The secret to a deep, purpose-driven life is not to perceive but to feel. We can see, touch, smell, taste, and hear the world around us, but not until we feel it do we truly sense the living spark. When we watch a movie, it’s not the scenes we glimpse but the emotions they evoke that make us laugh or cry. We must feel all that we do—even become intimate with it—to grasp its full meaning. This holds especially true in relationships; we might be physically attracted to someone, but only when we engage our emotions do we really connect with that person.
I met my husband mere days after I landed in America. Whether it was fate, coincidence, or pure luck, I married him in three weeks and we remained together until he passed away many years later. I believe what kept us together was sharing this extraordinary ability to feel each other at all times: he could detect exactly what was bothering me. Likewise, I knew just what to bring him before he could even ask. We maintained our relationship not by seeing each other day to day or going about the routines of life, but by being emotionally intimate.
The magic of intimacy is that it can be of the soul. Far surpassing physical intimacy, emotional intimacy is the glue of any loving bond. To be emotionally intimate means to be empathetically in tune with your partner, feeling his fears, desires, wishes, and needs as if they were your own. Implement these six keys to deepen intimacy in your relationship:
See it together. Visualization exercises can empower your relationship. You’ve probably already tried this with your partner without even realizing it: imagining what your future together will look like. Take it one step further. Hold your loved one’s hand and close your eyes as you take turns saying your wishes out loud. Speak in the present tense, as if your dreams were coming true right now. You can say things like, “I see us walking into our new home. It’s a big, brick house with a garden in front,” or whatever it is you both want to achieve. Make this a nightly or weekly habit. Visualizations are profoundly intimate rituals that inspire you to strive towards mutual goals.
Reinforce your love. When you speak loving words to your partner, speak them with conviction. This means saying a full and excited “I love you” instead of a hurried “love ya.” Reinforcing your love entails actions as well, like making tiny sacrifices that mean the world to your significant other: being on time, remembering to call, etc. Emphasize his importance in your life. Hold your lover close and experience every element of his being: smell his hair, feel his back, listen to his heart beat. Close your eyes and tell him what he means to you. Compliment and uplift him. Don’t think too much; speak from the seat of your soul. Giving and receiving love without restraint is the highest intimate act.
Pay attention to body language. The emotions we experience manifest into physical gestures. Pay attention if your partner heaves a big sigh, when he crosses his legs, where he places his hands, and so on. Most movements are subconscious but each one is purposeful. When you note small, inadvertent movements you can discern his level of comfort as well as what situations cause him unease. In time, you can come to know what your partner is thinking just by watching the way he holds himself.
Make eye contact. You might want to avoid looking your significant other in the eye when you’re upset with him. Even in such moments, keep in mind that nothing is as effective at conveying (or betraying) your sentiments as eye contact. Words may reach the brain but a glance can reach down to the soul. Eye contact can be intensely intimate. Get into the habit of looking your partner in the eye when addressing him to lock in the potency of your words and intentions.
Engage in quality conversation. Quality surpasses quantity when it comes to communication. Maintain mindful dialogues in which you explore important topics. Ask questions to help your partner release his thoughts, but don’t make the conversation seem like an interview. Ask about one relevant matter, then let him talk as much (or as little) as he wants. Listen to his tone, choice of words, and hesitation to say certain things. Your partner may be trying to tell you how something makes him feel, but may have trouble conveying it. Consider the overall quality of your conversations: Are you speaking enough and if so, what is the basis of your talks? Are you reaching helpful conclusions together, or harmful conclusions against each other? The right kind of speech encourages and heals. When all else fails simply ask, “How do you feel?”
Allow emotions to flow. Some people are afraid to open up and feel because they believe it’ll somehow makes them weak or more susceptible to being hurt. Heavy emotions like anger, bitterness, and resentment should be released in healthy ways so as not to disrupt the dynamic of your relationship. Pleasant emotions, on the other hand, must be experienced in their totality to heighten intimacy. Excitement, passion, pleasure, and joy—these feelings should be captured in their greatest spectrum. Share positive sentiments that bring you closer together. Dismiss your fears of becoming vulnerable and allow your feelings to flow.
Emotional intimacy is not only essential to a healthy bond, it builds long-term harmony and stability between two partners. Practice my six secrets to emotional intimacy and reach the passionate peak of your relationship.
To emotional intimacy,
Dr. Carmen Harra