Intimacy can sometimes just be a polite way to refer to sex, but that type of physical connection is really just one type of intimacy. It's imperative IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP to also find ways to increase intimacy that have nothing to do with sex. In fact, physical intimacy may not even be the most important type, according to licensed professional counselor Paul Dunion. In his article for the Huffington Post, Dunion noted that emotional intimacy is something we crave straight out of the womb. He went on to say that creating emotional intimacy in a relationship is skill that we need to learn and keep perfecting over time.
According to Dunion, if we don't perfect this skill, our relationships, no matter how loving, may feel lacking. That lacking can lead to emptiness and alienation, which can eventually build to distance, resentment, and a nagging unfulfilled feeling. This nagging feeling is sometimes that thing couples who fizzle out are lacking when they say they can't put their fingers on what exactly went wrong in their relationships.
Emotional intimacy is that close feeling of loving and being loved, but it's also about sharing vulnerable moments, being emotionally invested in each other, and cultivating a deep sense of closeness. If this isn't a skill you have developed in your previous relationships, these tips will help you deepen your connection to your partner.
1. Love Yourself More
In his article, Dunion gave a more clinical nod to the old RuPaul adage, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?" The way this translates into deeper intimacy is by developing the skills to love yourself so you can better recognize when feelings of emptiness come from a lack of intimacy and when they come from an unresolved personal issue.
"This means we need to grow enough mindfulness to be aware of being plagued by self-loathing and committed to learn how to interrupt it. People who love us can support this interruption process," Dunion said.
2. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Vulnerability kind of sucks sometimes. Letting someone see you raw and open, whether at your worst or at your best, is like taking a shower in a clear stall in the middle of the county fair. But it's also the only way your partner can really get to know you. And I mean know you. It also makes it easier for your partner to trust being vulnerable in your presence. As an article from Psych Central emphasizes, vulnerability is one of the key elements in creating a healthy, long-lasting relationship. "The need to form a mutually protective alliance is innate," said psychoanalyst John Bowlby author of a book on the subject, called Attachment .
3. Start Right Now, Wherever You're At
The University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center advises a baby steps approach to increase intimacy. Start with sharing thoughts and ideas. This is called intellectual intimacy. Once you're comfortable with that, move on to shared experiences, then shared feelings, then shared physical contact. Take as much time as you need. Identify which types of sharing make you uncomfortable and talk openly with your partner about why.
4. Check In With A Therapist
Think of this like seeing a mechanic for routine maintenance on your car. A good therapist won't judge you, place blame or uncover a well of problems that ruin your marriage. Instead, you'll learn tools to make your communication skills better. James V. Córdova, researcher at the Clark University’s Center for Couples, found that partners who checked in with a therapist to talk about their emotional health experienced increased emotional intimacy for up to two years after the visit. Not bad for an afternoon of work.
5. Practice Assertiveness And Positive Conflict Resolution
If you're thinking this tip isn't for you, I get it. I felt the same way. But in healthy relationships, you have to express your needs, have productive disagreements, ask for what you want from each other, and claim accountability for your mistakes, according to marriage and family therapist Larry Alan Nadig, Ph.D. If you can master this, you'll raise the bar for trust, respect and communication — all essential components of emotional intimacy.
Whether you're in a fairly happy relationship or one that needs a whole lot of worker, increasing intimacy between you and your partner can only make the relationship stronger, so it's probably worth it to work through the uncomfortable parts of the process.
Images: Giphy (5); Pexels