A great relationship is an alchemy of many things, among them good sexual chemistry, excellent communication between the two people involved, mutual cooperation, and an ever-deepening sense of emotional intimacy.
The first is usually easy to maintain, especially in the early years of the relationship when sex is fresh, exciting and the couple is happily learning how each other’s body works and responds. The second, communication, can be difficult to sustain at times in the marriage, especially when going through a rough patch, but couples who work at integrating good communication techniques find that this contributes to their happiness. Cooperating as a twosome, whether it be raising the children or dealing with inlaws, is an important part of keeping your marriage happy. But the fourth element—emotional intimacy—just what does that mean exactly? There are loads of books published on how to have good sex, how to develop your communication skills and how to work as a team, but has anyone ever written the Emotional Intimacy Book?
What is emotional intimacy?
Emotional intimacy is the product of emotional skillfulness. This is the ability to identify and communicate your own emotions with your partner and to be receptive to identifying and listening to your partner when he expresses his emotional state with you.
Why is emotional intimacy important in a marriage?
Without a deep emotional connection, the couple is incomplete and will likely not stay together for the long term. Good sex can only hold a relationship together for so long. There must be a base of emotional exchange for the couple to grow together, to know each other completely, and to allow each other the space to show vulnerability without the fear of being criticized or shamed. Emotional intimacy allows a couple to be 100 % authentic with each other, and still feel loved and safe.
How to build emotional intimacy in your relationship
Women are perceived as being the gender that is more “emotional” and better at expressing emotions. They are the caregivers, listening patiently when a child is having a bad day or emotional meltdown. They work to draw out emotions from their spouse if he is not someone who expresses emotions naturally.
However, for a couple to function on a healthy level, it cannot only be the woman who is actively working towards emotional intimacy. When this is the case, the end result will be resentment and anger, an impression that only one of the partners is doing all the heavy lifting to increase the emotional connection in the couple. It is essential that both partners be invested in sharing their emotional state and listening attentively when the other is expressing their emotions.
If one were to write an Emotional Intimacy Book, it would include the following:
1. Trust your partner without reserve
It goes without saying that your most important relationship–your marriage–must be built on a foundation of complete trust. Without deep trust, you cannot experience emotional intimacy. If you are hiding things from your spouse, like an affair (online or in real life), it is impossible for emotional intimacy to take root and grow. The ability to trust your partner completely, and have him trust you, is needed to nourish emotional intimacy and allow it to develop between you.
2. Know why you are here, on this earth, and with this particular person
Each of you has passions and beliefs about what brings meaning to your life. As you share these, you build a bond with your partner. When you both take up the mantle of your passion, emotional intimacy is deepened. You are joined by your common work to reach outside yourselves and contribute to something larger than you.
Identify what you are passionate about. It could be something like “saving the planet.” Decide the type of work you can do together to contribute towards that goal. Examples might be to volunteer together at a recycling center or to go to your local school together to do a workshop with the students on ways they can help save the planet.
When your passion is paired with someone you are passionate about, your level of devotion to your relationship is deepened, and the level of emotional intimacy in your relationship will increase.
3. Think positively
Let go of the need to be right, the need to tell your partner what to do, the need to point out his faults and weaknesses, and the need to keep score. Taking away these emotional intimacy blockades will result in positive, supportive, and kind emotions to give your partner.
Your partner will, of course, do things that annoy you. Practice forgiveness, and reflect on what your response might be to his behavior. Would pointing it out hurt him? Is there a way for you to address the annoyance without blaming him for it, by using, for example, an “I” message? Could you consider letting the annoyance go without remarking on it?
4. Be in the moment
One of the simplest ways to increase emotional intimacy with your partner is to shine your full attention on him when he is speaking to you. Put down your phone, stop typing on the computer. If you are standing at the sink doing dishes, stop, turn your body towards him, and look him in the eye while listening. You will be amazed at how the closeness factor increases with this one little tip.
As Oprah says, be your best self
Practice a high level of self-care in regards to your own emotional health. If you have trouble expressing your emotions in a positive way or aren’t sure of best techniques to do this, invest in a couple of sessions with an expert counselor who can provide you with some ideas. Channeling your energy on becoming your best self and you will have even better ability to increase the emotional intimacy in your relationship.