How To Enhance That “Other” Kind Of Intimacy

Marriage Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Young people, naturally enough, typically have a pretty straightforward idea of intimacy, and it usually begins and ends with physical intimacy. In a mature relationship, though, intimacy is much more complex — and rewarding. A key part of any healthy romantic relationship is emotional intimacy.

Writing for PscyhCentral, Hope Gillette says, “Intimacy is a deep, meaningful sense of closeness and connection with someone else. Emotional intimacy refers to a psychological portion of this bond, where you feel safe and secure with your partner in a way that allows you to express vulnerability without fear.

“Emotional intimacy is essential in stable relationships. It lays the foundation for other forms of intimacy, such as physical, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy.”

If you’ve just become involved with a romantic partner, or even if you’ve been with your partner for some time, you have a golden opportunity to nurture and enhance your emotional intimacy. The question, of course, is How? Gillette answers that question, saying, “You can build emotional intimacy; it doesn’t have to involve big, sweeping changes to your relationship. It does, however, take conscious effort.” She then goes on to offer seven tips that are easy, fun and effective.

Share stories together. You can think of the process of sharing stories, or of any of these tips as the what to do or how to do it. But there’s a point to each of these tips and their process. You can think of that as the why. If you start by sharing a lighthearted story about the class clown from high school, that gives your partner an insight into how you think and what you feel. It also opens the door to sharing more personal stories — a heartbreak you’ve suffered or a deep regret. The purpose of sharing stories, the why, is to learn more about your partner and create a safe space to be vulnerable, which is a foundational element of intimacy.

Be bad at something new together. Learning a new sport or game together is another opportunity to safely show vulnerability and how you react to situations. One caution here about competitive personalities: the point here is to share in the experience of the learning process — it’ isn’t to show your partner you’re better than they are.

Laugh together. Research has long shown that laughing together builds intimacy. Having the same sense of humor can also be a pretty good indicator that you’re in a relationship with the right person.  

Decide to learn something new about your partner. As with sharing stories, asking questions about your partner’s beliefs, experiences or dreams is a great way to naturally build emotional intimacy. There is a key to this process, as Gillette notes: “The overall goal is to be compassionate and empathetic while you listen.”

Show affection. Displays of affection do not have to lead to physical intimacy. They can help build emotional intimacy by simply showing your thoughtfulness.

Communicate openly. Too often one partner keeps the other guessing about what they’re really saying. Reasons for making a less-than-straightforward statement vary, but the goal is to say what you truly mean — that will help build intimacy if both partners trust each other.

Respect each other’s boundaries and individuality. Speaking of trust, it’s a crucial element in building emotional intimacy. Respecting boundaries and the other’s individuality helps build trust.