"I miss my young legs," one of my patients told me once. "I never had to work out." I know what she means. Midlife involves a lot of maintenance, but it's important to put in the effort for things we care about.
Intimacy is one of those things—or at least I hope it is for you. The deep winter months may be the best season to work on it because life slows down a bit.
One way to strengthen the feeling of emotional closeness with a significant other is to spend time alone together, doing a mix of things you know you both enjoy and new things that might push you outside your comfort zone. As Esther Perel explains so well, relationships thrive when there's a good balance of familiarity/safety and novelty/risk.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Try something outdoors, like hiking, cross country skiing, ice skating, biking or rock climbing.
- Go for a walk—or a drive, if the weather is bad—and talk about stuff other than your obligations for the week and your kids! Story Corps has a great list of questions for anyone. Mutual vulnerability fosters closeness, as we know from the "36 Questions" research.
- Take a dance class, or a continuing education class in history or psychology or anything else. During the pandemic, you may need to do this virtually, but there are lots of online opportunities. You'll learn something new (together!) and a class has the additional advantage of being a standing commitment you'll both schedule around.
- Be a tourist in your own backyard. Go to a museum or a landmark that you haven't visited before. Talk about how you ended up living in the area and where else you might have lived—or might want to live in the future.
- Create a treasure hunt that has clues (and stops) specific to your relationship. (If you think that one of your stops might inspire a quickie, throw in some lube and a travel pack of baby wipes for easy cleanup.)
You can come up with lots more ideas that would be perfectly suited to you and your beloved. It just takes time and intention. Happy wintering!
Barb DePree, MD, has been a gynecologist for 30 years, specializing in menopause care for the past 10. Dr. DePree was named the Certified Menopause Practitioner of the Year in 2013 by the North American Menopause Society. The award particularly recognized the outreach, communication and education she does throughMiddlesexMD, a website she founded and where this blog first appeared. She also is director of the Women's Midlife Services at Holland Hospital, Holland, Michigan.