How To Be Intentional With Your Partner
Do you ever find yourself feeling lonely, despite being in a romantic relationship? Or maybe you don’t feel lonely but you feel disconnected, sad, or like there’s something missing between you and your partner? If so, you’re not alone! This is extremely common and something that most couples will experience at some point in their relationship. These feelings could indicate that action is needed for you both to become more intentional with each other.
The question is, how to be intentional with your partner? A great place to start is to get clarity on what you both want and need from the relationship. Then, agree on a way you’ll work together to achieve that. From there, continuously check in with each other to modify that agreement, as needed.
In this article, we’ll help you better understand how to be intentional with your partner, along with actionable tips and practical ways to help you navigate these discussions together.
Table of Contents
What Is Being Intentional In A Relationship?
In a recent article, I shared tips for how to live with intention. Being intentional in a relationship is very similar to living intentionally. To do it well, you have to:
- Understand what’s most important to you in your relationship
- Clearly communicate with your partner about your wants and needs
- Come to a mutual agreement for how your wants and needs will be fulfilled in the relationship
- Continuously evaluate how well your agreements are working and adjust your approach, if necessary
It’s important to remember that both partners should have an equal voice in these meaningful conversations. Even if one partner is the one seeking this more intentional approach, it’s important to make room in the discussion for both of you to share your thoughts and feelings on each of the bullets above.
It’s also pivotal that you have flexibility and be open to different ways of achieving the results you want. There’s no right way to spend intentional time together. In fact, it may take several attempts and lots of trial and error before you figure out the best approach for you and your relationship.
How Do You Show Intentional Love?
Intentional love is best shown through understanding and well-honed effort. You continuously seek to understand what your partner needs and how you can give that to them, and then you make a conscious effort to provide that in the best way possible.
One of the biggest mistakes any of us makes while interacting with other people is to assume others think the same way we do and, thereby, also assuming we know exactly what they want and need. This can be especially challenging in relationships because, presumably, you do know your partner well so that must make it easier to understand them, right?
I can attest to that from my own personal experience. After 10 years of marriage, I still find myself learning new things about my husband and I’m sure it’s the same for him. After all, people are not stagnant creatures. We grow, change, and adapt continuously throughout our lives so it makes sense that our needs and wants will also change over time.
So how do you strive to understand your partner? Put simply, you have intentional conversations in which you ask questions. If you knew nothing at all about your partner, what questions would you ask them to better understand what they’re asking for?
Not sure where to begin? There are a few key areas you can focus on right away that are sure to round out the quality of your relationship, how you can support each other, and, how you can show intentional love:
- Understand your partner’s love language. Not familiar with the concept of love languages? Learn more about them here and you can even take a quick quiz to understand yours! Does your partner’s love language align with yours? If it doesn’t, ask them what you can do differently to show them you love and care about them.
- Understand how your partner reacts to stress. What stresses them out? When they’re stressed do they eat more? Are they quicker to anger or emotion? How can you recognize stress in them without them having to tell you? When they are stressed, what helps? How could you support that and offer it to them proactively?
- Understand your partner’s values. What’s most important to them? How is that different from your own values? How is it similar? Once you know this you can better understand why they ask for certain things.
- Understand how your partner enjoys themselves. What fulfills them? What helps them decompress or relax? What brings them joy? Knowing this will help you proactively introduce more of these things into your relationship.
Remember back at the beginning of this article when I mentioned that it’s important to continuously evaluate how things are going and adjust accordingly? That step makes a huge difference when navigating this concept of understanding and effort. This is a process of trial and error. Even if you understand what stresses your partner out, for example, that doesn’t mean the first thing you try to help them de-stress will work well. If it doesn’t, take time to ask what didn’t work and what you can do differently the next time.
And just as it’s important for each of you to make an effort here, it’s just as important that those efforts be recognized. Showing appreciation for effort made, even if it didn’t have the intended result, goes a long way in ensuring your partner will keep trying. That appreciation is also critical for YOU as the recipient of that effort. Every attempt to be intentional, no matter the result, is an indication of how much your partner loves and cares for you. Take time to enjoy that.
What Is A Healthy Amount Of Time To Spend With Your Partner?
The answer to this will be different for every relationship. And even more important than the amount of time spent is the quality of the time you spend together. If it’s low-quality time, it’s actually possible to spend enough time together and still feel unsatisfied or unloved.
The best way to judge what is a healthy amount of time to spend with your partner is to evaluate your own thoughts and feelings.
You may need more quality time with your partner if:
- You feel bored or disconnected from your significant other
- You feel a lack of excitement thinking of the time you do spend together
- You can’t remember the last time you did something fun with each other
- You struggle to remember what you once had in common
- You find yourself thinking that your partner feels more like a roommate than a significant other
- You feel disconnected from what’s happening in their life or that they’re disconnected from what’s happening in yours
- You feel lonely even when you’re in the same space as your partner
- You are not particularly excited to spend time with them
One thing to note here is that the signs above may not indicate only that you need more quality time with your partner. They could also indicate that you need more quality time for yourself, doing things that are important to you.
A good indicator that this may be part of your challenge is if you also:
- Struggle to find anything to talk about with your partner
- Feel bored or disconnected with life in general
- Can’t remember the last time you did something you really enjoy
- Have hobbies, interests, or friends you haven’t engaged with in a while
Healthy relationships are the ones where you have a strong balance between quality time with each other and quality time for yourself.
Sure signs that you’ve reached that healthy amount of quality time together include:
- You’re excited to share your daily life with your partner
- Thinking back on recent time you’ve spent together or apart brings a smile to your face
- You’re looking forward to regular date nights, whatever that looks like for you, and spending more time together
- You have plenty of topics to talk about
- The time you do spend together feels effortless and easy
How Do You Tell Your Partner You Want To Spend More Time Together?
If you’ve been feeling lonely, frustrated, or disconnected with your partner it can be easy to fall into blame mode and focus on all the reasons you think your challenges are their fault. But the reality is that difficulties in a relationship are rarely the fault of only one person. And going into hard conversations like this with blame or judgment will rarely result in a productive conversation.
Instead, try focusing on what you can both do differently and what you hope you’ll both gain from the change. Framing it as an effort on both sides – which it will be – acknowledges the need for both of you to equally participate.
It can also be helpful to focus the conversation around a specific change you’re hoping to see. Plan to come with an idea or two in mind while also being open to their suggestions. Below are some examples of conversation starters that might help:
- I’d like to get out of the house to do more fun things together. What do you think about aiming for one out-of-the house night a week?
- I’d love to have some dedicated “us” time every night where we’re not distracted. What do you think about putting our phones away during dinner so we can catch up on each other’s day?
- I really miss how nice it is when we’re cuddled up together. What do you think about planning to always cuddle up when we watch our favorite show?
- Remember when we used to go for walks together when we first started dating? I really miss that. What if we tried going for a walk after dinner each night?
If this more subtle way of approaching the subject doesn’t seem to work, then it may be time to have more of a heart-to-heart. Let your partner know how you’re feeling while also making sure they know you love and care about them. While still avoiding blame or judgment as much as possible, let them know very directly that you think a change is needed and invite them to work with you to figure out a solution that you can both try.
How Can I Spend Intentional Time With My Partner?
Once you’ve established the goal of the quality time you’re looking for, it’s time to start coming up with intentional ways to spend time with your partner.
A great way to do this is to answer the “5 W’s:” Who, What, When, Where, and Why as they pertain to your specific request. These questions can take a few different forms, depending on the situation and may spark additional questions to consider. For example, say it’s important to you that you have some dedicated time together without phones or other devices distracting you. The 5 W’s might look like:
- Who anticipates having a harder time with this? Why is that and what are some challenges you might anticipate, as a result? How will you address those hurdles as they occur?
- What does this device-free time look like? Does it just include phones or does it include television too? Can devices be used if they’re contributing to the time? For example, maybe your phone provides music during this time or maybe you can look at your phone to answer a question but then quickly put it away.
- When will this device-free time occur? Would you like it to be a daily occurrence? To last a certain amount of time? To occur at a certain time of day, such as during a meal?
- Where would this most effectively be put into practice? Maybe this aligns with your “when.” If you want your device-free time to be over dinner then the dinner table would be a reasonable location. Or maybe it’s easier to walk your significant other in your neighborhood after dinner so you’re less tempted by the television.
- Why is spending device-free time together important to you? Why do you believe this will fulfill what you’re looking for?
Wrapping It Up
Once you’ve settled on a plan to be more intentional with your partner, you may think all the hard work is done, but really it’s just the beginning. At the end of the day, this is a new habit you’re building and, just like any other habit, it will take time to establish it and even more time to fine-tune it.
During this “establishment” period, be gentle with each other. Especially at the beginning, you’ll need to remind each other what you agreed to. If things don’t seem to be working at first, then don’t give up. That’s simply an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and tweak the plan to try something different.
And remember, you’re never alone! If you need help being more intentional with your partner, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help!
If you still feel lost or unsure how to begin, then there may be deeper feelings and issues to work through. You’re always welcome to schedule time with me so we can discuss how we might work together to help you reach the greater intimacy and intentional relationship you’ve been looking for!