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43 Association of the United States Navy without distractions. Put away the cell phone and take the time to work on expressing feelings. Be truthful to yourself and your partner if you want true love. Many of us have a hard time expressing our own feelings because we learned somewhere in our past that other people's feelings are more important than ours. Ignoring your own feelings allows others to ignore them as well. Failing to express your feelings or lying about them creates a disconnect in any relationship. Don't treat your feelings as if they are a fact; they are just your feelings. Try to share your feelings without shaming, blaming or judging, and then be willing to listen to your partner's feelings. Yes, it can be difficult learning how to express yourself without criticizing or blaming your partner, but the reward is that your relationship will grow stronger. I can say without any hesitation that aer 37 years of marriage, my spouse and I have learned the importance of open and honest communication and to fight fair. We stick to the subject, try to understand each other's perspective and are willing to compromise. Joy, humor and laughter are underappreciated values in any healthy relationship. Couples who can make each other laugh are more resil- ient when dealing with crisis in their lives. Study aer study has shown that laughing is good for the soul. But now we know something else: Sharing giggles with a romantic partner keeps the lovey-dovey feelings going. Moments of shared laughter are potent for a relation- ship and bring a couple closer together. Intimacy is fundamental in a healthy relationship. It is about loving, trust and support, accepting and sharing in each other's feelings and being there for each other in a supportive role. Intimacy is words and actions; sharing feelings and experiences. Intimacy can be sexual, but it also can be a reassuring touch, a hug and kiss, tussle of the hair or other displays of affection that are reminders of how much our partner matters in our lives. No matter how much we value our independence, it is nice to know that you are loved and accepted for who you are, despite your faults. Intimacy is showing care and love by opening the door to talking and sharing important hopes and dreams. If you can see areas where you fall short, taking little steps to make changes, and perhaps getting support from a counselor can make a big difference. For many couples, they feel the most intimacy when they are making love. Sexual activity involves trust and the risk of being vulnerable with each other. Intimacy and sex are not the same thing, but they are closely connected. Sex is only one part of intimacy. e closer a couple is in ways other than sex, the more rewarding their sex life oen becomes. When you can share common experiences as well as feelings of happi- ness and excitement, you are helping to create intimacy. Apologies and forgiveness are vital aspects of intimate relation- ships. Saying "I'm sorry" acknowl- edges when a wrong is perceived and empathizes with a partner's hurt feelings. Both apologies and forgiveness are a choice to let go of the past and focus on the present, which allows partners to reconnect and re-establish a sense of safety and empathy in their relationship. It is not always easy to say "I am sorry," but it is a necessary component to a long-term, healthy relationship. Finally, in healthy relationships partners under- stand the importance of quality time with each other, but equally important is time for them to do something they enjoy independently. Time alone allows couples space to process their thoughts and pursue hobbies their partner might not enjoy. Having time apart is extremely healthy and encourages each person to maintain their own sense of identity while still being a couple. It fosters independence and strength, rather than neediness and clinginess. Reflect on your own forgotten hobbies, and dive into personal pursuits that unleash your passions and unique gis. Whether it's playing a musical instrument, baking or bowling, allow yourself some time to enjoy life apart from your partner. You may discover you feel renewed and refreshed as a couple. Kathryn M. Serbin, DNP, MS, BSN, CCM, is a retired captain who served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. Sex is only one part of intimacy. e closer a couple is in ways other than sex, the more rewarding their sex life oen becomes.

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