Do you feel disconnected from your partner? Maybe you’re not having sex as often as you once did. Maybe you aren’t being as affectionate. Or, maybe, you’re just feeling distant from them overall.
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re most likely struggling with intimacy.
This is a common situation many couples find themselves in. The root cause stems from not knowing the difference between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy as well as what they both mean for your relationship.
I’ll uncover this mystery so you can reignite the spark and get close to them, once again.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT’S EMOTIONAL INTIMACY?
This may be the first time that you’re hearing that there are a total of 12 types of intimacy, but I’ll focus on two types in this post. Intimacy isn’t just sex.
Let me be clear: Sex is a part of intimacy, but this is a type called physical intimacy.
Physical intimacy is anything that relates to touch; cuddling, kissing, hugging, and yes, sex.
On the other hand, emotional intimacy is defined as: “The degree of comfort, passion, romance, a feeling of closeness to a partner, and [it] oftentimes focus on communication or emotional conflicts with a partner or spouse.”
This type of intimacy is what helps us feel safe, secure, and trusting.
If you’re wondering if you need one or the other, sexual or emotional intimacy, the answer is that you need both.
WHY IS INTIMACY IMPORTANT?
Intimacy is important in your relationship and how the two types work in tandem can help you feel more connected.
I want you to think of intimacy as a connection.
Think of a line chart: One line represents emotional intimacy and the other line represents physical intimacy.
As the emotional intimacy line starts to curve down, the other follows.
Emotional intimacy leads to physical intimacy.
It’s for this reason, that you could be having sex but you’re not feeling connected. Sure, your physical intimacy line is going up, but your emotional intimacy line is left behind, plateauing. You’re not growing them simultaneously.
Think of intimacy as ‘connection,’ so when trust is really good in your relationship, you feel emotionally connected to them.
When trust is high, then intimacy is high. The result is that you feel intimately connected with your partner, so you’re emotionally and sexually connected with them.
So what do you do then, when intimacy is gone from a relationship? There are things you can do to increase emotional intimacy, increase physical intimacy, and bring you closer together.
HOW TO INCREASE EMOTIONAL INTIMACY?
Now you acknowledge the importance of emotional intimacy in a relationship, right? But, maybe you’re still unclear on exactly how to make changes to rebuild it.
Below I’ve outlined 5 ways to rebuild emotional intimacy and connection in your relationship. Be sure to take notes to reference!
One of the core components of intimacy and relationships is being vulnerable. It’s showing the not-so-pretty sides of ourselves and allowing our partners to be there for us, without judgment.
When we’re able to open up to one another and connect, that’s when trust is built. Trust is a key component in increasing emotional intimacy.
Try this: Next time that you’re having a really bad day and your spouse asks what’s wrong…Instead of brushing them off, tell them what’s going on.
It will allow you two to work together to ease the problem and you’ll feel a whole lot closer than you’d otherwise.
INDULGE IN A FUN ACTIVITY
Remember when you first started dating and everything was brand new? There was excitement in discovering your partner’s interests and going to new places together.
Over time, many couples forget to keep that excitement alive. Sure, you may know your partner well after years of dating, but you can both discover a new, fun activity together. This will stimulate those initial feelings of “the unknown” and bring you both closer.
Try this: Find an online class that you both think looks like a lot of fun. Maybe it’s art, cooking, or maybe it’s making your own app.
Sign up for it and make a commitment to move through the lessons together. By the end, you’ll have a shared experience to remember and the feeling of accomplishing something together!
CHANGE UP YOUR LOCATION
I know this one is harder in current times, but changing your scenery is another way to build emotional intimacy because you’re exploring a new area together.
This doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation either, it’s just the act of going somewhere fresh and getting out of the funk of your daily routine.
Try this: Find a town nearby and make a date of it. Grab some food or coffee and walk around, exploring. Keep your phones on silent and away to really be present.
SHOW INTEREST IN THEIR INTERESTS
Okay, so maybe video games aren’t your thing, or reading just isn’t that fun for you. That’s okay! You don’t need to love everything your partner loves.
The beauty of being in a relationship is our differences; after all, the healthiest partnerships are when two healthy people come together to help one another grow.
Yet, it’s important to show interest in what your partner enjoys, even if you don’t understand it. Most people light up when they talk about a hobby they are passionate about, give this moment to your partner, and let them talk about theirs with you.
It will 100% build up that emotional intimacy connection you crave.
Try this: Next time you see your S.O. indulging in a hobby they enjoy, as them how things are coming along.
If it’s a video game, ask what level they’re on and what challenges they’re facing; If it’s a book, see what it’s about and why they chose it.
ACTIVELY LISTEN TO YOUR PARTNER
The last way to build emotional intimacy may seem the simplest, but when life becomes stressful, it’s the first one to go. You should try to be more present with your partner when they’re talking to you.
Whether it’s about something small or something major be fully there for them and actively hear what they have to say.
Don’t try to interrupt with advice, don’t roll your eyes if they’re saying something you don’t align with, and don’t try to come up with an answer instead of hearing them. In actively listening, you keep the doors of communication open and allow for intimate moments to happen.
Try this: Actively listening is a great tool to practice in the middle of conflict with your partner. Since these are times when you’re both stressed and wanting your point to be heard.
Instead of jumping on their case, slow down, stop and listen to what they have to say fully. Once they feel heard and you can process it all…then respond. It’ll deescalate the argument and build your connection back up.
I hope that you found this helpful and can fully embrace the importance of emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. If you’re ready to increase your knowledge, even more, enjoy my free training on intimacy and getting your needs met.
I go into even more depth on the type’s differences and how to work on yourself to increase relationship success. Would love to see you there!
Reposted and used with permission from Dr. Kristie Overstreet
About the Author
Emily Jamea, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC is a sex and relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. She maintains a busy private practice and researches how to create optimal relationships and sexual experiences.
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