Written by Kate Pauley
Often when people think of intimacy, their minds immediately jump to sex, but there are actually a lot of other ‘types’ of intimacy that can increase closeness in a relationship that do not involve sex. Sometimes, increasing these other areas of intimacy does increase the amount of sexual intimacy a couple shares. There is a strong connection between emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy. Often, individuals in relationships need to feel a sense of emotional intimacy before they desire to be sexually intimate with their partners. (This is more true for women than of men). If you want to feel more “emotional intimacy” (whether to increase the amount of sex you are having, or simply to feel more connected to your partner), here are some things to try.
Emotional intimacy is that feeling of connection that you experience between you and another. Emotional intimacy is all about being able to connect, share, understand, and be vulnerable with another. When a couple experiences a high amount of emotional intimacy, they feel very secure and confident sharing things like emotions, outlook, interpretations, and goals with one another. Emotionally intimate couples allow each other to see them in their raw emotions, real, vulnerable, honest.
Many of us grew up in environments where we either did not learn to be emotionally intimate with others, or it was not safe to be. Many children learn that their emotions are “too much,” “inappropriate,” or make them “weak.” Because of this, many adults have a fear or an unknowing of how to be emotionally intimate with others. If this sounds like you or your partner, couples therapy is a great place to start as you will practice in the therapy room how to be emotionally available for your partner and vice versa. In couples therapy you practice being vulnerable with one another so that you know how to do it outside of the therapy space.
To be emotionally intimate, you and your partner must first create an environment of safety. Before your partner will open up to you, the first need to know that you will hear them, accept them, and not judge them for their emotions. Imagine opening up to someone and sharing about a real fear or sadness that you have and having that person laugh or minimize your feelings. You most likely will be more cautious about opening up to this person again in the future.
To create a safe space for emotional intimacy:
- Stop trying to “fix” everything for your partner. Instead, hear them out, validate their feelings, and be with them, rather than trying to solve a problem. Rather than, “why don’t you try XYZ” say, “wow, that sounds really difficult, tell me more about what it’s like for you.”
- Listen, listen, listen. Rather than listening to “respond,” listen to hear your partner. Try to understand things from their perspective. Put yourself in their proverbial shoes.
- Engage. Ask questions, try to learn more, seek to understand your partner.
- Take a moment to explore yourself – pause and notice what your body is feeling and what thoughts you are having and then share openly and honestly from the heart. We often sugar coat things or try to cover up how we are really feeling. What would it be like for you to tell your partner what’s really going on for you? This may be out of your comfort zone, so assess whether the situation feels safe, and then make a choice to share or not.
- Choose your setting wisely. An intimate conversation is much harder when you are in a public space. Maybe you find that for you, lying on the couch with your heads together makes you feel safe, supported, and connected to your partner and allows for more emotional intimacy. When you are alone, feeling connected, without distractions is a great time for emotionally intimate conversations.
- Limit distractions. Put your phone down. Listen to your partner. Show up for them to build that sense of safety in the relationship.
- Don’t rush it or push your partner past what they are comfortable with. People have different comfort zones when it comes to emotional intimacy. How can you get to know what your partner is comfortable with and work from there, rather than trying to push them further than they are comfortable going.
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