Originally published on InnerHour
An awkward silence hangs in the air during dinner time. You can’t remember the last time you wanted to share exciting news with your partner. The two of you are rarely sexually intimate with each other.
If you’ve been sensing this growing disconnect from your partner, chances are that the reserves of emotional intimacy in your relationship are rapidly dwindling. If you’re longing for that initial closeness and connection you had at the beginning, read on to know how you can breathe new life into your relationship.
What is Emotional Intimacy?
Vital to our well-being, emotional intimacy involves the ability to express your thoughts and feelings in an honest and open manner without the fear of judgment or criticism. Since our expectations for emotional intimacy are a result of our experiences with family and peers, differing expectations are likely to result in conflicts. While a loss of emotional intimacy might be distressing for couples, the good news is that it can be restored. All it takes is two patient and understanding people who are willing to work towards the rebuilding of their relationship.
Where Do I Start?
If you’re struggling to find a starting point for this road to restoration, the answer is simple. Communication is key! Advocated by numerous relationship experts for a reason, research has shown that effective communication leads to longer lasting relationships (Wiley, 2006). A simple conversation summarising the details of your day or sharing something that’s bothering you in a calm, non-aggressive manner can do wonders for your relationship (Driver and Gottman 2004).
Empathy is Important
It doesn’t stop at communication. It’s important to create a safe, space for your partner to feel comfortable enough to share their innermost desires and worries with you without feeling judged (Wiley, 2006). Empathy involves being understanding and accepting and it allows your partner to be unafraid of being themselves around you.
Dealing with Conflict
It is natural to experience conflict at various stages of your relationship and as you try to reconnect with your partner. In the middle of heated arguments, you might feel the need to withdraw from your partner by staying silent or suppressing your emotions. However this might lead to an emotional disconnect and reduced feelings of intimacy (Peters, 2016). Give each other the opportunity to discuss feelings regarding the conflict to allow for the creation of middle ground. You both may not always agree with each other but understanding and accepting differences in opinions is as good as resolving the fight (Harris, 2012).
Make Spontaneity Your Best Friend
Research has shown that the daily drudgery and monotony of life can cause a growing dissatisfaction within relationships (Tsapelas; Orbuch, 2009). If you feel that this is the case with you and your partner, it is time to be a little spontaneous. In order to maintain that element of surprise, you could plan a spontaneous trip, a surprise dinner or going out and doing something that’s always been on your relationship bucket list.
Keep the Chemistry Alive
Physical intimacy and sexual satisfaction, in particular plays a key role in maintaining a healthy relationship (Young & Luquis, 1998). Taking time to understand and satisfy each other’s physical and sexual needs will go a long way in restoring intimacy and enhancing your connection with each other.
Talk to an Expert
Try talking to your partner and gauging their receptiveness to seeking help with resolving any intimacy issues you might have. Psychotherapy has proven to be an effective way of dealing with a variety of issues and the growing body of research on relationships has yielded helpful tools like Emotional Focused Couple Therapy (ECFT) which has been shown to increase emotional as well as physical and psychological intimacy (Soltani, 2013).
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