Emotional intimacy: Why it's essential and how to build it

Find out why emotional intimacy is essential in romantic relationships and how you can build it with your partner.

On this page

Emotional intimacy is essential for a healthy and happy relationship. It is the process of forming an emotional connection with someone else and creating meaningful bonds that allow us to feel secure, comforted, and understood in our relationships.

But it’s not always easy to achieve and maintain this type of intimacy. In this article, we’ll look at what emotional intimacy is, tips on how to build it with your partner, and why it’s so important.

Discover more about the topic with our comprehensive guide on why good communication is essential for intimacy!

What is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is an essential building block in thriving romantic relationships. 1 It creates an environment where partners can openly share their feelings, knowing they’ll be heard, affirmed, and empathized with. 1 2

Emotional intimacy involves feeling truly understood, validated, and cared for by your partner. 2

Research emphasizes the significance of psychological intimacy in romantic relationships, revealing its far-reaching benefits. Establishing emotional closeness not only enhances relationship quality but also contributes to individual psychological and physical well-being. 2

4 tips on how to build emotional intimacy

Building and maintaining emotional intimacy requires consistent care, attention, and the right environment to flourish. Here are four evidence-based tips to help you deepen the emotional connection with your partner.

1. Practice positive communication

Communication forms the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and its impact on emotional intimacy is profound. Research consistently shows that effective communication plays a pivotal role in nurturing emotional closeness within romantic relationships.

A study from 2013 revealed that partners who perceived their significant others’ communication style as more positive were more likely to experience emotional and sexual intimacy. 3

Engaging in positive communication involves more than just the words we choose. It includes collaborating and working together to resolve conflicts, actively listening to each other, expressing positive emotions, and supporting each other. 4

2. Unplug from technology

It’s no secret that our devices can often wedge themselves between us and our partners, inhibiting the growth of emotional intimacy. A study conducted with 143 women in heterosexual relationships examined the impact of the frequency of “technoference” on personal and relational well-being. “Technoference” include interruptions in time spent together or conversations due to technology. 5

The study showed that more frequent interruptions due to technology (cell phone, social networking) are associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms, reduced satisfaction with family life, and reduced relationship quality. 5

Navigating the digital landscape requires a conscious effort to unplug from technology and reengage with your partner. By setting boundaries and designated tech-free times, you create opportunities for genuine connection.

3. Spend quality time together

To keep your emotional bond strong, prioritizing quality time with your partner is key. Research underscores how spending time together plays a crucial role in nurturing and maintaining intimacy within your romantic relationship. 2

In a study, they collected diary entries over a 14-day period from 92 women. The goal was to examine the connection between shared time, intimacy, and stress within the relationship. 2

One essential finding of the study was that adding just one extra hour of shared time during weekdays had a big impact on intimacy. 2

Even though the results varied among the women, spending more time with your partner on a daily basis seems to be linked with enhanced intimacy for most women. 2

So, whether it’s a heartfelt conversation over morning coffee or a leisurely evening stroll, making time for your partner can be a powerful way to maintain an emotional connection.

4. Enhance physical intimacy

A study found that nurturing your sex life can have a powerful impact on strengthening emotional intimacy. 3 Investing time and effort into maintaining a satisfying sex life can have a ripple effect on your emotional intimacy.

To enhance physical intimacy, start with open communication about your desires and boundaries. Discussing what you both enjoy and what you’re comfortable with can set the stage for a more fulfilling and respectful physical relationship. This not only improves your physical connection but also strengthens emotional trust, as you’re showing vulnerability and openness.

Another practical way to deepen physical intimacy is through non-sexual physical touch. Simple gestures like holding hands, cuddling, or hugging can release oxytocin, often referred to as the ’love hormone,’ which helps to create a sense of closeness and belonging.

By actively focusing on enhancing your physical intimacy — through open communication, non-sexual touch, and maintaining a fulfilling sexual relationship — you’re not just improving your physical connection, you’re also building a stronger emotional bond.

Discover how to create a safe space in your relationship in order to foster emotional intimacy!

How to build emotional intimacy

Building emotional intimacy does not happen overnight. Especially after the honeymoon phase is over, it requires consistent effort and commitment from both partners’ part.

Here are 4 tips to help foster a meaningful and lasting connection with your partner.

1. Talk and Listen

Engaging in meaningful conversations and active listening serves as the bedrock upon which emotional intimacy is built. Communication can be a powerful tool to facilitate understanding, connection, and trust between partners.

Make time to talk about your feelings, dreams, and even your challenges. When you open up, you create a safe space for your partner to do the same.

Active listening is just as important as sharing. Give each other your full attention without interruptions or distractions. This shows that you value and respect each other’s thoughts and emotions.

2. Do things together

Engaging in shared activities has been highlighted as a valuable way to both establish and uphold emotional intimacy within a relationship. 2 Whether it’s cooking a meal, going for a walk, or trying a new hobby, these experiences create valuable shared memories.

Furthermore, the value of shared experiences isn’t limited to the activity itself but extends to the quality of interaction during these moments. Engaging in activities together provides opportunities for open and meaningful conversations. The positive residue left by these shared experiences continues to resonate, fostering a deeper and more meaningful connection over time.

3. Get vulnerable

According to the interpersonal process model of intimacy, intimacy can be conceptualized as a “combination of self-disclosure and partner disclosure”. 6 This means, in order to increase emotional intimacy in your relationship, it is essential to be open with each other.

Share your fears, hopes, and vulnerabilities with one another. Allow your partner to see you in your truest form. When both partners are willing to get vulnerable, emotional intimacy can grow.

4. Take an interest in each other

Demonstrating genuine curiosity about your partner’s passions can significantly contribute to the growth of emotional intimacy in your relationship. Pay attention to the small things that your partner is passionate about - whether it’s a hobby or a project they are working on.

When you take the time to engage with your partner’s interests, you’re sending a powerful message of appreciation and respect. Your genuine curiosity demonstrates that you value their uniqueness and want to understand what makes them tick. This acknowledgment carries far-reaching effects, creating a deeper sense of connection and emotional closeness.

Also, showing a sincere interest in your partner’s passions serves as a catalyst for meaningful conversations. As you ask questions and engage in discussions about their interests, you’re paving the way for deeper dialogue.

Learn how to maintain emotional intimacy in your marriage!

Why emotional intimacy is important in romantic relationships

Emotional intimacy is essential to the health and longevity of a relationship. It allows two people share a deep bond that goes beyond the physical.

Here are the key reasons why emotional intimacy is crucial in romantic relationships.

1. Emotional intimacy fosters trust and understanding

Being emotionally intimate with your partner means that you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other without fear of judgment. 7

It also means that you are comfortable being vulnerable with your partner without feeling exposed or scared. This sense of security creates a foundation of trust and understanding between partners, which is necessary for any romantic relationship to thrive.

2. Emotional intimacy increases relationship satisfaction

Research has found a positive correlation between emotional intimacy and relationship satisfaction. 3 8 One study showed that the ability to express emotions significantly contributes to marital health. 8

Conversely, failing to establish emotional intimacy increases the likelihood of relationship breakdown. 3 This highlights how important it is for couples to foster emotional intimacy in their relationship.

3. Emotional intimacy increases personal well-being

Emotional intimacy emerges as a potent contributor to both psychological and physical well-being. 2 This also might be due to the fact that emotional intimacy increases the health and quality of the relationship, which in turn contributes to the personal well-being of each individual.

In fact, a meta-analysis conducted in 2007 confirms that relationship quality is associated with better personal well-being, short-term and long-term. 9

So by establishing and maintaining emotional intimacy in your relationship, you’re not only strengthening the connection between you and your partner but also contributing to your personal well-being.

Communication is key not only for building emotional intimacy but also for every other aspect of a relationship. Discover how to foster effective communication in your relationship with our couples’ guide on communication in a relationship.

FAQ about emotional intimacy

1. What is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is the cornerstone of strong romantic relationships, nurturing a deep sense of connection between partners. It involves feeling truly heard, validated and appreciated by your significant other. When emotional intimacy thrives, it lays the groundwork for genuine understanding and support between partners, contributing to the overall health and satisfaction of the relationship. 2

At its core, emotional intimacy encompasses the feeling of being close to your partner. This allows for the open sharing of personal thoughts, emotions, and experiences without the fear of judgment. 1

Partners who nurture emotional intimacy engage in heartfelt conversations, create a safe space for discussing sensitive topics, and actively work to understand each other’s emotional landscapes.

Not sure if you’re experiencing enough emotional intimacy in your relationship? Check out these signs your relationship may lack emotional intimacy!

2. How is emotional intimacy built?

Building emotional intimacy is a gradual and rewarding process that requires deliberate effort from both partners. Regularly investing quality time together forms a fundamental pillar in nurturing this profound connection. 2 Engaging in shared activities and experiences fosters a sense of togetherness, allowing partners to create cherished memories that strengthen their emotional bond. These shared moments become opportunities for genuine interactions and conversations that delve deeper into each other’s thoughts and feelings, fostering a deeper understanding and connection.

Positive communication serves as another crucial avenue for fostering emotional intimacy. 3 Open, empathetic, and nonjudgmental conversations create a safe space where both partners can express their true selves. Listening actively and attentively, offering validation and affirmation, and providing thoughtful responses all contribute to a richer emotional connection.

Learn how to build an emotional connection in your relationship with our complete guide!

3. Why do I struggle with emotional intimacy?

Struggling with emotional intimacy is a common challenge that can stem from various factors. Past experiences of hurt or betrayal, whether from previous relationships or childhood, might lead to a hesitancy in opening up emotionally. The fear of being vulnerable and potentially hurt again can create emotional barriers that hinder the development of intimacy.

Additionally, personal insecurities and self-esteem issues can play a significant role in hindering emotional intimacy. If you struggle to value yourself or doubt your self-worth, you may find it challenging to believe that someone else could genuinely care for you on a deep emotional level. These feelings of inadequacy might lead you to hold back from fully engaging in intimate conversations or showing vulnerability.

Recognizing these underlying factors and taking proactive steps to address them can help you overcome the hurdles that impede emotional intimacy.

Discover why you may struggle with intimacy and how to overcome it!

4. Can you rebuild emotional intimacy?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to rebuild emotional intimacy in a relationship, even if it has waned over time. While challenges or life circumstances might have led to a distance between you and your partner, there are effective strategies to reignite that emotional connection.

A crucial first step is acknowledging the current state of your relationship and being open about your feelings with your partner. Honest communication lays the foundation for addressing any issues that may be contributing to the lack of intimacy.

Investing quality time and engaging in shared activities can also help reignite the spark of emotional intimacy. 2 Finding common interests or discovering new ones together provides opportunities to bond and create lasting memories.

Patience and consistency are key. Rebuilding emotional intimacy is a gradual process that requires both partners to be committed to the journey.

Learn how to rebuild emotional intimacy with our practical guide!

  1. Sinclair, V. G., & Dowdy, S. W. (2005). Development and validation of the emotional intimacy scale. Journal of Nursing Measurement, 13(3), 193–206. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. 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 ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  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. Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., & Sibley, C. G. (2009). Regulating partners in intimate relationships: The costs and benefits of different communication strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 620–639. doi.org ↩︎

  5. 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 ↩︎ ↩︎

  6. Laurenceau, J., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: The importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1238–1251. doi.org ↩︎

  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 ↩︎

  8. Cordova, J. V., Gee, C. B., & Warren, L. Z. (2005). Emotional Skillfulness in Marriage: Intimacy As a Mediator of the Relationship Between Emotional Skillfulness and Marital Satisfaction. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(2), 218–235. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎

  9. Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital Quality and Personal Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(3), 576–593. 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