Not just between the sheets
Intimacy isn’t always between the sheets, it’s also between two hearts. Think about it this way. You as a couple are not together just to procreate, or to keep up appearances in the society, or to hang out and go to restaurants. You are potentially looking for lifelong companionship. Someone to bear witness to your life. When you’re looking for something like this but don’t work on the quality of the companionship, the relationship fizzles out or becomes toxic and you become lonely. The entire idea of a relationship is not for two people to be miserable together, but to be happy.
When a couple comes together to live, laugh and love, a complex web of emotions get created which is more than knowing more just the habits and preferences of an individual. That energy in a relationship is emotional intimacy.
In order to be happy you must develop emotional intimacy and it can be done simply by talking. Here are a few reference points.
Tell me about your childhood
If you are already married or in a long-term relationship, out of sheer longevity, you would know a lot about your partner’s childhood. If you are however still in the honeymoon phase, you will need time to find these things out. Our childhood experiences shape who we are as people. While they don’t always define us more often than not, they can explain our behaviours. For example, being abused by a stranger or a family member can have long-standing effects on our personality. Knowing your partner, and understanding what made them the way they are is important in empathising with them and developing emotional intimacy.
Do I love myself?
As ‘new-age’ and ‘spiritual’ as this may sound, research has proved that people who express love for themselves, who like themselves and have a healthy self-esteem make better partners. You don’t have to constantly reassure the person of their lovability, or tame their jealousy. They are secure people. Asking yourself if you are all those things is important in a relationship. This question forces you to get in touch with your own emotions and that can help you relate to your partner.
What do you like about me?
Asking this to your partner can result in hilarious and profound responses. People tend to tell each other the generic ‘I love you’ or ‘I like you’ in its various forms but no one gets specific about these things. Forcing your partner and yourself to go through this exercise almost makes you admire each other all over again. It’s like counting your blessings and can be helpful in rejuvenating the emotional and even physical intimacy between you two.
What are our emotional needs?
This is a difficult conversation, so let’s first establish what it is not. This is not an invitation for you to tell each other what you could be doing ‘more’ for each other. It is not a criticism fest or a trigger that leads to finger pointing and fights. What this conversation is about, however, is what exactly do you both think you respectively need emotionally. It could be loyalty, a sense of appreciation, gratitude, respect, more verbal expressions of love, more attention, less attention, the list could go on. When you ask each other this question, don’t frame it by saying “what more can I do for you?” Instead ask your partner, “what do you think you need emotionally from me?’. It will provide you both with a picture of things you consider important for yourselves and you can both then try to help each other feel those feelings.
Can you both call a spade a spade?
If you both or one of you has felt that your relationship is going through trouble, can you both look at it without dismissing the other’s view? Can you have these discussions without gas-lighting, and try and talk about it honestly? Is either of you in denial? The first step in solving a problem is to admit that there is a problem and not turn away in pretense. The ability to do so can turn you from two opposing parties to one team against the problem.