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Emotional Intimacy – What Is It And How To Get It
Emotional intimacy is something most couples want. But what is it and how do you get it? It isn’t as mysterious as you think, but it isn’t as easy as you think as well. Emotional intimacy is developed when both partners make it emotionally safe for each other and share themselves in a vulnerable way. Let’s talk about how to do that.
Have you ever shared what you feel only to have it rejected or not listened to? Or even used against you? This is the opposite of emotional safety and happens all too often when couples are struggling. Emotional safety takes two to create and only one to ruin. Both of you have to work towards it for it to take place.
In order to create it, you have to hold emotional space for your spouse. This entails listening, asking questions, and making it easy for them to explore their feelings with you. Be genuinely interested in what they are saying and trying to figure out. Instead of using what they say as ammunition later in a fight, help them feel secure when they share.
Here is an example of emotional safety. Your husband says to you, “I’m a little nervous to go over to your parents for Christmas. Every time we go, your dad asks me about my work and its not going very well.” An emotionally unsafe response would be – “Don’t worry about my dad. He is just interested in you”. Now, doesn’t that sound nice? Aren’t you trying to reassure your husband? Yes, but it also discounts what he is feeling. You are trying to talk him out of feeling nervous and that isn’t your place. If your husband heard this from you he would probably stop talking or argue with you about your dad’s intentions or how you don’t understand.
Here is how to respond in an emotionally safe manner. “I can see why you would be nervous. He does ask you about your work when we get together. And your work has been difficult lately. It must not feel good to have to talk about that with him”. If your husband heard this he would probably tell you more of what he is feeling. He would feel understood and that would invite him to share more because it is emotionally safe for him to do so.
Emotional vulnerability is when you share what you feel rather than what you think. You can be vulnerable through sharing both your comfortable and uncomfortable emotions (Related article: 3 Principles of Emotional Health). When you are vulnerable, you open yourself up to your partner. This is difficult because you know that you could be hurt. That is why it’s called being vulnerable. You aren’t guarded or defensive, but rather exposed and open when talking about your emotions.
Here is an example of being emotionally vulnerable. When talking about your nervousness in going to Christmas at your in-laws say, “I’m nervous to go to your parents for Christmas”. Simple. Say this instead of saying, “Your dad just grills me about my job every time I’m over there”. The former shares your actual emotion – nervous. Whereas the latter shares your defensive thought about your spouse’s dad.
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