Reader’s Request Fridays: How To Connect Quickly

August 24,2012

Today marks the first installation of Reader’s Request Fridays. As a reminder, I’ll be addressing one reader email per week, so if you have a specific question you’d like answered or a topic you’d like covered, please email me at vmarintherapy@gmail.com. If you’re interested in counseling, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to schedule a consultation.

This week, I received an email from a male reader who writes,

“My girlfriend and I both have stressful jobs. When we get home at the end of the day, we’re both exhausted and don’t have the energy to do much other than scarf down food and watch a bit of TV before passing out. I feel guilty, but I’m also so tired. Any suggestions for a quick and simple way to connect?

– “Mark”*

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your question. I hear this sort of issue frequently from couples. Life can get so busy that it can be hard to make time for ourselves, and harder still to even consider making time for another person. A few sessions of couples counseling could help you and your girlfriend learn how to better manage time separately and apart, and how to communicate about your ability – or inability – to be open for contact. For now, here’s one easy exercise you can try at the end of a long day: Set up a comfortable space to sit with each other. You may want to choose on your bed, on the sofa, or even on some cushions on the floor. You can also light some candles, turn down the lights, or play some music. Sit facing each other, as close to each other as feels comfortable. Close your eyes, and take a few moments to individually check in with yourselves. Notice if you feel stressed or tired, if your body feels heavy, or if there are any other emotions, sensations, or images present. When you feel ready, open your eyes and look into your girlfriend’s eyes. Maintain eye contact for at least five minutes, without talking. Try to take in as many details about the experience as possible. Look at the color of her eyes, the darkness of her irises, her eyelashes, and the folds of skin surrounding her eyes. Notice what it feels like to be looked at by her. See if it triggers any emotions, thoughts, or memories. Take deep, even breaths. You may feel the urge to smile or laugh; that’s fine, but try to take a few deep breaths and return to eye contact when you can. When you feel ready to break contact, close your eyes and take another moment to check in with yourself.

I’m suggesting this exercise for you and your girlfriend because making eye contact is one of the quickest and easiest ways to feel connected to another person. Sadly, it also tends to be something that couples forget about. Looking into the eyes of someone you love can be profoundly evocative. You might feel vulnerable, safe, happy, nostalgic, calm, enlivened, silly, flirtatious, in love, or loved. Even if you only have a few moments of spare time, or the tiniest sliver of energy, making eye contact with your partner is a great way to feel connected. I hope this helps, and please keep me updated!

*Names have been changed for privacy

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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

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