Build Emotional Intimacy In Your Marriage or Relationship Today (video!)

Are you wondering hoow you can build more  emotional intimacy in your relationship? This article will address how to build more emotional intimacy in your relationship or in your marriage.

People tend to feel more motivated to build emotional intimacy when they are dating someone. Everything is new. They’re really curious about the other person, and feel like they want to know everything. There are so many questions to ask and things to find out about. 
However, once people have dated for a while or they get married, it kind of feels like “what else is there to know about the person? People end up not being as curious. There’s not as much to say.

Now, it doesn’t have to be that way. A lot of my clients say, “hey, we really know that it’s possible to have emotional intimacy in our marriage, even though we’ve been married for ten, 20 years or five years or two years. How do I get there?”

So here are some tips that I give to my clients:

Live-in relationships: A move towards marriage - Hindustan Times

1. Set the tone with your greeting and leaving

Start with how you leave and how you greet each other when you come home. Those things really set the tone for your relationship.

Did you know that men that kiss their wives before they leave for work end up living five years longer than those that don’t kiss their wives before they leave? It also shows in the study that they end up making more money. And obviously the effects on the marriage are great as well.

Before you leave, make sure you say goodbye. Make sure you give your wife or your husband a kiss or some kind of affection. And then when you come home, make sure that’s something that you do as well, because that will set the tone for the rest of your evening.

Your greeting will say, “hey, I’m home,I’m glad we’re together.” It should bring about some positive effects as you continue to interact together in the home. 

2. Be interested in your partner’s day, big or small

Share the things in your day. Big or small. We might think, “oh, same old, same old. There’s nothing really big that’s happened. Maybe I’ll share if I get a promotion, or maybe I’ll share if my son starts walking.” Those are definitely moments that you want to share about, but you also want to share about those little things, because those little things are what make up the whole of a person. The day to day things. And those things are things that allow you to really know a person.

To know who your partner’s coworkers are, which ones annoy them, which ones they really get along with. Or what things you struggle with your son or daughter–what things does your spouse really enjoy about parenting? What things do they enjoy about their work? Not enjoy about their work? What sort of things are their pet peeve? Driving to work. Getting to work.

Those are the things that make up your spouse or partner. It’s what really allows you to know them. It doesn’t have to be a big thing–maybe the highlight of your day was when someone complimented your work,  or maybe the lowlight of your day was when you had to drive home in  traffic, and you just felt so frustrated.

Those are things that allow you to get to know each other, that are important to share.

So if you don’t know what to say,  maybe start with what the highlight and lowlight of your day was. And then you can take turns and practice asking questions. 

So if your spouse says, “the highlight of my day was that somebody complimented me at work. They gave me credit for something that I’ve been working really hard on.” 

Then your response can be,”Great! What was it that they said? Who was the person? What is it that you did that they really affirmed you for?”

There are ways that you can build upon these small instances that allow you to open up and really get to know a person. This allows you to be known as well– and can build deeper intimacy in your relationship.

3. Be present

 It can be discouraging when one person is reaching out to connect and the other person does not reciprocate. Your presence speaks volumes to the other person. When you are attuned to your partner and actively listening, it is a powerful connector for your emotional intimacy. 

I remember yesterday my husband was asking me a question and I was watching a very interesting YouTube video, and I said to myself, okay, I’m going to pause my video and put my phone down. That was something that I needed to make an extra effort to do. 

It is hard at times, I will say, because when you’re in the middle of something, sometimes that feels more important than what your partner is about to tell you. But doing something small like that, putting your phone down, turning your chair so you’re facing the person that you’re actively listening, really builds in that emotional intimacy. It shows your partner that they are important. 

If my husband is reading something or, or if he’s watching a basketball game that I know he’s really into, I’ll just say, “hey, do you have a minute? I just need to talk to you about something real quick,” and usually he’ll pause the game.

If it’s something that isn’t that important and he can tell by the tone of my voice that it’s not that important, he might say, “Okay, just can you hold on for, like, five minutes until the quarter ends?”  and it’s no problem.

If you can pause whatever you’re doing and talk to the other person, that’s great. if you can’t, then just communicate when you’d be available to talk. 

The important thing is to really be able that the two of you are giving each other your full attention while you’re talking and being present with them.

So if you’re taking a walk together, don’t get on your phone while you’re walking the dog. Make sure your phone is away and you’re really just focusing on each other.

4. Share activities together.

Once you get married and you have kids and you’re working, there’s just so much to do. It feels like quality time together is the last thing on your mind; the last priority. And although it feels like the last priority, I hope you will realize that just like your body, it will decay over time if you neglect it.  You have to make time to spend quality time together.You have to make that a priority. Now, for a lot of us, time is limited. However,  in order to foster emotional intimacy, you have to be intentional. Otherwise, it will go by the wayside and you’ll end up falling back to default–screens, video games, etc.  These are things that are not going to deepen that emotional intimacy in your relationship.

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If you can’t get out for a date night every week, find something that you can do together, on a consistent basis. When our kids were really small, we had a window of time from 8am to 8:35,

Where we had childcare and we didn’t have to leave for work yet.We would take that time and go to the coffee shop and eat oatmeal together. Nowadays, our kids are older. We don’t have to do that. However, I remember those times fondly because it was time for us to decompress, to share and bond, aside from the craziness of diapers and bottles. 

Find creative ways to spend time together. Multitasking, in some cases, is ok!  Taking the dogs out on a walk together. You get exercise, get time together, you’re walking your dog. It could be other things that you can do together. I remember one client–they like watching Netflix together, but it’s with a twist. They pause it and then they’ll talk about it.

So it’s a way to bond over the show. They’re not just like zoning out, watching it, it’s done, and then they both pass out on the bed. They’re using that time to really build some bonding together over these shows.

5. Get to know each other on a deeper level. 

And again, you might feel like you know everything about your partner, but you’ll be surprised if you’re curious.

There are things about your partner that you don’t know.

Sometimes there are things that I’ll pop up in my mind about my husband that I’m really curious about. So just the other day,I was asking my husband about his childhood. His dad had a business and then the business had to close down.

I asked him, “How was that in your family? What was it like financially? Was it a transition for you?” And we had a pretty long conversation about what that was like for him. And I got to know him on a deeper level. Now, we’ve been married for almost two decades, and this was something that I had not really asked him. But it was really interesting and it really deepened our relationship for me to ask him about that.

About a month or two ago. I remember asking him, what was it like growing up in a school where he was the  only Asian person, only to transition to a school in fifth grade, where everyone was Chinese.  I asked him about the academic pressure of being in this new school, it must have been a really difficult transition.

And, and we again opened up another conversation about his life that I had not really known on a deeper level, and it helped me to really get to know him better.

So these are questions that you can ask with your spouse or partner.  It’s and and it doesn’t have to be about their childhood. Maybe it could be about the present, right? Why is it that you always need to put hot sauce on your eggs when you eat them in the morning? What is it about that?  Or if you could do another job, what would it be? These kinds of questions can open up conversations that really deepen your relationship.

There are tons of resources on the internet. Here are just a few: 

You can take a few minutes each day to ask a question, maybe over dinner, during your walk, or before you go to bed. Or save it for date night.

 6. Have fun together. 

Tell jokes, be playful. Don’t spend all your time talking about logistics, kids and finances. 

Find time to make the energy lighter–that’s going to build intimacy with your partner. Find ways to tell jokes and be playful.  I know a lot of people they like to share memes or Instagram Reels to their partner.  I know my husband really likes Costco, so any time I see something about Costco, I will send it to him, and we’ll laugh about it. Sometimes he’ll send me things, will laugh about it. He really likes to joke around. He still makes me laugh. Obviously, it’s not a laugh fest 24/7. We’ve got chores to do, bills to pay, schedules to coordinate. 
But once in a while, we take time to be playful here and there throughout the day.It just relaxes the mood and we all need that, don’t we? And what better person to do that than with your spouse or with your partner?

7. Be vulnerable. And be supportive

Oftentimes, in my sessions, when people share about their life, they will share facts–” like this thing happened and then that thing happened.”  And what I’ll say in response, is, “how did that make you feel?”
You can do the same  with your partner when your partner is sharing facts.  

I get it, “how does that make you feel?” Can feel a little insincere or cultivated. So instead of “how did that make you feel?” you can say something like, “wow, that sounds really frustrating.” Or, “that I would be so mad if that happened to me,”  and then let them build on top of that.

The point is to use the facts to access the emotion.  And that builds intimacy. So advice for the listener: be supportive.  If someone is sharing something vulnerable, I would say as the listener, try not to give advice unless the person is asking for it.

That’s the number one complaint that I hear from a lot of wives. They are looking for support but instead what they hear is advice.  And I know from the husband’s perspective they’re just trying to be helpful because in their brain, they just want to solve the problem. They’re problem solvers. And solving the problem is a way to protect and love their wives. 

But for the women, what they often say is, “I’m smart, I solve complicated problems all day long.  I just need someone to help ground me so I can think clearly.”

They want emotional support. They want to feel like they’re not alone, that someone is with them, that someone understands them. So if you can just take a step back as a listener and say, “wow, that’s really hard,” or “I don’t know what I would do in your shoes.”

You can also affirm them. “The way you handled that difficult situation was great.”  

The process of sharing vulnerably and receiving support can build a lot of intimacy because it builds trust. It’s being vulnerable. One person is  opening themselves up to another in a way that they would never open up to someone else.  And they’re receiving care and support that’s going to deepen the emotional intimacy in your relationship.

8. Affirm Your Partner

Affirm your partner, compliment them, find things that they do that you really appreciate. In my sessions, I come to realize that most spouses do notice the great things about their partner. When I ask them in session, oh, what do you appreciate about your spouse or your partner? They have things that they can say off the top of their head. However, they don’t think to point it out in the moment they see it, or they don’t think to say it to their partner.

And if you’re from an Asian background. A lot of times it’s hard because we’re not used to that. We grew up with the mentality that  if you compliment somebody, it’s going to make them have a big head. Sacrifice and actions are what communicate love, which is very true and I’m grateful for that. However, the words of affirmation really do create an intimate emotional bond that along with actions, solidifies the love one has for another. 

We already have enough criticism going through life. We need affirmation from the ones we love. We also put ourselves down enough in our minds. I think that encouragement can really lift a person’s mood and build the intimacy. So if you find something, you notice something about your partner that you really appreciate, try saying it to them. You don’t have to be corny or insincere about it like, oh, “you’re the greatest, you’re the best.”

That might feel a little bit cringey, but you can say, “I just happened to hear you talking in that meeting that you had online, and it sounded like people were really open to your ideas, and that’s great.”
It doesn’t even have to be a compliment. It could be a thank you. “Hey, thanks for doing the dishes today. That really takes a load off of my back.”  Things like that can build extra intimacy.

Now we’re all thinking it and we’re all feeling it, but it happens so quickly. Sometimes we don’t think to say it out loud. So I always tell my clients, make it a habit to give at least 1 or 2 compliments per day.

Sometimes that’s really hard, but if you can try to make that your goal, I guarantee you it’s going to build something positive in your relationship.

Conclusion:

Building emotional intimacy can feel like hard work, especially if you have been together with your spouse for many years. However, fostering this and working on this can build a strong foundation and build joy and stability in your relationship. Take a few things and practice them on a consistent basis and see your relationship improve!

About the Author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving San Jose, Milpitas and the Greater Bay Area and California. She specializes in couples counseling and  therapy, marriage counseling and therapy, and works with a lot of Asian American couples navigating relationship issues. If you want to learn more about her or work with her, you can do so here