Emotional Intimacy in Your Marriage

Emotional intimacy is a key component of a healthy marriage. When emotional intimacy is lacking, a relationship can suffer. However, maintaining emotional intimacy requires work and attention. Restoring emotional intimacy after it is lost can be a lot tougher than working hard to preserve it along the way.

What Is Emotional Intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is generally defined as a closeness in which both partners feel secure and loved and in which trust and communication abounds. When you are emotionally intimate with your spouse, you may feel as if you can see into the other’s soul, knowing their hopes, dreams, and fears and understanding them at a deep level.

Having strong emotional bonds in a marriage relationship is important and worth the effort. Taking steps to strengthen emotional intimacy in marriage demonstrates your commitment to a long, strong, and happy marriage.

Emotional Intimacy in Your Marriage

What Emotional Intimacy Looks Like

Emotional intimacy can appear in a number of different ways in a relationship.

  • Having long, meaningful conversations about your hopes, fears, goals, and other feelings.
  • Talking to each other about the things that happened at work, with each person helping the other feel safe and validated.
  • Making time to spend time together to do things that you both enjoy.
  • Showing curiosity about each others’ lives, experiences, feelings, and interests.
  • Being willing to try new things that your partner suggests, even if it isn’t something you would normally do, such as watching a new movie, trying a new restaurant, or going to a concert.
  • Empathizing with your partner, validating their feelings, and giving them emotional support.

What Is a Lack of Emotional Intimacy?

Often, couples don’t recognize the signs when emotional intimacy is lacking. For example, a spouse may be blindsided when their partner announces that they want to leave the marriage. Looking back more closely over the years of their marriage, they may recall times when there was an emotional distance between them.

Signs that a relationship lacks emotional intimacy include:

  • Lack of support
  • Feeling lonely in the relationship
  • Not sharing important things with one another
  • Feeling disconnected from the other person
  • Not sharing due to a fear of being rejected
  • Distancing yourself from your partner
  • Lack of physical affection
  • Not empathizing with one another
  • More conflicts and arguments

Lack of emotional intimacy can also contribute to decreased sexual intimacy and lower marital satisfaction. Research has shown that couples who have more emotional intimacy feel more satisfied and fulfilled in their relationships.

Sometimes, couples don’t develop emotional intimacy in the first place or lose it after a while. Ideally, both partners will work on maintaining and building intimacy. It’s important to recognize your part in building emotional intimacy and being emotionally available.

How to Increase Intimacy

If your marriage seems to be lacking in emotional intimacy, there are a number of things that you and your partner can do to strengthen and deepen emotional intimacy.

Silence the Electronics

Deep and meaningful emotional intimacy in a relationship depends on the quality of human interaction. Texting and emailing are important ways for you to get practical things done and to stay in touch when you are apart and too busy to talk.

To combat this:

  • Consider turning off the computer, television, video game console, cell phone, and tablet when you are together.
  • Spend time talking, sharing, and looking at each other.
  • Turn off devices during meal times.

One tool that many successful couples use is silencing their cell phones and dropping them in a little basket or box by the door as they come home and agreeing to leave them off for at least an hour or two when they are together.

One study found that married couples who reported more everyday interruptions from tech devices (dubbed ‘technoference’ by the researchers), were more likely to have more conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, more symptoms of depression, and lower life satisfaction.

Be Emotionally Available

After years together, couples inevitably learn what might hurt their partners. Kind and loving partners who avoid hurting each other help each other feel loved, valued, and safe. When we make the environment safe for our spouses, emotional intimacy finds its place.

Unfortunately, many people have experienced hostility from those who they trusted, felt unloved, or learned bad relationship habits. If you have a habit of belittling or emotionally attacking those who are close to you, these habits will sabotage intimacy, creating a wall in your marriage.

Increase Your Time Together

It can be hard to find time together as a couple. Having children in the home can often magnify that difficulty. Consider having a cup of coffee together at a set time every weekend so that can help you feel relaxed and able to engage in good conversation.

Consider committing 30 minutes each evening to uninterrupted time with a spouse after the kids are in bed. During this time, take care of tasks together, like dishes and grocery shopping, so that things can get done faster and you can spend more time together as partners.

One 2021 study found that couples that spend a larger amount of time together talking have greater closeness, more positive feelings about one another, and greater overall satisfaction.

Read a Book Together

Reading a book together and discussing what you are reading can be a good vehicle for increasing emotional intimacy. There are some great books about strengthening marriage that you can read together, but you can also choose a novel, biography, or a book about a common interest.

The fact that you are reading together and talking about what you read can strengthen the trust and communication aspects of emotional intimacy, giving you a chance to share your feelings and insights without judging each other.

Seek a Balance Between Self and Couple

The strongest marriage relationships have two interdependent partners. Each one has rich hobbies, a professional life, or a social life, and they come together to invest in the marriage relationship.

Too much togetherness can be a bad thing if it deprives the relationship of the energy and experiences that interdependence brings.

Put Together a “Fun List”

Counselor Dr. Tony Ferretti recommends that couples assemble a list of things that the couple enjoys doing together, and then carve out time to do the things on the fun list. Spending time in pursuits you enjoy together can build shared memories and experiences while strengthening emotional intimacy.

Think about things you did when you were dating or newlyweds that made you enjoy time together, and consider putting them on your fun list. Explore activities that you have always wanted to try. Then make sure that you are doing something on the fun list on a regular basis.

Consider Marriage Enrichment Activities

Most communities, churches, and civic organizations hold marriage enrichment classes or marriage retreats for couples. A lot of couples find that this kind of investment in their relationship pays big dividends.

This kind of focused commitment to improving emotional intimacy can be a big investment of time. However, it is a worthwhile effort that may bring significant returns.

Get Help If You Need It

If you feel your emotional relationship heading downward, you may want to consider seeking help from a family therapist. You may have grown apart, hurt each other without meaning to, avoided intimacy for personal reasons, or become distracted by the demands of life. These problems can often be solved with dedication, time, and sincere attention.

Emotional intimacy is a vital component of any health relationship. A marriage build on this connection leads to deeper trust, greater satisfaction, and increased happiness. If you are struggling to maintain or regain the emotional intimacy in your relationship, consider talking to a therapist about steps you can take. With time and effort, you can strengthen your connection and grow closer as a couple.