When you hear the word intimacy what comes to your mind? For many couples I work with, the word intimacy is often connected with sexuality. While sexuality can be an important factor in relationship satisfaction, there are different types of intimacy that impact your relationships.
Emotional intimacy refers to an intimate connection that you create with your partner through the sharing of emotions and vulnerabilities. Emotional intimacy is vital in romantic relationships as it fosters closeness, trust and safety. Lack of emotional intimacy can lead to loneliness and indifference which are detrimental to relationship satisfaction. Common relationship problems can often damage emotional intimacy with your partner such as conflict, withdrawal, impaired communication, and lack of quality time together. Emotional intimacy is different than sexual intimacy while both can be important for your relationship. Focusing on emotional intimacy often improves sexual intimacy in a relationship as well.
Building and maintaining emotional intimacy can he a frightening concept to some, but is almost always beneficial to relationship quality. Building emotional intimacy may take time and often requires patience, understanding and empathy. So here are some tips for increasing emotional intimacy in your relationship:
- Open up and express your feelings: This may be difficult, especially if it is not a common habit for you already. One tip is to utilize “I feel” statements with your partner focusing on the six basic emotions happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.
- Listen to your partner: Try to listen to your partners feelings in an empathetic and non-judgmental way. Remember that “feelings are facts” meaning that you cannot change they way your partner feels about something. It is helpful to utilize active listening by reflecting back what your partner is saying to you.
- Spend uninterrupted quality time together: When life gets busy it can be difficult to remember to foster intimacy through uninterrupted time together. Making quality time a priority is vital in maintaining emotional intimacy.
- Remember to “date” each other: It is common for dating to happen early on in a relationship, but the concept of dating is important throughout the lifespan of a relationship. Taking time to do something special with your partner such as a romantic candle lit dinner or a fun planned activity helps to maintain a foundation of fun and appreciation for each other.
Engaging in activities that build emotional intimacy can be done at home, but can also be part of a therapeutic process with a relationship therapist. If you are having trouble deciding where to start with building emotional intimacy with your partner, there are been board games developed to help couples spark conversations and improve intimacy. See the link below:
NOTE: Due to the vulnerable nature of increasing emotional intimacy, some techniques should not be attempted in cases of abuse or domestic violence. If you are experiencing partner violence please seek out the assistance of a professional before implementing these techniques.
Ellen Spiese, LMFT