Active listening makes your mate feel worthy, appreciated, interesting, and respected. Besides the physical act of sex itself, it is one of the most important things you can do to solidify your friendship and strengthen intimacy.

When active listening occurs, ordinary conversations emerge on a deeper level, and so does the relationship.

Here are some tips for active listening:

1. Face your mate. Sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language.

2. Maintain eye contact.

3. Minimize external distractions. Turn off the TV. Put down your book or magazine, and ask your mate to do the same.

4. Respond appropriately to show that you understand. Murmur ("uh-huh" and "um-hmm") and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Use words such as "really," and "interesting," as well as more direct prompts: "What did you do then?" and "How did that go?"

5. Focus solely on what your mate is saying. (And this is the hard one...) Try not to think about what you are going to say next.

6. Minimize internal distractions. If your own thoughts keep horning in, simply let them go and continuously re-focus your attention on your mate.

7. Keep an open mind. Wait until your mate is finished with his thought before deciding that you disagree. Try not to make assumptions about what he's thinking.

8. Avoid letting the speaker know how you handled a similar situation. Unless she specifically asks for advice, assume she just needs to talk it out.

9. Even if the speaker is launching a complaint against you, wait until he finishes to defend yourself. And avoid responding to a complaint with a complaint of your own.

10. Engage yourself. Ask questions for clarification, but, once again, wait until the speaker has finished. After you ask questions, paraphrase the speaker's point to make sure you didn't misunderstand. Start with: "So you're saying..."

As you work on developing your active listening skills, you may feel a bit panicky when there is a natural pause in the conversation. With practice, it will become easier for you to settle into the silence and to use those natural pauses to better understand your mate's point of view.

Author's Bio: 

Susie Cortright is the author of Rekindling Your Romance After Kids - and More Energy for Moms - - a mind-body-spirit fitness program and community. Susie is also the founder of the award-winning, a website designed to help busy parents find balance. Visit today and get Susie's free course-by-email, "Six Days to Less Stress."