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Emotional Intimacy – Definition, Signs, How to Build it, How to Restore it, and Everything Else

Emotional Intimacy – Definition, Signs, How to Build it, How to Restore it, and Everything Else

Updated on Sep 29, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Emotional Intimacy – Definition, Signs, How to Build it, How to Restore it, and Everything Else

Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of any relationship.

It involves candid, authentic expression of thoughts and feelings. It involves being able to talk about other deepest fears, dreams, disappointments, and most complicated emotions, as well as to be seen and understood when you do.

When you are emotionally intimate with someone, you cultivate a “safe space” between each other that is free of judgment and contempt. It fosters trust and a profound sense of security within your relationship.

Sounds too satisfying?

Well, stick with me till the end, and I promise, by the time you read the last word, you will desire emotional intimacy more than sex…

Emotional Intimacy Definition

Emotional intimacy is a feeling of closeness and connection with someone. It’s a sense of being seen, known, and understood. It requires vulnerability, empathy, a high level of trust, and finely-tuned communication skills.

It is the way to let another person know you fully and love you because of who you are—as well as in spite of it. This requires a leap into complete honesty and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

Deeper levels of emotional intimacy ensures experience of oneness with your partner, in as well as out of bed. 

For some, intimacy is that sense of being “home” in the presence of your partner. Or it may be an increased sense of relaxed pleasure when you see your loved one’s face after an absence.

Emotional Intimacy Examples

Picture this…

You’ve had an awful day at work. You call up your partner and just start ranting about your boss. Throughout the call, they listen intently. They ask you follow-up questions and let you safely express your entire range of emotions.


You are dissatisfied with the amount of time your spouse spends at the office with a particular colleague. Rather than letting the negativity build up, you express your feelings to your partner. They listen attentively and are willing to help make a plan so they can spend more time with you.

All the above scenarios are what healthy, and deep emotional intimacy looks like!

Signs of Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is the building rock of all healthy relationships. Here are 10 signs that can help you determine if you are emotionally intimate with your partner.

1. You both care for each other’s needs, wants, and desires

When you want the best for your partner, it is one of the most obvious signs of emotional intimacy.

In other words, when their life objectives, dream goals, and job goals are fulfilled, and you’re just as much happy – that’s when you know you’ve formed a heart-to-heart connection.

2. You trust your partner

Emotional intimacy cannot exist without trust, period. When you have a deep emotional connection with someone, you learn to trust them with your eyes closed.

3. You both participate in active listening

It is one thing to simply hear what the other person is saying and a whole different ball game altogether to be an active listener.

You create a safe space for the partner to vent out and express their concerns without any fear of judgment or discrimination.

4. You can both agree to disagree

Disagreements are common in every sphere of life. Your partner and you may not share the same point of views, always.

But you both must have the freedom to voice your disagreements freely… that is, without the fear of being criticized.

When there is space for disagreement, conversations become more purposeful and the bond becomes more meaningful.

5. You take interest in each other’s hobbies

If a partner feels a strong emotional connection, they go the extra mile to accommodate the other person’s interests and hobbies into their routine.

The idea is to find ways to emotionally connect with the other person, either through shared interests or different hobbies.

6. You can be your quirkiest self with each other

If you can be your weird self in front of your partner, congratulations!! You are in an emotionally mature relationship.

As long as there is no need to put up a show to impress your partner, know it for a fact that your emotional intimacy game is strong!

7. You are not just here for sex

In emotionally strong relationships, sexual intimacy comes second to emotional connectedness.

In other words, open and honest feelings contribute more to wholesome intimacy than sexual attractiveness.

When you have a deep emotional sense of connection with someone, you often experience nonsexual intimate moments in your relationship. Simple things like holding hands or hugging your partner can evoke a sense of deep intimacy minus the sexual undertone.

8. You can sense if something is wrong

When you are emotionally intimate with each other, the tone of their voice or the look on their face is enough for you to understand that something is off or amiss.

Neither of you needs to explain everything in detail. You become intuitive about each other’s feelings.

9. You can be vulnerable with each other

Contrary to popular belief, being vulnerable with your partner is a sign of strength and not weakness.

The ability to express your needs, fears, and embarrassments in an uninhibited and unadulterated manner shows how comfortable you are with your partner – and how strong you are connected to each other (emotionally).

10. You do not care much about physical appearance

In the initial phases of your relationship, you tend to care about how you look and are super conscious about your appearance.

But as the emotional connectivity in your relationship grows, you feel more confident about the way you look.

This happens because your relationship rises above superficial things like physical appearances and material things. An emotionally strong relationship is about affection and being there for each other.

Why is emotional intimacy important in a relationship?

Emotional intimacy is the invisible glue that builds a relationship block by block. It provides a safe and positive environment for the relationship and the partners in it.

A strong emotional bond is when you can rely on your partner with your eyes closed. This is important to successfully overcome challenges and fight obstacles in life

Emotional intimacy also builds trust and empathy in both partners. At the end of the day, both of you enjoy a harmonious environment and a happy personal life.

Further, emotional intimacy in relationships helps you give and receive respect from your partner. It also gives you the freedom to voice your opinions and also be accepting of others’ POVs without questions.

How to build emotional intimacy? – 20 Ways

Emotional intimacy forms the foundations of strong and long-lasting relationships. But the process of building emotional intimacy is slow, extremely slow… with heaps of rewards to reap in the end.

To help you, I’ve listed 20 ways that can help in improving emotional intimacy with your partner.

1. Go slow but steady

First and foremost, do not hasten the process. It will take time to build an emotional connection with your partner, especially if you have unresolved conflicts.

Be patient and keep at it… all while you trust, accept and love your partner.

2. Improve yourself first

You can’t enjoy emotional intimacy in a relationship with low self-confidence because the most important relationship that you have is with yourself.

So, address your own inner issues before you set out to build a better emotional connection with your partner.

Remember, when you are at your best self, you can participate in the process more fully, mindfully, and meaningfully.

3. Empathize with your partner

Empathy allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and comprehend what they feel. This further allows you to understand each other and build a deeper emotional bond.

After all, nothing can replace a person who can understand you without you speaking a word.

4. Spend quality time with each other

Whether it’s your morning coffee or your after-work gym session, spend some quality time together. Focus on small, easy, and meaningful actions you can do as a couple, and make sure to comply with them.

To spend some time together, you can…

  • Go on hiking
  • Go to a new restaurant that just opened
  • Plant a garden in your yard
  • Create something together
  • Learn something together that you’re both passionate about

5. Apologize quickly

Everyone makes mistakes. In romantic relationships, you may get hurt by your partner’s tiniest mistakes. And it’s the same with your partner.

So, if you have hurt your partner in the past, make amends by first apologizing as soon as possible. And next, work on the issue and resolve it.

This will help your partner open up to you and enable them to be more emotionally intimate with you over time.

6. Indulge in fun activities together

You’ve probably heard the “try new things together” advice over and over again. It’s a good perspective, but here’s the actual point – it’s less about the search for new things and more about the fun you both experience together.

So, whether it’s a new adventure or an old hobby, find ways to feed the fire of excitement in your relationship to help you build emotional intimacy.

7. Acknowledge each other

While building emotional intimacy with your partner, learn to acknowledge their silence, anger, presence, and absences.

Acknowledge the small things that your partner does to cultivate gratitude and a long-lasting emotional intimacy.

8. Give credit when it’s due

There will always be something that your partner does just for you – it can be as simple as making a cup of tea in the morning or even taking you on vacation every month. It is important to not take these things for granted, and always, ALWAYS appreciate them for this.

You must also keep acknowledging the things that they have done for you in the past, any specific characteristic or trait that you like about them, regarding their accomplishments, personality, etc.

9. Allow yourself to be vulnerable

This is both – a sweet effort and a courageous form of emotional validation. This can be scary at the beginning of a relationship. And it’s surprisingly difficult for long term couples too.

The more someone means to you, the more their opinion of you matters. But, if you want to build a soulful connection – remember that, you have to be willing to be truly seen in order to be truly known.

10. Flirt more with each other

When was the last time that you used your charm to lure your partner? I am sure you don’t remember.

While most people don’t give this as much importance as it deserves, I absolutely believe that the flirting must never stop in a relationship.

Slip a love note, tease them, plant a kiss on their forehead, wear their favorite outfit, and more importantly, make eye contact.

11. Try intimacy-building exercises

If you want to connect more emotionally with your partner, try a few intimacy building techniques like…

·        Hug like there’s no tomorrow

·        Seven breaths

·        Conversational connection

·        Gazing

·        Five things

·        Memorize by touch

All of them have been designed by relationship experts and are bound to show results.

12. Keep a positive approach

A positive approach is essential to have a healthy, emotional connection with your partner. You cannot be the one cribbing all the time and expecting them to love you back.

Instead try to be more assertive, supportive and kind.

13. Cherish the little moments

Emotional intimacy requires partners to be present for each other. You need to enjoy every little moment you share with each other and not worry about the past or the future.

Stay away from all distractions when you are with your partner to truly live in the moment with them. You can simply sit together and talk about what you both mean for each other.

14. Plan date nights frequently

Whether you decide to go out or stay in, romantic dates are important to foster emotional intimacy alive.

Have a date night every week or once every two weeks, cook or order takeaway, watch a movie, read a book together, stargaze, play board games or video games, etc. It can be a simple candlelit dinner at home or you can go all fancy with an elaborate date planned ahead.

15. Forgive!

Resentment leads to emotional distance. Often people equate forgiveness with weakness, but that’s far from true. In reality, forgiveness is a strength because it shows you are capable of putting your partner ahead of yourself.

Studies indicate that forgiving someone is one way of letting go so that you can heal and move on with your life. This attitude helps to strengthen emotional bonds between partners more than anything.

16. Don’t take each other for granted

A few months into the relationship… Most couples focus on other things in life while the partner sits on the back burner. But this attitude might just prove to be harmful for your relationship.

Do small things for the sake of old times to make them feel loved. For example, wear something you used to wear on your first date and talk about your favorite moments from then. You get the idea–it doesn’t need to be grand; it just needs to be meaningful.

17. Break your routine

Consider taking a break from your regular routine and spend time at home. What you do for your profession is important, but so is your personal life.

Learn to draw boundaries and strike a balance. It will not just help your partner feel loved but also help reduce your stress and fatigue.

18. Share and listen to understand

Decide on a specific time of the day, for example, after work, to sit together and speak your heart out to each other. Share your feelings and thoughts; whatever you may have on your mind.

Along with that, make sure you’re actively listening to your partner and paying attention to what they’re saying.

Sometimes all one needs is someone to hear them out; it helps to build a healthy emotional connection with them.  

19. Cuddle to avoid the puddle

Cuddling is not only great for building physical intimacy, but it’s a powerful tool for building emotional intimacy.

You feel close to each other physically and emotionally and also develop a sense of security. It also helps release feel-good neurotransmitters – dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, that are responsible for making you happy.

Further, the physical touch helps you feel loved, completes you, and makes you feel secure. All these combined help build emotional intimacy between partners.

20. Create a safe zone

In every relationship, both partners have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. It can be difficult to navigate the differences, but it is essential to create a safe space where you can express yourself to each other freely.

What is the lack of emotional intimacy?

Summary: Couples that lack emotional intimacy often feel isolated, disconnected, and insecure. Even though they may spend time together, there’s no real emotional connection or understanding with each other.

A lack of emotional intimacy slowly eats away the relationship and ultimately breaks it apart.  Most often, couples do not even realize the lack of emotional intimacy until it is too late.

For example, one fine day, a partner declares they want to break up, and that hits like a brick on the other person’s face. But when they reflect on the relationship later on, they often find the lack of emotional intimacy responsible for the breakup.

Lack of emotional intimacy creates a distance between you and your partner and is often worse than lack of physical intimacy.

Lack of emotional intimacy may feel like:

  • To be in the same room but still feel alone
  • To be physically together but somehow feeling disconnected
  • A loveless, or even worse, a hateful relationship
  • You and your partner do not share the same wavelength
  • You have to walk on eggshells around your partner

How to know if there’s a lack of emotional intimacy?

Many couples claim to not have enough emotional intimacy in their relationships but don’t know it for you. Here are some signs that can help you…

1. You spend less time together

If you’re in a relationship and still prefer to spend time by yourself or with other people – it means that the emotional intimacy in your relationship is lost.

In healthy relationships, partners don’t just spend time but also never get enough of each other.

2. You feel left out

It is obvious to feel isolated and left-out when you and your partner do not share your emotions and problems. You may feel distant from your partner, even if both of you live under the same roof.

Lack of emotional intimacy may make you feel distant from each other even if everything else looks normal.

3. You complain about each other a lot

There can be times when you may dislike some of your partner’s habits. But, if you and your partner often complain about each other and indulge in blame games, then this is the sign that there’s no emotional intimacy between you two.

4. You hold grudges against each other

Emotional intimacy thrives where there is forgiveness and compassion. If you and your partner never give up the ill-feeling after an argument or disagreement, it is a clear sign of emotional disconnect.

5. None of you share your emotions anymore

If you cannot open up to your partner about your anxieties and insecurities, you may end up in trivial fights and arguments with each other. This is another big sign that shows the relationship lacks emotional intimacy.

6. You touch each other in the bedroom only

If you think intimacy can only exist in your bedroom, then you may be wrong.

If you rarely hold hands and cuddle, then this shows you do not share emotional intimacy in your relationship. Emotional intimacy is all about expressing love and affection to your partner outside the bedroom.

7. You do not value each other’s opinions

When you do not value each other’s opinions or worse, don’t even discuss problems with each other – it shows that there’s no emotional connection between you both.

8. You do not trust each other

When there is no emotional intimacy, it is obvious that you won’t trust your partner. You may feel that your partner is least concerned about you and so you prefer to not discuss any serious matter with them. The same thing holds true for your partner too.

9. You do not have heart-to-heart conversations

If there is a lack of emotional connection between partners, there would be no meaningful conversations at all. And why’s the relationship even existing if you can’t even bare your heart open to each other?

10. One of you shares more than the other

If one of you in the relationship shares everything about their life while the other silently listens, it shows that there’s a terrible emotional imbalance. You both need to equally start investing in this relationship that you’re building, or else it won’t survive the test of time.  

How to restore emotional intimacy when lost?

When emotional intimacy is lacking, the signs are easily recognizable. But here’s the good news, with some effort from both sides, couples can restore emotional intimacy and breathe new life into their damaged relationship.

Here are ten simple ways you can do that.

1. Assess your situation

The more you and your partner look into your relationship, the more you will be able to analyze your bond, your habits, and the way you behave, act, and talk with each other.

This will, in turn, allow you both to see where you both went wrong and what caused you both to drift apart emotionally.

2. Do not drag the past into your present

You need to focus on the present, the here and now of your relationship, to actually restore the emotional intimacy between you two. Yes, your partner might have made a bunch of mistakes in the past, but so have you.

But my question is, what good will it do if you keep dwelling on them? So let go of the past and focus on the positive things right now.

3. Change the way you behave

Behavior is the key to creating change because, unlike feelings, it is the one aspect that you can truly control.

If you feel like your partner neglects you, try to strike a conversation with them about it. If you feel like you don’t spend enough time together, make time.

Emotional intimacy can be restored if you change your behavior towards what you feel.

4. Apologize for your mistakes

Most of us struggle to apologize to our partners because we hate to admit that we’re wrong — we think it will make us look weak, or less clever than we actually are.

But that one simple word – “sorry” can change the whole dynamics of your relationship, and bring you and your partner much closer emotionally.

5. Accept that things will never be the same as before

Once there is a crack in the mirror, you cannot fix it completely. The same goes with emotional intimacy. You need to understand that your relationship will not be the same as before; at least not right now.

You need to be patient and start from scratch to create the emotional safe space that was once there in your relationship.

6. Count the strengths of your partner

Make a list of all the things that you love about your partner.

It’s very easy to point out the flaws in a person. But now it’s time to identify good things about your person and jot them down.

This will make you feel happy and your partner as well.

7. Spend time with them consciously

When you two spend some quality time with each other, devote yourself to that moment completely.

Things may not work out if you continue to scroll your phones while you are on a date. You have to keep your phones aside and talk to each other.

8. Remember the good times

Spend time to remember the good things in the relationship – whether it is a memory of how you met, a first date, first kiss, or even your wedding day.

Remember, the happy memories, the positive experiences to bring back the emotional warmth into your relationship.

9. Plan a pleasant surprise for your partner

Well, it may seem that I am trying to dig a hole in your pocket, but honestly, I am not. Surprises can communicate your love to your partner like no other. Plus, it doesn’t need to be as luxurious as you’ve planned in your mind.

You can cook maybe their favorite meal or watch their favorite show even if you don’t like it that much. Sometimes, generosity boosts your emotional intimacy a lot.

10. Try to understand your partner’s perspective

Buddy, sometimes it is important to understand your partner’s point of view instead of trying to prove yourself right. It helps you to understand your partner in different ways. Further, it makes them feel relaxed and grow closer to you emotionally.

How long does it take to build emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is not built overnight. It takes time which is dependent on both partners in the relationship.

Emotional intimacy is a connection that goes beyond the physical, bonding two individuals—emotionally, mentally, and some might even say spiritually.

Emotional intimacy is built over the course of time. But the more you invest in yourself – and create the space for your partner to do the same – the sooner you will be close to each other emotionally.

Just like a relationship, emotional intimacy needs to be nurtured. You need to allow it time to grow. Most couples may not have a strong emotional connection from the very first day of the relationship but build it on the go.

On the other hand, there are people who get into a relationship because they feel that they are emotionally very compatible. They shared an intense emotional connection with each other from the first date.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Every relationship must start with a strong emotional connection. Physical intimacy is important, but when you combine it with emotional closeness, you can build a much longer, happier, and soulful relationship.

Emotional intimacy is a basic human need – fundamentally – it’s something we all want. You don’t have to settle for a distant and disconnected relationship.

All the joys of deep emotional intimacy are available to you. It just takes a little work and the right approach.

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