How to maintain emotional intimacy in your marriage

Fostering intimacy is key to a happy marriage. Here are 6 practical tips to help you maintain emotional intimacy with your spouse.

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In any long-lasting marriage, maintaining emotional intimacy is essential for happiness and fulfillment. Yet, as life gets busier and more complicated, nurturing this emotional bond can become increasingly challenging.

Whether you’re newlyweds or celebrating your silver anniversary, this article aims to provide you with practical and research-backed tips to keep the emotional spark alive in your marriage.

Do you want to learn more about the bigger picture of intimacy and how it can be fostered in relationships? Check out our complete guide on understanding intimacy in relationships.

What is emotional intimacy?

What is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy refers to the strong connection between two people. It is an important foundation for any relationship, including marriage. When couples have a strong emotional connection with each other, they are able to share their deepest thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.

Emotional intimacy refers to the experience of feeling understood, validated, and cared for by your partner. 1

This creates a safe space for both partners to be open and vulnerable, allowing them to truly connect on a deeper level. Research has shown that emotional intimacy is not only related to better relationship quality but also has positive benefits on an individual level, such as increased well-being and mental health. 1

Discover how to build emotional intimacy and why it’s important with our guide!

6 Tips for maintaining emotional intimacy in your marriage

Maintaining emotional intimacy is vital for a long-lasting and happy marriage. As couples navigate through different life stages, face challenges, and grow individually, it becomes increasingly important to consciously work on preserving this emotional bond.

Here are six practical tips that can help you and your partner stay close and connected:

1. Make time for each other

One of the most straightforward ways to enhance emotional intimacy is to consciously make time for each other. Between work, kids, chores, and other commitments, it’s easy for couples to get lost in the daily grind. However, spending quality time together—even if it’s just an hour more per week—can have a remarkable impact on your emotional connection.

A study from 2015 indicates that spending just one hour more during the week can significantly increase intimacy between spouses. 1 So whether it’s going for a run together or simply catching up over coffee in the morning, setting aside time for each other can make a world of difference.

2. Schedule date nights

Date nights aren’t just for new couples; they’re a relationship staple that can significantly enhance emotional intimacy in long-term marriages as well. While life’s responsibilities can make it challenging to set aside time for romance, scheduling regular date nights can serve as a much-needed break and a dedicated time to reconnect.

Research underscores the value of date nights, indicating that they are important for sustaining closeness in established relationships. 2 It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. The most important thing is spending quality time together, away from your everyday lives.

Scheduling date nights is also a great way to rebuild intimacy in your relationship. Learn more about how to rebuild emotional intimacy with your partner here.

3. Communicate openly

Open communication is the cornerstone of any strong marriage. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns transparently can pave the way for a deeper emotional connection. Research supports this, highlighting that openness in a romantic relationship is key for maintaining an emotional connection with your partner. 3

But communication isn’t just about talking; it’s also about listening. Active listening involves fully focusing, understanding, and responding thoughtfully to your partner’s words. Studies show that this skill is invaluable for maintaining intimacy, as it fosters greater connection and understanding between partners. 4

So the next time you’re having a conversation, remember to not just speak your mind but also to listen actively to your spouse. This way, you can create the safe space necessary for emotional intimacy to flourish.

Discover how to create a safe space in your relationship!

4. Show your love

Expressing love can do wonders for emotional intimacy. Showing love and affection to your partner is crucial for maintaining any romantic relationship, especially in marriage. Research has shown that a lack of affection - or longing for more - is linked to decreased relationship satisfaction and closeness. 5

Know your partner’s love language.

Every couple is different, and what shows love to one person might not be the same for another. One study has shown that when you receive love in the way you prefer, it leads to greater relationship and sexual satisfaction. 6 That’s why it’s important to know your partner’s love language.

According to Chapman’s theory from 1992, there are five love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, and physical touch. 7 Knowing what truly expresses love and care to your partner can be incredibly helpful in enhancing emotional intimacy.

For example, if your partner’s love language is physical touch, giving them a hug or holding their hand could be meaningful gestures that show your affection. If they prefer words of affirmation, try making them a compliment or telling them how much they mean to you.

No matter what love language your partner speaks, expressing appreciation and affection is essential for preserving emotional intimacy in marriage.

Are you struggling with showing love and affection to your partner? Here are tips on how to overcome your fear of intimacy.

5. Show appreciation for your partner

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference in a relationship. One such straightforward but impactful action is showing appreciation for your partner. A simple “thank you” or acknowledging the small things your spouse does can go a long way.

Research has shown that expressing gratitude toward your partner isn’t just a momentary nicety—it has long-term benefits for the quality of your relationship. 8

Showing appreciation can make your partner feel valued and loved, and it often encourages a more positive relationship dynamic. Whether it’s for making dinner, doing household chores, or just being there when you need emotional support, a little appreciation can deepen your emotional connection and contribute to a happier, more fulfilling marriage.

Discover how to build an emotional connection in relationships!

6. Put down your phones more often

In today’s digital age, it’s easy to let our devices distract us from the people who matter most. While smartphones and social media keep us connected to the outside world, they can sometimes create a barrier between us and our partners.

A study has shown that excessive use of cell phones and social networking sites is linked to a range of negative outcomes, including greater depressive symptoms, decreased family life satisfaction, and lower relationship quality. 9

These findings make sense when you consider that it’s challenging to have a deep, meaningful conversation—or even to pay full attention to your partner—when you’re frequently interrupted by the ping of a notification.

Putting down your phones during shared moments can create an environment conducive to open communication and active listening, which are critical for maintaining emotional intimacy. So, next time you’re together, make the conscious choice to disconnect from the digital world to connect more authentically with your spouse.

Maintaining emotional intimacy isn’t always easy, but with the right tips and tricks, it can be done. From setting aside quality time to knowing your partner’s love language, there are many ways to keep that special connection alive in your marriage.

Improve your marriage further with our comprehensive guide on effective communication in relationships!

  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. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  2. Harasymchuk, C., Walker, D. L., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Planning date nights that promote closeness: The roles of relationship goals and self-expansion. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(5), 1692–1709. ↩︎

  3. Zhou, Y., Wang, K., Chen, S., Zhang, J., & Zhou, M. (2017). An Exploratory Investigation of the Role of Openness in Relationship Quality among Emerging Adult Chinese Couples. Frontiers in Psychology, 08. ↩︎

  4. Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. (1988). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck, D. F. Hay, S. E. Hobfoll, W. Ickes, & B. M. Montgomery (Eds.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research and interventions (pp. 367–389). Oxford, UK: Wiley. ↩︎

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

  6. Mostova, O., Stolarski, M., & Matthews, G. (2022). I love the way you love me: Responding to partner’s love language preferences boosts satisfaction in romantic heterosexual couples. PLOS ONE. ↩︎

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

  8. Algoe, S. B., Fredrickson, B. L., & Gable, S. L. (2013). The social functions of the emotion of gratitude via expression. Emotion, 13(4), 605–609. ↩︎

  9. 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. ↩︎

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 …

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