7 ways to build an emotional connection with your partner

Do you want to grow emotional intimacy in your relationship? Discover seven research-based ways for creating an emotional connection with your partner.

On this page

Emotional intimacy is one of the most important components of a romantic relationship. It is related not only to greater relationship quality and satisfaction but also to increased physical and mental well-being. 1

Having an emotional connection with someone involves being able to communicate and share your thoughts and feelings without fear or judgment. You feel understood, cherished, and cared for by your partner, which is crucial for a healthy relationship. 1

Are you interested in the broader topic of intimacy? Check out our guide on understanding intimacy in relationships and find out why communication is key!

Emotional intimacy doesn’t always come naturally. It takes effort and a willingness to be vulnerable. If you’re having trouble connecting emotionally in your relationship, there are steps you can take to create an emotional connection with your partner.

Here are 7 research-based ways to build an emotional connection with your partner:

1. Spend quality time together

One of the most straightforward yet effective ways to build emotional intimacy is by spending quality time with your partner. Whether it’s a date night, taking a walk, or just talking over coffee, carving out time to be together can go a long way in strengthening your connection.

A study from 2015 used diary data from 92 women in a heterosexual committed relationship over a period of 14 days to examine the interaction between time spent together, intimacy, and daily stress within relationships. Results showed that a one-hour increase in shared time during weekdays was associated with increased feelings of intimacy. 1

However, the benefits of spending extra time together varied among the participants, indicating that not every woman experienced the same uptick in intimacy by merely spending more time with their partner. This indicates that other factors have to be taken into account too, such as the activity that is undertaken when spending time together and how satisfied each partner is with the quality and amount of time spent together. 1

Takeaway: Spending time together can lead to increased feelings of intimacy, which ultimately helps you to build an emotional connection with your partner. However, it’s important to choose an activity that’s enjoyable for both people and that enables meaningful conversations.

2. Reduce “technoference” in your relationship

In today’s digital age, it’s not just physical distance that can come between you and your partner; it’s also the digital distractions that interrupt your time together. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “technoference,” which describes how technology can interfere with building face-to-face intimacy in relationships. 2

It happens when you or your partner multitasks using a smartphone or other devices while spending time together. This leads to a paradoxical situation called “alone together,” where both of you are in the same physical space but emotionally disconnected, each engrossed in your own digital world. 2

A study from 2016 has shown that excessive use of technology, particularly cell phones and social networking sites, correlates with a host of negative outcomes, including increased depressive symptoms, reduced family life satisfaction, and lower relationship quality. 2

One major reason for this is that technology has the ability to disrupt real-time, face-to-face interactions. Think about it: How fulfilling can a conversation be if it’s continually interrupted by text messages, notifications, or quick glances at social media feeds? These technological interruptions make it challenging to focus on your partner and truly listen to what they’re saying, contributing to an undercurrent of tension and conflict in the relationship. 2

Takeaway: While technology has many benefits, it’s crucial to be mindful of its potential downsides in your romantic relationship. Minimizing technoference can substantially improve the quality of your interactions, allowing for deeper emotional connections. So, the next time you’re spending quality time together, consider putting the phones away to truly be present in the moment.

3. Foster positive communication

Open, honest communication is the foundation of any thriving relationship. It plays a crucial role in deepening emotional bonds and fostering intimacy. Whether it’s discussing your day, sharing your dreams, or opening up about your vulnerabilities, quality conversations can significantly elevate the emotional connection you share with your partner. Research underscores the vital role of positive communication in romantic relationships.

Studies have consistently shown that partners who engage in positive communication experiences - such as discussing vulnerabilities and validating each other’s self-disclosures - experience higher levels of intimacy. 3

On the flip side, the absence of such positive communication practices can make it challenging to cultivate and sustain intimacy. 3 If partners don’t feel safe or validated when sharing their personal experiences, it hampers the natural flow of emotional connection. That’s why it’s crucial to create a communication environment where both individuals feel heard, validated, and understood.

Takeaway: Nurturing positive communication habits is essential for fostering a lasting emotional connection. It’s not just about talking but about understanding, validating, and cherishing what your partner shares.

4. Improve your sex life

Sexual intimacy is an important part of romantic relationships. While it may be easy to view it as just a physical act, sex also carries significant emotional implications. For many couples, a fulfilling sex life can serve as a powerful tool for fostering a deeper emotional connection.

A 2013 study explored the interplay between emotional intimacy and sexual satisfaction among 335 heterosexual married couples. The findings revealed that sexual satisfaction had a significant impact on the levels of emotional intimacy experienced by both husbands and wives. 3

These results suggest that couples may be able to use sex as a way to enhance the emotional connection they share with each other. However, instead of viewing it as an obligatory activity, sex should be seen as a source of pleasure and connection. Couples can tap into its potential by making sure both partners are comfortable in the bedroom and expressing appreciation for each other.

Takeaway: Improving your sex life can help to strengthen the emotional connection between you and your partner. A satisfying sex life often stems from good communication. Be sure to talk openly and honestly about your desires, boundaries, and expectations.

Learn how to talk about sex with your partner!

5. Show affection

Expressing affection is a simple yet powerful gesture in deepening the emotional connection with your partner. At its core, affection goes beyond just physical actions—it communicates love, care, and the importance of one’s partner.

Displaying physical affection, such as holding hands, sharing a hug, giving back rubs, or a kiss, has been found to be strongly connected to both relationship satisfaction and partner happiness. 4

On the other hand, affection deprivation - the feeling of not receiving enough affection - has been linked to feelings of reduced relationship satisfaction and intimacy. 5 Essentially, when one longs for more affection than they currently receive, it can create feelings of distance.

Takeaway: Making an effort to regularly express affection can significantly boost the emotional connection you share with your partner. It’s not about grand gestures - even small displays of appreciation can make a difference.

Discover how to be more affectionate in your relationship!

6. Know your partner’s love language

Understanding your partner’s love language is a key factor in deepening emotional connection. The concept of love languages was introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman in 1992, who proposed that people have five primary ways they give and receive love: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch. 6

A study from 2022 found that when individuals experience love in the way they prefer to receive it, there’s a notable increase in both relationship and sexual satisfaction. 4

By understanding how your partner prefers to be shown love, you can tailor your actions accordingly and strengthen the emotional connection between the two of you. For example, if your partner’s primary love language is quality time, then it may help to plan date nights or spend more meaningful moments together.

Takeaway: Knowing your partner’s love language can help you to better understand and meet their needs. It allows you to express appreciation in a way that resonates with them, resulting in a deeper emotional connection.

Here are tips on how to identify your partner’s love language!

7. Maintaining emotional intimacy requires ongoing effort and commitment

Emotional intimacy isn’t a destination; it’s a journey. Many couples mistakenly believe that once they’ve established a close bond, their work is done. However, the truth is that intimacy is an evolving, dynamic aspect of relationships. It’s not a one-time achievement but a continuous process that requires attention and effort. 7

It’s crucial to understand that while moments of profound intimacy might spontaneously occur, sustaining that depth of connection takes consistent work. Just as a garden thrives with regular care and watering, the emotional bond between partners flourishes with ongoing effort and commitment.

Takeaway: Don’t rest on past successes or assume that the depth of your connection will maintain itself. Instead, approach your relationship with the understanding that nurturing your emotional bond is an ongoing endeavor. By continually investing in your partnership, you can ensure that your emotional intimacy remains strong and ever-evolving.

Many of the tips mentioned above center around effective communication. If you want to learn more about how good communication can improve your partnership, be sure to explore our guide on communication in a relationship.

  1. Milek, A., Butler, E. A., & Bodenmann, G. (2015). The interplay of couple’s shared time, women’s intimacy, and intradyadic stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(6), 831–842. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(1), 85–98. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. Yoo, H., Bartle-Haring, S., Day, R. D., & Gangamma, R. (2013). Couple communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 40(4), 275–293. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmann, R. F. (2003). Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(4), 233–242. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

  5. Hesse, C., & Mikkelson, A. C. (2016). Affection deprivation in romantic relationships. Communication Quarterly, 65(1), 20–38. doi.org ↩︎

  6. Chapman, G. (2015, January 1). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Reprint). Northfield Publishing. ↩︎

  7. Schaefer, M. T., & Olson, D. H. (1981). Assessing Intimacy: The pair inventory. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 7(1), 47–60. doi.org ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

Read full bio

Get the official app 😍

PumPum® app icon


For iPhone & Android
Browse all articles