Feeling connected to and safe with your spouse/partner is the hallmark of a healthy marriage/relationship. This emotional connection (sense of togetherness, of being kindred spirits) is what sustains a relationship, through the good times and the not-so-good times.
But this connection doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Emotional intimacy (emotional closeness) requires certain conditions in order to survive and grow. It’s important to be mindful of what makes you feel connected to your partner.
Emotional Intimacy Basics
Here is a brief listing of what you might need and expect from your spouse/partner in order to feel emotionally close:
- kindness (nothing invites us to share ourselves more than a compassionate, loving partner);
- respect (to never belittle or shame one another);
- attentiveness (the willingness to pay attention when you need him/her);
- responsiveness (feeling that your partner will respond to what you’re needing);
- empathy (a willingness to try to understand who you are and your perspective);
- consistent patience (knowing that your partner will be there for you the next day and the one after that).
But it’s not all up to your partner! In fact, s/he can do all of the above (and even more), and emotional intimacy can still be lacking in your marriage/relationship. How can this be?
You need to be open to emotional intimacy—without this openness, an internal door will remain closed to what your spouse/partner is offering you.
What you might need from yourself (yes, emotional intimacy requires that you treat yourself a certain way):
- self-acceptance (the ability to suspend self-judgment);
- feeling worthy of love (without a sense of being worthy, a part of you will always remain shut off to the gifts of intimacy);
- clarity about what you’re needing (if you don’t communicate your emotional needs, how will your partner know what you need?);
- a willingness to take emotional risks and be vulnerable (being in love will always involve taking leaps of faith in order to meet the other person half-way);
- the ability to trust your spouse/partner (pronounced cynicism and distrust will always create a wedge between you and your partner).
So if you feel that emotional intimacy and closeness is lacking in your marriage/relationship, go through this list to see what might be needed to create the optimal conditions for intimacy. And remember, intimacy is not only about your partner: the ability to be open and self-accepting is the crucial second-half of the intimacy equation.
Dr. Rich Nicastro