Intimacy goes beyond the physical connection you can get through sexy time in the bedroom. It’s the emotional connection that you build through conversation. It’s about trust, checking-in, and having the ability to sit alone together in absolute silence without it being awkward. Happy and healthy relationships need intimacy to survive. But for many, building intimacy in a relationship is easier said than done. “Real intimacy comes from letting your guard down and allowing your partner to witness you in a less than stellar light," Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist, dating coach, and the founder of relationship consultancy Rapport Relationships tells Bustle.
Talking about why you’re stressed out around the holiday season may invite a conversation about family dynamics, your personal values, and what type of life you want to build with someone special. Don't be afraid to let your feelings out. Intimacy is all about opening up and getting into deeper conversations that really matter. “There is nothing braver than choosing to be in a real relationship,” Rhodes says. “And a real relationship requires vulnerability.”
William Benson, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and founder of The Mental Gym would agree. In fact, Benson tells Bustle, “Healthy adult vulnerability is called intimacy. It is the very glue that bonds us to a meaningful life experience. It's impossible to have a shared experience and to build something with another if we’re unwilling to share our authentic selves.”
So building intimacy requires two very scary, yet simple things: being vulnerable and being completely yourself. But if you’re able to commit and do it fully, then I’m sure the risks will be so worth the reward. Heres are seven subtle ways to build intimacy in your relationship:
1. Express Your Love
“Intimacy is the expression of love in your relationship. You can’t just talk about love, show it off by a piece of paper, or wear a ring. You have to express your love,” celebrity renowned relationship expert Audrey Hope tells Bustle. So if building intimacy in your relationship is important to you, don’t leave it on the back burner.
“Put energy and focus on it. Make it high on the list of your goals and priorities for your relationship,” Hope says. “Don't let it slip away from your life together.” That means, put in the effort to make time for each other. Put away distractions when you're together. If you need to plan some time to work on intimacy, then do it.
2. Keep Things Playful
Be playful, lighthearted, and tease your partner in the sexiest way you know how. “Cat and mouse energy is a winner,” Hope says. “Entice, flirt and play hard to get. Bring out all the ancient secrets of sexual energy and let it rip. This is a classic tool and it never fails.”
3. Make Extra Eye Contact With Your Partner’s Left Eye
“The left eye connects to their emotional right brain,” Tim David, Author and Brain Science Magician tells Bustle. “A fascinating study even found that on a first date, this technique builds intimacy very quickly and very powerfully.” The science behind eye contact attraction is pretty interesting. A 2007 University of Aberdeen study found you’re more likely to find other people attractive if they’re looking straight at you and smiling. Making eye-contact also makes your words more memorable, it makes you more self-aware, and it makes you more honest. All of which, are definitely helpful in building intimacy.
Psychotherapist and relationship expert for Cupid.com, Paula H. Cookson LCSW tells Bustle, “Eye contact during conversation diminishes as a relationship progresses over time. To reconnect more intimately with your partner, make a pact to work on looking into one another's eyes while talking. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results.”
4. Show Gratitude
A 2015 University of Georgia study found that telling your partner, “Thank you” consistently and often will help strengthen your relationship. “This wonderful virtue extends beyond social grace and protocol,” licensed marriage and family therapist, Cara Itule tells Bustle. “Simple and sincere acknowledgments of gratitude goes a long way with your partner. Letting your partner know that you are grateful for what they do makes them feel wanted, needed, and appreciated.” So a simple and sincere, “Thanks for doing the dishes, babe!” will definitely go a long way.
5. Find Random Moments To Reach Out And Touch Your Partner
It can happen anytime, anywhere. For instance, while you’re driving you can reach over and caress the back of your partner’s head. After a long day, you can give them a big hug. It’s all about touch. “Touching re-unites the emotional bond you share. It says: ‘I like the way you feel to me’ and ‘I’m at home when I'm with you,’” Itule says.
6. Be An Active Listener
“Be intentional to put your phone down, turn off the TV, turn down the music, and listen to how your partner is feeling,” Meygan and Casey Caston, founders of Marriage365, tell Bustle. “The word, ‘feeling’ being the key.”
Ask follow-up questions like, “How did that make you feel?,” “Would you tell me more," or something more natural along those lines. This is one of the best things you can do for your relationship since active listening shows you really care about your partner’s opinions, desires, fears, and dreams.
7. Get Intimate With Yourself
Not sexually, but spiritually and emotionally. “It sounds super cliche but self-compassion, self-forgiveness and self-love are skills that need to be learned in order to receive love from someone else,” Recovery life coach, Beverly Sartain tells Bustle. “Quite literally, I continue to work on all things Self through daily self-care practice. When I take care of myself, I experience more intimacy in my life. I’m open to receiving it and am able to give it as well.”
The thing is, you can find all kinds of fun ways to be intimate with your partner both in the bedroom and out. But at the very core of it, intimacy is all about opening up and allowing another person to share in your greatness and your vulnerabilities. If you can’t be 100 percent, authentically yourself, you're only holding yourself back from experiencing what intimacy in a relationship can give you. Overall true intimacy comes from you.