If someone mentions intimacy, your brain probably goes straight to physical intimacy. And we’d say that’s a fairly standard response. But while the physical is definitely important, sex is only one form of it. Emotional intimacy is also crucial to the health of a relationship. In fact, a lack or loss of emotional closeness and understanding is often the first thing people notice when a relationship starts to go south. So, how do you build emotional intimacy? That’s a loaded topic, so let’s unpack.
What is emotional intimacy?
It helps to start with a definition of emotional intimacy. Like physical closeness, what exactly constitutes a level of intimacy varies — but, in a nutshell, it’s the ability in a relationship to communicate your feelings in a way that reflects the fact you care.
How do you overcome emotional intimacy issues?
Emotional intimacy requires vulnerability. So, when someone in a relationship has a fear of vulnerability, it creates a major obstacle. The key, then, is addressing the root issue: that inability to let go and be emotionally vulnerable and fully available to your partner.
Happily, there are several ways you can increase and foster those feelings. If you feel like you and your partner’s emotional intimacy needs a little CPR, resuscitate it with a little concentrated care by pouring your love, trust, and care into the person you’re with. Be supportive of their endeavors. Ask questions and actually wait to hear what they have to say. But also, don’t be afraid to share your innermost thoughts — with or without prompting. Set boundaries with screen time so the quality of your time with the other person improves. And carve out intentional time together, whether it’s to enjoy a cup of coffee and talk or just go for a walk.
Self-care is also a surprisingly critical element of building emotional intimacy. How can you show up for your partner if you can’t show up for yourself? A strong relationship is one in which two individuals with their own lives and interests share a balanced level of interdependency.
Can you have emotional intimacy in friendship?
Yes! Since emotional intimacy describes being deeply connected to another person who you can reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings to (and vice versa), you can have it in platonic relationships. In fact, you might find that deeper level of connection with your friends easier than in a romantic relationship — this can be especially true for women.
How do you rebuild emotional intimacy?
Let’s say you’re in a relationship that you feel confident you’ve enjoyed emotional intimacy before, but now you feel as though it’s lacking. You’ve grown apart. Gone are the late nights bearing your souls to each other. First things first, you should try to pencil in more time with your person. More quality time together gives you more opportunities to rebuild that attachment and rapport you’re now missing.
Look at your local community centers, civic organizations, or churches for couple-centric event and activities. Small-group get-togethers and couples’ retreats could be fun ways to reconnect.
However, if you’ve reached a point where you’re at chronic conflict with your partner, you have to resolve the root of that conflict to rebuild emotional intimacy. In these instances, it may be helpful to try couples’ counseling — a neutral third-party might be able to help you both break down your baggage to find your way back to each other. There’s no shame in seeking help when you need it.