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Emotional intimacy can be described as the extent to which you are able to feel and experience a sense of closeness and connection to another person given the context of that relationship. For example, emotional intimacy between two sisters or between siblings, is going to be developed, felt, and expressed given the relationship that exist between siblings. Emotional intimacy in an intimate relationship is also going to be developed, felt, and expressed given the parameters of that relationship.
Emotional intimacy can be healthy or unhealthy. Some will find that surprising, as they think for there to be emotional intimacy it can only be healthy. Unfortunately, that is not so.
Healthy emotional intimacy produces an environment of growth, flow, and a desire for constant connection.
Unhealthy emotional intimacy produces an environment of dissonance and an infrequent desire for connection.
So, what are the characteristics of these two different states of emotional intimacy? Below are the key differences between an environment of healthy emotional intimacy, and unhealthy emotional intimacy.
7 Characteristics of Relationships with Low or Unhealthy Emotional Intimacy
- Constant arguing in the relationship.
- Failure to resolve issues fairly and amicably.
- Rampant selfishness exists.
- A constant display of a lack of empathy.
- Behavior that is less than trustworthy.
- A lack of appreciation for each other.
- A high level of emotional dissonance exists.
8 Characteristics of Relationships with High Emotional Intimacy
- Empathy is cultivated and displayed.
- Issues are resolved amicably, fairly, and timely.
- Positive and enlightening arguments are a constant in the relationship.
- Appreciation for each other and appreciation for the relationship is evident.
- Unselfishness constantly displayed with a willingness to go the extra mile for each other.
- A high level of trustworthiness.
- High level of kindness and generosity.
- Highly considerate of each other.
One of the key determinants in whether or not emotional intimacy is built in a healthy or unhealthy manner is emotional intelligence.
The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Building Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intelligence is defined as “The ability to recognize and manage our own emotions as well as the ability to identify, understand, and influence the feelings of others.”
There are generally 5 key components of emotional intelligence:
- Self-Regulation. The capacity to regulate and modulate the emotions you are feeling.
- Self-Awareness. The ability to properly recognize your emotions, for example, scared vs hurt, and know how to deal with them.
- Motivation. Knowing what are your motivating emotions and how to generate and maintain them.
- Empathy. The capacity to put yourself in the shoes of others and experience what they may be feeling and how to react to those emotions appropriately.
- Social Skills. Your capacity to interact with others in a healthy manner and maneuver socially to the benefit of relationships.
Improving Your Emotional Intelligence
You can improve your emotional intelligence by taking deliberate actions. Improved emotional intelligence can only lead to better emotional intimacy. Here are some approaches to use:
- Learn to stay in the moment. Learn to not rush to judgment about anything. Practice calmness through meditation. Being calm and being in the moment allows you to have a wider and fuller experience of any emotion being experienced. Getting hyped up or upset takes you away from whatever emotion is in play.
- Cultivate a positive outlook through your thoughts and words. Positive emotions make it easier to engage rather than feeling like we want to disengage and run away.
- Reduce stress. Stress creates a dissonant environment scattering your energies in areas you probably do not need to go.
- Develop the habit of being the observer of yourself. Now and again, observe how you react to certain situations, how you feel about certain situations and rather than judging any of these, just simply observe. Getting the habit of being an observer of yourself will also makes it easier to observe the emotions of others and respond accordingly.
- Practice feeling compassion. Force yourself to pause and move the attention off of you and onto someone else who may be hurting. If someone shares a hurtful situation with you, it’s a great opportunity to invoke compassion. Please note compassion is not sympathy. Compassion demonstrates a level of understanding beyond sympathy.
- Learn to say “I’m sorry.” Saying I am sorry diminish the hold your ego has over you, because it is you surrendering to humility. Humility allows you to go further in the feelings of others and be informed by them than your ego ever will.
20 Ways To Build Emotional Intimacy In Your Relationship
Any form of emotional intimacy will require a high level of interaction. The nature and intensity of that interaction eventually determines the health of that emotional intimacy. Healthy emotional intimacy is built when that interaction results in a sense of contentment and increased desire to relate to the person you are connected to.
Here are some tips on building emotional intimacy in your relationship:
1. Make Yourself More Interesting
One sure way of creating these connection points with your partner is to take the time to make yourself interesting to your partner. Boring is not an attracting characteristic.
2. Take and show genuine interest in who your partner is.
Someone who shows an interest in you is bound to in turn attract your interest. If this is true for you it is also true for everyone else including your partner.
3. Be yourself and see yourself for what you are.
No one will find anyone particularly interesting who is not real. And if you cannot see yourself for who you really are, you are going to have a problem representing you in an interesting manner.
4. Try and find something very interesting about your partner that they are most likely not aware of and share it with them.
This is pretty easy to do if you are intuitive and just observe your partner closely.
5. Do something that is totally unexpected or out of the ordinary but extremely kind and take a matter-of-fact approach to it.
One of the dangers in relationships is taking each other for granted. Over time, we become less giving, even less kind. Doing something once in a while that reminds your partner how lucky you are to be with him or her is a great way to keep up the level of interest and achieve a better level of intimacy.
6. Be Available.
Building emotional intimacy may seem a daunting task when we find it difficult to be available for each other. This can create distance and apprehension that just leads to dysfunction in the relationship.
One of the most important things you can communicate to your partner is that you are available for them; conversely one of the most destructive things you can communicate is that you are not very available for them. Emotional intimacy is bound to suffer in this environment. If you really want to enhance emotional intimacy in your relationship you have no choice but to be available and to let your partner in fact know that you are.
7. Say ‘I love you’ often.
We tend to take for granted that those we love should already know it after we say it a few times. Well, that may very well be so, but it’s not the knowing that is important, it is hearing it said that leaves an impact. No, you do not have to say it every hour or even every day, but it should be said often enough because this is the most important aspect of your relationship and it should be demonstrated to be so.
8. Learn to be a good listener.
Listening is an important aspect of communicating and if your listening skills are not too great then your partner is going to feel he or she is not been heard completely. One of the barriers to good communication in relationships is each partner’s objective for that communication. Basically communication revolves around “Is this going to bring us closer to each other?” or “Is this going to make me look better or feel better?” The choice you make will go a long way in determining the outcome of that conversation and how well you are prepared to listen.
9. Do not be judgmental, no matter what.
Do not be judgmental with your partner or with anyone else. If you practice being judgmental with someone apart from your partner then you give the impression that you will also be judgmental with him or her.
10. Be fair in your assessment of any situation, especially involving friends and relatives.
If your partner feels that you are someone who can be fair and not biased then that will make it easier for him or her to want to share with you or get your opinion.
11. When you are clearly in the wrong, do not hesitate to apologize and pacify your partner.
Any hesitation to apologize especially when you are clearly in the wrong will only create more distance in the relationship. Failing to apologize in a timely manner gives the impression that whatever hurt or wrong was done, is not important enough to set right.
12. Be willing to offer a helping hand in working out a problem.
Even if you do not have an answer for a particular situation, offer to go and find some resource that can help.
There are so many little ways you can demonstrate that you are available for your partner and your relationship that there really should not be a problem in being available. Even if you are not available in any one way, it is usually a consistent pattern of not being available that results in emotional disconnect issues.
13. Laugh Together.
Laughter opens the neural gateways to pleasantries and fun. Laughter forces you to be open, if even for a moment. And laughter is a relaxing activity.
Emotional intimacy at times can be thwarted by people just taking each other too seriously. The key is to lighten up a bit day by day and gradually a deeper emotional connection will ensue in the relationship.
14. Be Quick To Apologize.
One of the pre-requisites to achieving a high level of emotional intimacy in any intimate relationship is mutual respect. Nothing destroys respect as much as the failure to apologize to someone when you know that you have done that person wrong.
You will be viewed as not only being disrespectful of the other person’s feelings but will also be seen as self-serving and cold. In such an environment, it is going to be impossible to establish a deep level of emotional connection with your partner.
15. Perform Random Acts of Kindness.
Perform random acts of kindness for each other, especially when it is needed the most and expected the least. The following scenario will demonstrate this completely.
16. Take Time Out to Experience New Things Together.
Go to new places; try new dishes; go take in a lecture on an interesting topic. The key here is doing new things together so the feelings that are experienced are done in the context of being together. Togetherness is created and remembered and more emotional intimacy muscles are stimulated and get built.
17. Minimize Boredom.
Boredom in an intimate relationship can lead to a number of problems that can eventually undermine the relationship itself to the point of destroying it. It is very easy for two well-meaning persons in a relationship to become bored and seek to deal with this boredom in an unhealthy manner.
18. Take care of yourselves physically so that you will always have the energy to live passionately.
Eat healthy meals that will give energy. Be deliberate about maintaining your health and consciously know that not only do you do it for your own good but for the good of the relationship. Where there is a lot of energy and a great mindset, fun is always around the corner.
19. Strive to look your absolute best at least once every few months.
You know, like a personal makeover. Get dressed up and go visit somewhere that makes you both feel special. It could be a restaurant, or just checking into a great hotel with facilities you both will enjoy. Whatever it is, the objective is to look your best for each other.
Treat each other as friends, whether you are by yourselves or with friends.
Talk to each other as you would talk to a true friend. Forget about who belongs to whom. That is a comfort trap. You belong to no one really and no one belongs to you. What belongs to you is the relationship you share. Work at making that continuously interesting and exciting.
20. Learn to communicate more effectively in your relationship.
Sometimes the slightest misunderstanding can lead to stress in the relationship. Moreover, poor communication seldom hits home like we intend to. Learning to communicate openly and honestly can make the difference between an annoying moment and a moment of joy.
An intimate personal relationship is where we are supposed to be our best self. Without the requisite level of emotional intimacy, this is hard to achieve. We need to connect at a deep and intimate level to experience the best of our partner. That means doing the work to establish healthy emotional intimacy is worth every minute and effort.
Developing emotional intimacy in your relationship can be a challenge. However, if you have a well laid-out strategy and stick with it, you can achieve remarkable results. Follow the steps above to have real and deep intimacy in your relationship at all levels.
However, do not be afraid to consult a therapist or counselor for help in this area if needs be.