I think one of the most important, and least talked about, ways to promote intimacy in marriage is to show up together as a team. It’s the small ways throughout the day that a couple works together to collaborate toward shared goals, and to support each other in individual goals, that makes them feel as though they are really connected. Taking notice of each other’s burdens and showing up to give a hand is a huge way to establish a sense of connection, intimacy, and even romance.
Lately, I’ve noticed that my husband and I have gotten so adjusted to teamwork that we even have silent ways we show up for each other. These are things we do that neither of us ask or give praise for. We just do them because we know each other’s routines, understand each other’s burdens, and try our best to provide support where we can.
Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed us doing for each other lately. I’m not saying other couples should do exactly these things. This is just what works for us, based on our family and household needs. Think of this list as Inspo. What can you take away or build upon that helps you and your partner show up better for each other in silent, unspoken ways?
When my husband takes out the trash, I put a new bag in the can while he’s out.
My husband’s ADHD causes him to struggle with multistep tasks. He is always on top of taking out the trash, but he often fails to remember to put a new trash bag back in the bin. This creates frustration for him later when he has a handful of garbage and no bag to put it in. If possible, when I see him taking out the trash, I stop what I’m doing and replace the bag while he’s still out. It’s a small thing, something I’m not even sure he knows I do. But I know it makes a difference for him, and that makes me smile.
My husband lays out my anti-anxiety meds and a glass of water for me every morning, without fail.
It is unclear to me why I have such a mental hang-up about taking my medicine, but it’s something I just cannot remember to do. If I miss even one dose of my SSRI, I will be utterly exhausted the next day. My husband knows I can’t stand that feeling, and he knows how much I struggle with remembering to take the pill. So, each morning I find my planner open to that day’s To-Do list, with my SSRI and a glass of water sitting beside it.
We have learned each other’s cues for when we are getting overwhelmed by the children, and we naturally step in without having to be asked.
My husband and I have different triggers when it comes to the kids. We’ve found a natural rhythm of letting each other parent the way we both prefer to parent, while also knowing when to take over. My son’s anxiety is enormously triggering for me because I struggle with anxiety myself. When he gets anxious, and I start getting snippy as a result, Charlie steps in to calm and soothe him while I get myself regulated again. By the same token, my husband is really triggered by the loud noises our kids make sometimes. When I see that he is at his limit, I redirect the kids into quieter play so that he can calm down.
I clean up clutter; he cleans surfaces.
I don’t know exactly when we fell into this routine, but it works so well for us. We both prefer a clean home, but we have our own hang-ups about what kind of housework we like to do. I can’t stand cleaning surfaces. Getting cleaners and soapy water on my hands triggers my sensory issues and I get super grossed out. Charlie, on the other hand, doesn’t like cleaning clutter. Because of his ADHD, he gets easily overwhelmed by having to find a home for everything. So, without saying a word to each other about it, we both fell into a groove of doing the chores that we know the other isn’t keen on doing.
I bring coffee and snacks to my husband when he has a busy day of back to back phone calls.
He works from home, and often he is confined to his very small office (which is actually a closet we converted into a makeshift office). Most days, he finds himself on back to back phone calls that don’t leave him many opportunities to leave his desk. I try to make sure to bring him coffee, snacks, and even lunch when I can, sneaking it through the door so that he has sustenance to get him through his long day.
My husband listens for when I’ve begun my cooldown ride on my Peloton and starts my bath as soon as he hears it.
This is by far my most favorite thing he does. He has learned that I always like to get straight into the bath tub after my rides. So, when he hears the 5-minute cool down begin, he goes straight to the bathroom and starts the water running. When I get off the bike, I find a bubble bath all prepared, along with my water, reading glasses, and book sitting on the wooden bathtub shelf he made for me.
I love all these little things we do to show up for each other. Through these small acts of love, we communicate something deeper:
I recognize your struggles, and want to help you with them.
I know you well enough to anticipate your needs, and I take care of them ahead of time.
I am watching you throughout your day; I notice what you go through.
I am your partner; you will never have to feel like you’re doing it alone.
Our intimacy, our romance, our love for each other grow as we show up for each other in these small, yet enormous ways. It’s so easy to fall into the opposite mindset — to take our partner for granted and get lost in our own inner worlds. But if we make time to notice each other, to anticipate each other’s needs and show up to meet them before the needs arise, we create a world together. And that world is far more beautiful than the one we create on our own.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.