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Strengthening Emotional Intimacy in Your Relationship

Dr. Butch Losey

Emotional intimacy is a deep sense of connection and trust between you and your partner. It involves being able to share your thoughts, feelings, and expectation with your partner without fear of judgment or rejection. Let me identify a few ways to create more emotional intimacy in your relationship.

The majority of couples that come to couples therapy identify that the primary problem is communication. By the time they decide to begin therapy, many have lost the ability to emotionally connect in a healthy way. An obvious way to create emotional intimacy is through strong and effective communication.

It's all about the communication

Communicate openly and honestly with each other. This means being willing to share your thoughts, feelings, and expectations with your partner. Don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Be vulnerable with each other. Be willing to open up and share your deepest thoughts and feelings with your partner. Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s essential for building emotional intimacy.

Be empathetic

Show empathy and understanding. To steal a phrase from a recent cruise line commercial, "go with a curious mind and an open heart, but go". Listen to your partner with an open mind and try to see things from their perspective. Tune in to their emotional experience. Show them that you care about how they feel and that you want to support them. Listen for direct and indirect communication of needs and offer ways to support your partner in getting at least some of their needs met. You can't meet every need of your partner but you can support some or most of their needs.

Passive listening first

Use passive listening. Over many years of working with couples in crisis, I have found that starting off with listening quietly as they share the challenges in their relationship has been useful in creating support, building trust, and making sure that I fully understand the situation the couple brings to me. "Passive listening" is so under-stated when communication experts talk about listening skills, with experts typically only talking about active listening. Passively listen first and make sure to avoid interrupting or judging, and instead focus on listening and trying to understand.

Then actively listen

Then use active listening. This means actively engaging with your partner and responding thoughtfully to the content of the conversation. Active listeners may ask questions, provide feedback, interpret or show understanding through nonverbal cues, such as nodding or making eye contact.

Support in crisis builds your bond

Support each other through difficult times. Whether it’s a big challenge or a small setback, be there for your partner and offer them support and encouragement. Sometimes just being there for your partner can be of great help. Let your partner know that you are there for them and are willing to listen to what they have to say. Offer your physical presence to your partner and show them that you care about their well-being and you are there to support them emotionally.

Prioritize your relationship

Set aside time on a regular basis to be together without distractions. Use this time to connect and have meaningful conversations. To do so, it will be important to respect your partner's opinions, even if you don't always agree. Try to have open and respectful discussions, and really prize your partner's point of view and show that you are genuinely interested in what your partner has to say by asking questions and expressing your own thoughts and feelings on the topic. As you share your own thoughts and feelings, try to be expansive in your ideas and when answering questions, instead of just answering yes or no.

Consider having a weekly time where your goal is to have meaningful conversations. This can be over dinner, when out for a walk, or just quiet "talk-time" in the evening. this can be usefull time to assess your relationship as well. Use some of the topic suggestions below to drive the intimacy in these conversations:

1) Personal values: Discussing personal values and beliefs can help you understand your partner's perspectives and deepen your connection.

2) Dreams and goals: Sharing your hopes and aspirations for the future can help you get to know your partner better and support each other's goals.

3) Life experiences: Sharing stories about your past experiences can help you learn more about your partner and understand their challenges and successes.

4) Feelings and emotional experiences: Having open and honest conversations about your feelings and emotional experiences can help you better understand each other and create a deeper emotional connection.

5) Current events: Discussing current events and issues can help you learn more about your partner's opinions and values, and can lead to more meaningful conversations.

6) Family and relationships: Talking about your family and past relationships can help you understand each other's background and how it has shaped your perspectives.

Be grateful

When you express gratitude towards your partner, you are acknowledging the positive impact your partner has on your life and the value they bring to your relationship. This can help strengthen our emotional bond and create a deeper sense of connection.

There are a number of positive outcomes for your relationship when you consistently express gratitude for your partner. Here are a few:

1) Expressing gratitude can help create a positive and uplifting atmosphere in your relationship. This can help reduce negativity and improve overall satisfaction with the relationship.

2) Expressing gratitude can encourage vulnerability, as it requires you to be open and honest about your feelings. This can create a deeper level of trust and understanding between the two of you.

3) Expressing gratitude can also encourage your partner to provide more emotional support and show more care and affection towards you.

Dr. Butch Losey is a couples's therapist, author and speaker on couples therapy topics. He has offices in Cincinnati Ohio, Lexington Kentucky and Scottsdale Arizona. He can also meet with couples virtually in Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona.

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