Emotional Intimacy: 22 Quick Hints for Creating Emotional Intimacy
Although many people get uncomfortable at the thought of emotional intimacy, most of those same people might be completely surprised to realize they crave the very thing they fear. Even more shocking, they have had fights in their intimate relationships because of a lack of emotional intimacy. They just weren’t using those words.
What is emotional intimacy?
Let’s give emotional intimacy definition by starting with the word emotion. Emotion describes the feeling of sensations in our body that occurs with different states of being. Some might describe emotions as good or bad, but in reality all emotions are good. Brandon Bays, author of The Journey, describes emotions as the barometer of the soul. These sensations felt in our body give us constant indication of and guidance on whether or not we are aligned with our soul, or, in other words, with our true nature. While it’s true some emotions feel better and more enjoyable than others, they all serve us.
Now let’s look at the word intimacy. The experience of intimacy brings a feeling of closeness, connection, and even unity. While many types of relationships experience intimacy, we often refer to romantic relationships as intimate relationships because often our romantic partner is the person we feel the closest to in the world.
So now, combining emotion and intimacy, emotional intimacy happens when we create and experience a sense of closeness and unity resulting from shared emotional experiences. This can be as simple as professing how you feel about each other, sharing when you are upset with each other, or sharing a dream that excited you or bothered you.
We’ll explore more examples of emotional intimacy in a moment and it’s worth noting here that one of the reasons traumatic experiences can deepen and strengthen the bond of an intimate relationship is because the partners welcome and honor their own and each other’s feelings, hence creating a real intimacy. On the other hand, if the partners do not know how to create, or aren’t willing to allow for, emotional intimacy, that traumatic event can destroy a previously happy relationship.
Signs of Emotional Intimacy
Before we get to more examples and hints for creating it, let’s explore the signs of emotional intimacy.
- You feel safe to share your feelings
- You feel heard
- You feel seen
- You feel understood
- You feel validated
- You feel respected
- No one tries to change their own or each others feelings
- You experience empathy from and for our partner
- You regularly share your feelings
- You have an strong emotional vocabulary
Let’s look at some of these signs of emotional intimacy a bit closer, and in doing so, we’ll reveal why we mentioned above that people fight for emotional intimacy and don’t even realize it.
How many times have you gotten into an argument with a beloved because you didn’t feel seen, heard or understood? How many times have you thought, “They just don’t get how I feel,” and been frustrated by it? Have you ever just wanted to be acknowledged and validated for what you felt instead of being made wrong, or worse yet, having your partner try to change how you feel? Have you ever had a big celebration you wanted to share but didn’t because you didn’t want the other person to feel bad? These are many examples of a lack of emotional intimacy while at the same time indicators that you want emotional intimacy.
While all types of intimacy are essential in strong lasting romantic relationships, emotional intimacy is the lasting glue between hearts. Emotions are the language of intimacy.
| Emotions are the language of intimacy. Emotional intimacy acts as the lasting glue between hearts.
How to build emotional intimacy
When it comes to how to build emotional intimacy, we must first recognize and acknowledge that creating and sharing intimacy, especially emotional and physical intimacy, requires vulnerability. And vulnerability requires trust. However, we can’t demand trustworthiness from another person. We can desire it, hope for it, and even stand for it, but standing for it doesn’t mean you try to change the other person. It means that you are willing to step out of a situation, or even a relationship, until you can feel trust for the other person.
But here’s the catch, you can’t trust another person until you trust yourself. Many of us have heard that statement about love before, “You can’t love another until you love yourself.” The same holds true for trust and hence intimacy. Authentic intimacy means you can’t be intimate with someone else until you can be intimate with yourself.
This brings up a special circumstance. When we want to know how to build emotional intimacy, we might first have to consider how to repair emotional intimacy issues.
The good news is that when we know how to build emotional intimacy, we also know how to repair emotional intimacy issues. Simply put, first you get honest, real and, hence, intimate with yourself. Then building on that self-knowing, we build emotional intimacy with our partner by sharing ourselves emotionally. That means we begin to reveal our internal emotional state of being. Then, we must also willingly witness, honor, and validate our partner’s emotional state of being.
However, to be clear, emotional intimacy does not mean that your partner just gets to dump all of their emotions and challenges on you with the expectation that you will fix them. When you don’t feel honored and respected, you want to make sure you have healthy boundaries.
Hints and tips to create emotional connection and intimacy
As we explore the simple hints for creating emotional intimacy, you’ll want to remember that it only takes one to create intimacy. Your willingness to reveal yourself is all that is needed to ignite an intimate moment. It certainly gets better and deeper when both participate, and don’t stop the process of building intimacy by waiting for your partner to do his/her/their part. Intimacy starts with you. With that being said, we’ll break down our hints into how you create emotional intimacy by first offering yourself intimately and then receiving your partner intimately.
Since intimacy is about seeing and being seen, when you offer yourself intimately, you talk about yourself which means most of the time your sentences will start with I. Here are several sentence stems that you can use as hints and ideas for creating intimacy by revealing yourself.
Hints for expressing and offering emotional connection
- I feel… Plain and simple… share what you feel
- I’m imagining… Share the things you are dreaming about or the internal pictures you are painting… (your dreams and pictures are infused with emotions)
- I desire… Similar to dreams but often experienced more in the moment, our desires are also often filled with feel good emotions.
- I worry about… Sometimes we worry about life. While worry doesn’t usually serve, sharing it can often release it. Randall and Rebecca Pearson, in This is Us, often diffused their worries by speaking them out loud to each other. This was a form of emotional intimacy.
- I’m afraid of… Similar to worry, but sometimes even more intimate because our fears can be rooted in our deepest vulnerabilities, sharing our fears can be very connecting.
- I love it when… It’s also vulnerable to share the things that make us the happiest. Try telling your partner what you love.
- I get sad when… Share with your partner the things that bring up sadness or even the things that make you want to, or actually do, cry.
- I get mad when I… Again, share when you get mad, or better yet, in the moment when you feel mad, share your feelings with your partner. Caution. This is not an opportunity to blame. Blame will only destroy any progress toward emotional intimacy. Stay with ‘I’ statements and avoid using the word ‘you’ if at all possible.
- My heart aches when… This is a simple variation that shows you can start a sentence with ‘my’ or ‘I’ when sharing yourself intimately. The key is to speak about your internal feelings.
- I’m excited because… Remember we can also avoid the intimacy of our feel good emotions. So be sure to share those too…
- I feel vulnerable saying… This is almost the quintessential intimacy offering. As we’ve said, intimacy in and of itself is vulnerable. If you speak about your experience of vulnerability, you have the opportunity to create profoundly emotionally intimate moments.
Now that you have ideas for offering emotional intimacy, let’s look at how you partner with your beloved to further build emotional intimacy.
Hints for listening intimately, receiving intimacy and expanding intimacy
It’s important with all these hints and examples that you be genuine. You will only create more emotional intimacy issues if you do this mechanically or you attempt to placate rather than validate your partner’s emotions.
- I hear how [insert emotion you hear] you feel… This is a simple and powerful way to validate your partner’s feelings. Note that you don’t have to be perfect at naming your partner’s emotion. Do your best (and be humble) and they will let you know if they feel something different than you expressed.
- I’m imagining how [insert imagined emotion] that might feel for you… This is an opportunity to put yourself in their shoes, which can immediately create an experience of emotional intimacy, even before you speak.
- I’d feel ______ in your situation… This is a hybrid statement where you put yourself in their shoes, meeting them emotionally. Then you also offer intimacy by letting them know more about you.
- I’m sorry you’re feeling ____. Again, if they haven’t named their exact emotion(s) do your best to recognize them. Then, the ‘I’m sorry’ offers both acknowledgement and compassion, both of which tend to deepen emotional intimacy.
- I sense you might be feeling _____. This is another opportunity to let your partner know you are present and care about their emotional experience. It is not recommended to say, “I know you feel…” because there is an inherent arrogance in assuming we know what someone else feels.
- I sense you’re upset. Am I getting that right? This is another variation of seeing them but not assuming you actually know their experience. It’s another way of saying I care and creating emotional intimacy.
- I sense something good happened. I’d love to hear about it if you want to share. Again, you’re present and sensing the other person’s feelings and experience and in this case, you offer intimacy by saying you’d like to hear about their experience and you simultaneously invite them to be intimate with you.
- When I hear how you feel, I feel ________. This is another way to expand and deepen the emotional intimacy by making it a two-way experience.
- I completely honor all that you are feeling. This sentence offers another form of validation that assures the other person that you are not going to try to change how they feel.
- I see you. I feel you. Another form of validation, in this case you’re not adding anything to the conversation. This kind of sentence will often invite the other person to keep going deeper and sharing deeper emotions, which then serves to create deeper intimacy.
- Thank you for sharing your emotions with me. Gratitude is another emotion. And it’s important to recognize what an honor it is when someone chooses to open up and share themselves intimately with you.
There are a myriad of ways to offer your own emotions intimately. You’ll find countless ways to receive, validate and expand emotional intimacy created by your partner’s sharing. It doesn’t really matter how you approach emotional connection and intimacy; it just matters that you do.
Develop your emotional vocabulary. Expand your emotional consciousness. Get comfortable with your own emotions. It will be much easier to create emotional intimacy with someone you love when emotions themselves are no longer scary to you.
For most, this will take practice, a LOT of practice. Take your time. Be gentle with yourself and your partner. As part of your practice in being emotionally intimate, you might begin by sharing your nervousness, your frustration, your confusion and even your excitement.
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.