I frequently receive calls from couples complaining about the relationship communication struggles they are having with their partners. Someone feels misunderstood. Someone else feels unheard. And yet another person feels smothered by the weight of their partner’s rambling thoughts. This is caused by intimacy issues between a couple. After only a few sessions, what will sometimes become clear is that the barriers to effective and healthy dialogue between the two are rooted in the rarely explored area of intellectual intimacy.
When it comes to intellectual intimacy, you should be asking yourself, “Is my mate on my level?” No, not your educational level. Intellectual intimacy is not about academics, IQ, or degrees. This intimate bond is about the way in which your brains complement one another.
Defining intellectual intimacy
Intellectual intimacy can be described as “getting each other”; being able to share thoughts and ideas, hopes and fears, wishes and desires…openly…empathetically, for hours at a time. Couples should be building on one another’s thoughts, taking the conversation to heights in which new perspectives are conceived and considered, instead of the more popular attempts to disprove or break apart each other’s musings.
Another component of healthy intellectual intimacy is the receiving, interpreting, and applying of information in a similar fashion. A healthy marriage is formed by two people with sometimes vastly different families of origin, as well as other life experiences, what they do with that information can be as dissimilar as baggy tube socks and stockings. As a result, these conflictual approaches can leave a couple feeling stuck, believing their marriage is doomed to dwell in a pit of uninterpretable sentiments. Yet, there are many ways to overcome these barriers and connect mind to mind with your mate. Here are a few:
1. Have an adventure!
Since you spent so much of your lives having different experiences, the sharing in new experiences and taking the time to reflect on and discuss your thoughts about those experiences is a great way to strengthen the intellectual intimacy with your mate. Sharing in a common adventure, like traveling, taking in a show, or simply indulging in your latest Netflix guilty pleasure, even if interpreted differently, allows you to better understand the ways in which your mate formulates their perspectives. This enhances the sense of empathy that is ordinarily lacking in instances of poor communication.
2. Share a book!
Exploring the worlds created by gifted writers with your partner is an excellent way to probe the inner workings of each other’s thought processes. Whether it’s a mystery, an autobiography, science fiction, or self-help, this activity is not meant to be a measuring stick for intellectual acumen, but rather a chance to discover the impact of the written word on the synaptic functioning of your mate’s emotional self.
3. Texting funny messages!
An even simpler way to maintain and grow that intellectual connection is actually a very popular technique many are already using: the texting, emailing, DM’ing, and posting of articles, memes, and stories to your partner. It’s not just the sending and receiving of these messages that’s the significant mechanism at work…it’s the response! Simple reactions to these oft-overlooked attempts by your mate to facilitate an intellectual dance can be the key to further securing that intellectual bond.
It is important to be intentional in the way you engage in these activities and subsequent conversations. Those discussions are what really matter! Don’t judge. Be accepting! Be sensitive! Be curious! Remember, good intellectual intimacy should not leave two people feeling drained and exhausted. Instead, you should be overcome with a sense of inspiration, encouragement, and closeness.