When we think about being intimate with someone, our first thought is often something having to do with sex. However, that is only one of many ways a couple can be intimate.
According to therapist and writer for The Huffington Post Paul Dunion, a lot of couples believe sex and intimacy are synonymous. What they don’t realize is that while emotional intimacy can and does connect with sex, it isn’t the only way to reach your partner on that level.
In fact, many couples who connect through sex first have trouble being truly intimate later, because it wasn’t the basis on which their relationship was established. Sometimes a couple that has had great sexual chemistry finds it difficult to navigate the world of emotional intimacy, because that involves a much deeper level of emotional openness. So when the initial passion begins to wear off or diminish, many couples have a tough time keeping the love alive.
According to Dunion, “When dreams of love’s promises begin to unravel, a couple likely turns to blaming, criticizing and/or avoiding each other. The truth is they were never given the skills necessary to transform love into a deep, emotionally intimate connection. In a way, they were set up to be significantly disillusioned.” So essentially, even if there’s love between two people, this lack of emotional connection can lead to feeling isolated and unfulfilled, which can in turn create tensions that have been known to end marriages.
Every strong relationship needs a certain amount of emotional intimacy to survive. A clear definition of emotional intimacy according to Psych Central is “knowing someone deeply and being able to be completely free in that person’s presence.” Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it may be for some people, but others have a hard time being totally open, even with the person with whom they share their life.
However, there are ways to start opening (or reopening) the door to emotional intimacy in your relationship if you feel it’s been getting harder to connect. Here are some of the big ones.
1. Don’t put it off even if you’re scared
This may not sound like a step, but it’s important, because the first move toward intimacy is often the hardest. You can start by brainstorming ideas on how to feel closer. While this is a baby step, the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center says taking it slow is the only way to make real progress.
2. Know yourself and what you need
If you feel your relationship is lacking closeness but don’t know why that’s bothering you, it’s important to figure that out before heading into open discussions. It’s helpful to see a therapist on your own first to clarify your thoughts on the matter.
3. Let things get vulnerable
This one may be particularly hard, especially for guys who grew up with the traditional idea that men aren’t supposed to feel feelings, but it’s essential to actually get somewhere intimate with your partner. Psych Central says it’s the key to a healthy relationship that lasts.
4. Couple’s therapy is your friend
Don’t know how to start the conversation? An unbiased therapist is the perfect mediator when trying to re-establish intimacy. And no, just because you’re trying therapy doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is doomed. It’s not so much about uncovering problems as it is learning how to communicate about them, which will in turn help you tackle them better in the future.