While often associated with sex, intimacy is more than what happens between the sheets. Although sexual intimacy is essential in successful marriages, emotional intimacy is what sustains relationships in the long term.
Without a deeply felt emotional bond, a person is unlikely to feel understood, seen, and loved by their partner. This article will go over the true meaning of emotional intimacy in marriage, its importance, and how to rebuild it – even in a struggling marriage.
What Is Emotional Intimacy?
Emotional intimacy means you trust your partner enough to freely communicate your deepest fears and your wildest dreams. It allows you to be your true self around them, without any fear of being judged. It also means that your partner accepts you for the complex, yet amazing being that you are. And vice-versa.
If you and your partner could use an intimacy boost, here are ways you can rebuild emotional intimacy when your marriage feels a little shaky.
10 Ways to Rebuild Emotional Intimacy In Marriage
True emotional intimacy involves small, daily commitments from both partners. The following tips will delve into simple ways you can slowly repair intimacy in everyday life.
1. Use Your Body to Communicate
A study from UCLA showed that 55% of communication comes from the body language we use. As a result, improving your non-verbal communication with your partner is key to improving emotional intimacy.
That means caressing your partner as you listen to them. Holding their hand. Leaning toward them. Looking them in the eyes. Being genuinely interested in what they have to say to you at that moment – be it good or bad news. Remember that feeling heard is what ultimately makes us feel safe around someone.
2. Exercise Empathy
Being empathetic doesn’t exactly mean feeling what your partner is feeling. It simply means understanding why they would feel that way and communicating it to them. As in, “I understand you feel tired, and I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Above all, empathy is about letting your words and actions show how much you care. This is why active listening is the most important form of communication for couples. It dismisses any remarks or suggestions, allowing the speaker to feel heard and considered. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs to feel better.
Acknowledging how your partner feels about daily stressors can help you feel more empathetic toward each other.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Show Vulnerability
Some people hide their true feelings behind a concrete wall so that no sight of vulnerability can cross it. Sadly, most people still mistake vulnerability with weakness or codependency – which couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, vulnerability is synonymous with honesty, which might explain why so many people are averse to it. Successful marriages thrive on vulnerability, as it’s associated with a person’s innermost thoughts and emotions.
Learning to be vulnerable and “open up” to your partner is ultimately a skill. And, like any other skill, it takes practice.
To exercise vulnerability, partners should be willing to accept that they’re wrong sometimes. Most of all, it means leaving your ego at the door in favor of feeling emotionally closer to your partner.
4. Engage in a Shared Meditation Practice
Research suggests that meditating with a partner can increase feelings of closeness and a willingness to share intimate details. This practice is called dyadic meditation, and it doesn’t differ from the traditional meditation method. Except this variation requires your partner to be sitting face-to-face with you.
All you have to do is sit together, set a timer, and meditate together. You can either do it in silence or use any guided meditations you find helpful. After the timer goes off, openly share how the experience felt for both of you.
5. Invest in Yourself
If a person often takes their frustrations out on others, that says a lot about their relationship with themselves. At that point, their mental energy is only available to address their own problems. As a result, their marriage is likely to suffer.
In contrast, when a person invests in their own well-being, they’re concomitantly investing in their relationship. They’re feeling their best, meaning there’s no room for insecurities to inflame any arguments.
Investing in yourself could mean a lot of things, such as:
- Starting therapy
- Practicing daily self-care
- Going to the gym
- Finding a hobby
Anything that makes you feel happier about yourself will also help you respond more positively to your partner.
6. Spend Time Together
Go beyond your monthly date night. The fun part of rebuilding emotional intimacy is finding joint activities that bring you joy – preferably activities that escape your routine.
Go to the movies together. Go for a scenic drive. Play a board game. Take a meditation class. The options are endless. The goal is to engage in pastimes that can entertain both partners, with bonus points for activities that make you laugh together.
The objective of participating in shared joyful activities is to create fun, loving memories that remind you of how much you love the person you chose to marry.
7. Perform Thoughtful Gestures Without Expecting Them Back
Tackle the pile of dishes in the sink before he gets home. Clean the house, just because you know she’ll be tired from work. Plan a warm group hug with the children as soon as he sets foot in the door.
Surprise your significant other with something they care about – something that will put a smile on their face. Not because you want them to reciprocate, but because you love them and want to take some weight off their shoulders.
Small, yet unexpected gestures boost emotional intimacy, giving your partner plenty of reasons to be grateful for you.
8. Take a Break From Your Phones
Smartphones and social media could be ruining your emotional intimacy, and your relationship in general. Without enough one-on-one interaction, you shouldn’t expect to feel any type of closeness to your partner.
As soon as both of you decide to sit down and talk about your day, as hard as it may be, put the phones away. Nothing kills intimacy more than a partner whose eyes are glued to social media while you’re trying to communicate something important.
Ideally, you should make active listening a priority when you’re together. Fail to do so, and you’ll find something else to argue about.
9. Don’t Avoid Difficult Conversations
Talk about the hard stuff as it happens, not when it’s already boiled up to a point of no return. An emotionally intimate marriage involves being able to sit together and address difficult conversations.
Importantly, remind yourselves that you’re not sitting down to fight. You’re sitting down to solve a bothersome problem that’s taking a toll on your marriage. As long as you’re both working to improve the situation, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault.
Scared of addressing a certain topic because you’re afraid of your partner’s reaction? Know that you don’t have to keep the conversation going if things get heated. You’re both allowed to have a “cooling off” period and even postpone the conversation, if necessary.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t give your partner the silent treatment. It may start off as some sort of temper tantrum, but it could become emotionally abusive in the long run. A mature relationship shouldn’t harbor any sort of resentment, let alone leaving a partner to “guess” what they did wrong.
10. Have More Sex
While sex doesn’t take up a large percentage of emotional intimacy, it’s still necessary to keep married couples flourishing.
A lack of sexual intimacy in marriage can be frustrating, even when other parts of the relationship are in a good place. If one of you leaves much to be desired in bed, the couple might face intimacy issues in other areas.
What’s more, sex is known to boost intimacy levels in long-term romantic relationships. Sexual intimacy keeps bouts of passion alive while the couple is working to improve emotional intimacy in their daily lives. So, both types of intimacy go hand-in-hand and are unlikely to survive without the other.
How Couples Counseling Can Boost Emotional Intimacy
All humans need intimacy and close relationships to thrive. If couples are unable to address their intimacy problems on their own, their bond may start to weaken, and they might turn to friends and family for help.
Unfortunately, close relatives often fail to provide an impartial point of view. This could do more harm than good, as they might end up giving unhelpful advice. This is why unresolved marriage issues can be better managed with couples counseling.
If your efforts on rebuilding emotional intimacy are falling through, a Gottman-certified therapist can help you restore the closeness between you and your partner. Talk to us, and take the first step.