A healthy relationship requires both physical (sexual) intimacy as well as emotional intimacy. Some types of physical intimacy can feel emotionally intimate, but there’s no replacing the real thing. Emotional intimacy can lead to a strong, healthy, happy, romantic relationship that can last for many, many years.
Emotional intimacy can be expressed verbally and in nonverbal ways.
Here are signs of emotional intimacy:
- Talking to one another
- Working on problems
- Being honest
- Laughing together
Here is how to become more emotionally intimate.
1. BIG PICTURE THINKING ABOUT BOTH YOUR WANTS AND NEEDS
Everybody has wants and needs in a relationship. We aren’t talking about expensive items. What we mean are the things that make you feel happy, secure, and comfortable in a relationship. You must first know what your wants and needs are before you can communicate them to your man. This is your job to do. Once you know what your wants and needs are, you need to be able to tell them to your man, and he needs to listen to you and to be willing to help give you what you want and need to be happy, secure, and comfortable in the relationship. And the same goes for you. You need to do all this for your man as well.
This guide to sexual communication can give you some ideas how to talk about what you need, even if those things aren’t related to sex.
2. DISCUSSIONS THAT SOLVE PROBLEMS
When there’s a problem in the relationship, or when there’s a big decision to be made, there are ways to solve the problem or make the decision that leads to emotional intimacy. A big part of this is learning to negotiate. When you negotiate, you have a back-and-forth communication with the goal of solving a problem or reaching an agreement. You can’t just stick with your position and refuse to budge if you want to solve the problem and maintain emotional intimacy.
If you stick only ever with your position, there will be one winner and one loser, and there will be anger and hurt feelings on the part of the loser. You both need to be flexible, listen to each other, grant concessions, and ultimately reach an agreement that you both can live with if you want true emotional intimacy. You do this by considering different options and keeping an open mind.
On the other hand, it’s just as harmful to avoid your problems.
3. GETTING RID OF EGO
When you’re trying to achieve emotional intimacy with your partner, you need to get off your high horse and not be offended by every little thing he has to say. You also need to stop trying to be right all the time and to get rid of any superior attitude you might have. Maybe you’re doing something destructive in the relationship, such as giving him the silent treatment. If he points out how destructive this is, instead of being offended by the criticism or defending yourself, take in what he has to say. He might very well have done something that warrants the silent treatment in your mind, but he’s probably right that the silent treatment isn’t the best way to handle the situation.
You need to let go of your ego to let someone in to develop emotional intimacy. Otherwise you could wind up with a toxic relationship. Read more about that here.
4. BEING MORE SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR PARTNER
Supporting your partner means that you’re on his side when something goes wrong and that you have his back. You might not agree with his decision-making that led to the problem, but you can listen to him and can let him know that you’re there to help him get through it. Or if you can’t help, you can let him know that you will be his soft place to fall.
5. NOT KEEPING SCORE OR COMPETING WITH YOUR PARTNER
Have you ever noticed that celebrity couples break up a lot? One possible reason is that they’re in the same profession and whether they intend to or not, they’re competing with each other. If one person’s career takes off and the other’s doesn’t, there can be some tension, envy, and jealousy. Some couples can’t deal with it and break up. The goal for emotional intimacy is to be a team and to go through life together, holding hands so to speak, and take on life as a couple rather than competing.
Another problem some couples get into is keeping score, thinking that a relationship should be 50-50, and once they’ve done enough, they can stop and wait for the other to catch up. That’s the wrong mindset. People in strong relationships want to give 100 percent to the relationship. There’s no keeping score. There’s just a genuine desire to make the other person happy. Keeping score is just one of several signs of an unhealthy relationship.
6. BEING GRATEFUL AND EXPRESSING IT
Expressing your gratitude for things in your life will make you happier, and expressing gratitude for the things your partner does for you will make both of you happier. One way to express your gratitude to your partner is to write down every day something he did for you that you’re grateful for. Just doing that can make you happier. And then telling him will lead the way to emotional intimacy.
You should also express gratitude to others. It’ll probably get back to your partner, but it’s not healthy to only discuss your relationship problems with your friends and family. Here’s why.
7. ACCEPTING DIFFERENCES
After you’ve been together for a while, the things you once found cute or charming now start to drive you nuts. Or maybe you never liked certain things about your man at first, but you overlooked them and focused only on the good things. You also knew that if you started criticizing him right away, there might never be a relationship.
Many couples then feel free to start the criticisms after they feel secure in a relationship. If you criticize, expect him to do the same with you. This is not the way toward emotional intimacy. It’s the way to a power struggle, though.
When you wish to be emotionally intimate, you need to practice unconditional love, and that means stopping the criticism in an effort to change him. In fact, making an effort to compliment your man is helpful. Unconditional love means accepting differences. It involves being kind, understanding, and compassionate with your partner.
Compromise is great if you can achieve it. But often, compromising fails, making it more difficult to be emotionally intimate. For compromise to work, both parties need to honor the compromise. For example, your man might agree to the compromise during compromise negotiations, but when the time comes for him to carry out whatever it was he compromised on, he doesn’t. He does what he wanted to anyway. If neither of you honors the compromise, it will be difficult to ever strike a compromise in the future, so a key to compromising is to intend to honor it.
Has your relationship been lacking compromise for some time? It could be a sign it’s heading for an end. More on that in this post.
9. AGREEING TO DISAGREE
Instead of trying to change your man, work on accepting him for who he is and for accepting that he might have different thoughts and opinions on matters. It’s okay to agree to disagree. If you can listen to him, accept who he is, and then move on, you are setting the stage for emotional intimacy to develop instead of arguing with or trying to make your man into something he’s not.
You’ll notice that most of these things are necessary for you to find a relationship that’s meant to last.
A lull in emotional intimacy can eventually lead to the demise of a relationship. At the very least, it can feel very “meh.” Remaining emotionally intimate strengthens the bond and helps you take on the world together. If you notice that your relationship doesn’t have the emotional intimacy that you crave, practicing the methods outlined here should get you on your way to having a fulfilling relationship.