeerecommended.com.

Bill Howatt will be speaking about mental health at The Globe's Solving Workplace Challenges summit on March 20 in Toronto. Click here to find out more or to register for the event.

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How do you rate your ability to be intimate?

To answer this question, you need to be in a committed relationship. How long you stay in this relationship depends on your ability to be intimate with your partner. Keeping your relationship vibrant and intimate can help you be happier, and that helps you in your life at home and at work.

Intimacy is what converts friendship, dating and romance into love. Many people confuse intimacy with sex. These two words have separate meanings; however, for a long-term, healthy and happy sex life there must be high levels of intimacy.

For intimacy to be authentic both parties must have feelings of equality and trust. When a couple experiences a high level of intimacy their emotional bond strengthens love, contentment and happiness. The higher the perceived levels of intimacy, the greater the pull to want to be together.

Intimacy making is the intentional action of strengthening the emotional bond between two people. It provides the experience, evidence and safety for two people to meet each other's emotional needs. It's the conscious action of strengthening a relationship emotionally.

One sign that intimacy levels are low is when the desire to be with one another is low and both parties are okay with filling their time separately. Long-lasting intimacy is dynamic, requiring commitment, effort and focus. Nothing lasts forever without attention and effort to maintain it – not even intimacy. Maintaining intimacy with the right person isn't hard work; it's highly rewarding and enjoyable.

Awareness

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Three activities that influence intimacy making:

Doing something for your partner – Giving gifts, being helpful and following through on your commitments.

Doing something with your partner – Spending quality time doing activities you both like, and listening to your partner.

Doing something directed at your partner – Avoiding, correcting and judging your partner.

Take a moment and evaluate the percentage of time you engage in each of the above activities.

The most important element for building deep intimacy is doing activities with your partner. This can be walking, talking and sharing. Wanting to share time with another person provides an opportunity to experience life together and to build a long-lasting and caring relationship.

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Doing things for a loved one is nice, but it's important to not try to replace emotional connection with materialism (such as thinking that buying things for another person is enough to prove your commitment). However, acts of kindness and supporting a partner provide evidence of commitment to their happiness.

For intimacy making to happen you must want to spend time with your partner. People who have high levels of intimacy or want to foster it want to be with their partner. Intimacy is a two-way street; the bond to build it requires reciprocation.

Accountability

Intimacy making has no agenda nor defined outcome. There's no expectation that doing something will equal something. Intimacy making with a person we value provides a rush of emotional energy. It's not work, it's pleasure. You know you're in a highly intimate relationship when your emotions change by a simple text, touch or smile. You look forward daily to hearing, touching and seeing the other person.

There's no way to act and fool another person with respect to intimacy. Creating intimacy requires being accountable to yourself. When, or if, intimacy feels like work, it's time to self-evaluate what you want and how fair it is for you and the other person to stay in a relationship.

Action

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Intimacy making strengthens an emotional connection. Actions a couple can take include:

Define what intimacy means – Though it may sound simple, it's helpful to not assume that intimacy has the same meaning for you and your partner. Take an inventory by asking, "What does intimacy mean to you?" Ask for examples of what you both do now that fuels intimacy.

Strengthen the conditions for intimacy making – Once you're clear on the definition, explore what you both are doing well to facilitate intimacy and where there could be improvement. If you find it hard to ask your partner to rate their intimacy level on a scale of one (low) to 10 (high), this may suggest your relationship is not safe, open and transparent. Intimacy has no boundaries. It creates the atmosphere to engage in conversation on any topic both individuals feel safe discussing. Intimacy provides an opportunity for constant learning and sharing of each other's needs and wants. It helps to remove regret, secrets and assumptions that can lead to frustration and relationship breakdowns.

Design your intimacy making plan – Many people fall out of love because they get consumed by their busy and demanding lives, and don't make intimacy making a priority. There's nothing wrong for you as a couple to define what intimacy making is for you. It can help you clarify and make a commitment to intimacy and the time you both expect and want invested in intimacy. This can help to ensure clear expectations, so you know what to do and what time to protect for each other.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

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You can find all the stories in this series at:tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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