Feb 20, 2024

Cultivating Emotional Intimacy: Connecting on a Deeper Level

Emotional intimacy looks different in every relationship. It can be long conversations about your feelings, or it can be trying new things your partner suggests (even if it’s not something you would normally do). It can be talking about each other’s days, helping one another to feel safe and validated or, just making time for your relationship. So, what is emotional intimacy anyways (other than another term that becomes trendy in the therapy community)? Well, it’s a close, emotional bond characterized by mutual understanding, trust, vulnerability and communication. It is often described as the feeling of being “In Sync” with someone else.

Research has shown that couples who have more emotional intimacy feel more satisfied and fulfilled in their relationships. But emotional intimacy can slip away, often without being noticed. Some signs that it’s time to work on emotional intimacy include: feeling disconnected, lack of physical connection or intimacy, increased conflicts and arguments, feelings of loneliness in the relationship, or even a breakdown in trust. If you’re starting to notice any or all of these signs, chances are that working on increasing emotional intimacy in the relationship dynamic is a good place to start.

So, how do you begin to work on developing emotional intimacy? I’ve got a few ideas.

Share Your True Feelings and Thoughts

It all comes from a place of intention, and if you truly want to be intimate, you have to also be vulnerable. Embracing vulnerability may initially seem daunting, fearing the impact of your honesty on your partner or dreading their potential reaction. However, fostering a genuine connection requires the courage to share your true feelings and thoughts, an essential step for the well-being of the relationship as a whole.

Remain Open

Remaining open is paramount in the journey toward emotional intimacy. Be receptive to your partner’s feelings and attentively observe their response to your emotions. Their perspective may offer crucial context, allowing you to understand them better, and fortifying the emotional bond between you.

Listen to Listen

Don’t listen to hear; listen to understand.  Prioritize understanding your partner’s experiences, delving into the layers of their thoughts and feelings before formulating a response. This intentional act of listening fosters a deeper connection, transcending surface-level interactions. While you want to hear what your partner has to say, you more importantly want to understand how they feel.

Validate and Appreciate

Validation and appreciation play pivotal roles in nurturing emotional intimacy. Acknowledge and validate your partner’s feelings, reinforcing the understanding that their emotions are acknowledged and respected. Validating one’s feelings allows a person to know he/she feels seen and heard.

The Obligatory ‘Turn Off The Tech’

I know, I know, as cliche as it is, it has to be said. Even if you’re spending time with your partner, if technology is intruding on your time together, the quality of your time together is being impacted. Nowadays, it seems everybody needs to sleep with their phone next to them, for excuses such as, “I need it so I can hear my alarm” or “What if it is an important call I miss?”  Even a small alteration like leaving your phone across the room from you will likely decrease the chances you stray from a conversation with your partner, because you won’t be as prompted by the noise of the phone or the light when the phone gets an alert. 

Balance Between Self and Couple

While immersed in the relationship, it’s essential to recognize and honor your individual identity. Maintaining this equilibrium ensures that both partners flourish independently, contributing to a more robust and harmonious relationship as a whole. Remember, you and your partner were attracted to each other because of who you were before you even met – don’t lose that part of you. 

Put Together a “Fun List”

The idea of putting together a “fun list” is to inject some excitement into the relationship, and reduce some of the friction around finding ways to spend time together (think about the dreaded, “I don’t know, what do you want to eat?”) Collaboratively create a list of activities you might like to do together, fostering shared interests and building memories. This intentional effort to add joy to your time together might help lighten the load week to week, so that you can focus on having fun in each others’ company. Then, when you have some free time open up on your calendar, you can refer to your list so you don’t have to go searching for ideas. 

Try New Traditions

Explore and establish rituals or activities that are uniquely yours, creating a sense of shared history and continuity. Some ideas might be pizza night at home on Fridays, taking a class together, or setting your alarm 15 minutes early to squeeze in early morning cuddles on Monday morning.

In my experience…

As a couples therapist in Los Angeles, I’ve noticed lots of couples lose out on emotional intimacy in keeping up with the fast-paced LA lifestyle. People are so worried about the “cool new thing” or making sure they “don’t miss out on something,” that they lose a sense of individuality and uniqueness.  I’ve also worked with many couples as they intentionally give this necessary effort a full commitment.  If a relationship doesn’t change and grow it, like anything, can become stale and mundane.  However, by trying new things together, being around other people and learning and expanding your knowledge set, can help your relationship evolve in ways you may have never thought possible.