“Physical intimacy isn’t and can never be an effective substitute for emotional intimacy.” This timeless quote by John Green reflects the beauty of what emotional intimacy entails. Sure, it’s easy to find the physical intimacy that lasts a moment, but emotional intimacy lasts a lifetime. In a society that places great emphasis on the pursuit of physical intimacy, it’s difficult to know what emotional intimacy looks like.

What is Emotional Intimacy?

Intimacy is the ability to open your heart to someone with the understanding that they will be there for you. Despite the circumstance, you know that your partner can support your needs. Emotional intimacy is different from physical intimacy in that it involves our deepest feelings. The freedom to express experiences, the ability to communicate openly and the acceptance of the mundane.

It’s communicating without words and touching without hands. It’s talking about your childhood while eating ice cream on the couch. Sharing timeless secrets while lying in bed or simply sitting next to someone in deep contentment. This bond is far stronger than the exchange of physical lovemaking.

Crucial Aspects of Emotional Intimacy

Author and relationship expert Dr. Margaret Paul believes that emotional intimacy rests on safety. She explains, “The deep and wonderful feeling of intimacy flourishes in an atmosphere of safety. We open up when we feel safe. We take risks when we feel safe.” Another word for safety is security. Security is essential to maintaining that trust in a relationship that helps it thrive.

When we feel secure, we know that our partner will be there for us despite unforeseen circumstances. They will not only be a listening ear, they will physically be there for you as you endure.

Trust is a mutual understanding that both in the relationship will stay committed to each other in more ways than just avoiding infidelity. This means committing to solving problems, listening to one another and communicating effectively.

Accepting your partner despite their flaws is another aspect of emotional intimacy. When you only rely on the physical, you’re essentially creating a false perception of who the person truly is.
When you take the time to get to know their in’s, out’s, flaws and strengths, this creates a love that is unconditional. Being able to overlook the mishaps, communicate and forgive is essential to the longevity of a relationship. Constant forgiveness, within reason, solidifies your maturity. You’re able to look past the imperfections and still maintain that love.

Mutual respect is key for any relationship to thrive. This means never wanting to hurt your partner whether through words or actions. You value their opinion and strive to learn them. When conflict arises, sincere and meaningful listening is important for both in the relationship to develop a deeper understanding of the other.

When you only have a physical intimacy with someone, you aren’t taking that extra mile to understand the other person’s feelings. It’s essentially just an act of exchange that fulfills a need. However, an intimate emotional relationship involves deeply caring about the sentiments, worries, and concerns of the other person.

As mentioned, emotional intimacy may not be as apparent as physical. It’s the heartfelt conversations late at night and the cuddles in the morning. Taking that extra effort to truly connect with your partner on a level deeper than just the physical is what defines emotional intimacy.

To attain this level of closeness, it takes effort and care. It takes noticing the small gestures of kindness and their inner spirit. Sure, it takes effort and work, but the results of sharing a truly intimate relationship with another person are priceless.