Intimacy Refined: Growing Your Emotional Intimacy (originally published on

Intimacy Refined: Growing Your Emotional Intimacy

Renee and Carl sat on my couch, complaining, as they often did, about the role the other played in their latest conflict. Maybe it had to do with the laundry…maybe it had to do with the dishes.

What was clear from the tone in which they spoke was their desire for me to play referee, judge, and mediator.

Instead, I pointed out Renee’s use of a couch pillow to create a physical barrier between her and her husband.

Wedged between their respective thighs, the small, brown pillow stood out like a mountain in a desert plain and was equally insurmountable.

I was not insensitive to the seemingly troublesome daily struggles of my clients. But the symbolism of the pillow was certainly more reflective of their marital dysfunction than the weekly dispute over domestic labor.

Emotional intimacy

Have you ever sensed a physical, unexplainable distance between you and your betrothed, or looked into your mate’s eyes, wondering what thoughts and feelings loomed large behind them?

Better yet, have you ever avoided your mate’s curious gaze, afraid that the thoughts and feelings you kept trapped inside would be revealed?

These are all signs that your union may be suffering from a lack of emotional intimacy in marriage or the challenges of emotional intimacy are oppressing your marriage.

Emotional intimacy can be described as actively sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with your mate, in a way that establishes a deeper understanding of one another, thus reinforcing a sense of closeness and attunement.

Think about it as getting emotionally naked without fear of judgement about you experiences, your passions, your desires, and the not-so-perfect parts of yourself, and the comfort such openness can erect.

This level of vulnerability can be terrifying, and even paralyzing to many, but it is an essential ingredient to a loving, trusting, and healthy relationships.

Building, maintaining and even developing emotional intimacy within your relationship is so very important for several reasons:

  1. It can enhance a couple’s ability to communicate effectively;
  2. It can increase resiliency in the face of inevitable life stresses;
  3. It can return a sense of fun and adventure to vanilla, routine, and mundane activities;
  4. And it can foster a shared desire for romantic engagement.

The last point about romantic engagement is MAJOR. Many couples are unaware that the source of their struggles with physical intimacy lay in their difficulties with emotional intimacy.

Do you want to know what does emotional intimacy feel like in a relationship? Would you like to spice things up in the bedroom, or at least reestablish a lost connection?, and what are the  steps to improving emotional intimacy with your partner?

Here are a few takeaways on how to build intimacy with your husband or wife and  strengthening that emotional bond!

The three V’s to build better emotional intimacy

The three V’s to build better emotional intimacy

Relationships require a great deal of emotional capital to establish, grow, and maintain.

The more you invest emotionally in your relationship, the better your chance of having a healthy and successful experience, and that investment is often demonstrated through one simple, yet often deficient element: effort.

There are numerous reasons as to why one or both partners don’t give an adequate or appropriate amount of effort towards their relationship (too many to list here), but the resulting, stunted emotional bond is the same.


Effort is exhibited through many factors, including: the time and manner in which you spend with your mate; your attempts at meeting your mate’s love language; and your continued cultivation of both spiritual intimacy and intellectual intimacy.

Effort, unlike sentiment, cannot be faked; it can only be witnessed. Your effort and emotional investment is a direct reflection of how much you truly value your relationship.


Validating one’s mate is conveying to the mate that we understand what he/she is saying or feeling.

It’s about seeing things from their perspective, even if we don’t share the same perspective; because it’s their truth, and we are simply showing that we believe that they believe it. As such, empathy is a fundamental component of validation.

What better way to activate an emotional bond than to listen to your mate, without ridicule or judgement, and to show them that you actually hear where they are coming from on a particular subject.

This is the key to communication. When you feel heard and understood by your mate, it opens the door to a more trusting and open relationship. You naturally begin to feel closer because listening is an exceptional expression of care.


In order to get to validation, one of the mates has to be vulnerable enough to express their thoughts and feelings, first.

As was mentioned earlier, this can be a terrifying endeavor, filled with past traumas, hurt, and a lack of emotional safety.

An unwillingness to be vulnerable can be a major roadblock to enhancing emotional intimacy, limiting the sharing of a wide array of emotions, thoughts, and experiences, and must be addressed if your goal is to feel closer to your mate.

One of the ways you can learn to be vulnerable is to first take the necessary steps to heal from past hurts and traumas.

With those old wounds still open, a possible re-injury may feel like too great a risk to take.

So, it is necessary to tend to those wounds, carefully yet intentionally, to give your mate the opportunity to truly understand who you once were, who you are, and who you have the possibility of becoming.

Of equal importance is establishing a sense of emotional safety with your mate. This means believing you have the right to be validated and trusting that your mate has the best of intentions when receiving the thoughts and emotions you decided to share.


Building emotional intimacy is really the act of letting someone in and showing someone that you are, yourself, worthy of being let in.

Every step takes effort, takes trust, and takes time. Don’t let fear stand in the way of exploring your emotions together, because the closeness you will feel is immeasurable and is likely to rekindle that fading romantic spirit!




Tariiq Omari Walton

Silver Spring and Largo, Maryland