Rebuilding emotional intimacy: How to start a dialogue

Discover tips on how to start a conversation to rebuild emotional intimacy and strengthen your relationship.

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Emotional intimacy is a crucial component of a healthy romantic relationship. This deep connection fosters a sense of being understood, validated, and cared for by one’s partner. Emotional intimacy is linked to various positive outcomes, including enhanced relationship quality and individual well-being, both psychologically and physically. 1

Yet, it’s not uncommon for couples to experience periods where emotional intimacy decreases. However, it can be rebuilt and maintained over time. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 simple steps to start the process of rebuilding emotional intimacy in your relationship.

For a more comprehensive understanding of intimacy, check out our guide on why good communication is essential for intimacy!

1. Create a safe space for dialogue

Creating a safe space for dialogue is the first and perhaps most vital step in rebuilding emotional intimacy. This doesn’t necessarily mean setting up a physical location, although a quiet, private setting can certainly help. More importantly, a “safe space” refers to an emotional environment where both partners feel secure enough to be vulnerable.

In such a setting, judgments are withheld, and active listening is prioritized. A safe space encourages open and honest communication, which is the cornerstone of emotional intimacy.

When you create a safe space, you’re setting the stage for meaningful conversations to take place. The absence of distractions, such as phones, TV, or other interruptions, signals that this time is intentionally dedicated to rebuilding the emotional bond.

Discover how to create a safe space in your relationship!

2. Be honest and open with each other

In order to find the root of the issue and begin rebuilding emotional intimacy, it is important for both partners to be honest and open with each other. Research has shown that self-disclosure and being open with each other is key to building a strong emotional bond. 2 3

This requires a willingness to be vulnerable and share your feelings, fears, anxieties, and hopes with your partner. It also calls for an openness to hearing the thoughts and feelings of your partner without getting defensive or shutting down. When both partners are willing to authentically communicate and share, it can lead to a deeper understanding of each other and help rebuild the connection in the relationship.

3. Actively listen to each other

Active listening leads to a greater understanding between partners, which is key to rebuilding emotional intimacy. 4 This means being fully present and engaged in the conversation without any distractions.

It also means showing genuine interest in your partner’s perspective. This can be done through verbal cues such as asking questions or offering comments to show that you’re listening, understanding, and validating your partner’s point of view.

When both partners practice active listening, it can lead to meaningful conversations and constructive dialogue. This will help you come closer to finding a solution to the problem and rebuilding emotional intimacy.

Learn more about how to practice active listening in your relationship!

4. Use I-language

Using I-language is a strategy for expressing your thoughts and feelings in a non-blameful manner. This means using language that emphasizes how you feel instead of focusing on what your partner is doing wrong. This reduces the chance of miscommunication and conflicts. Studies have also shown that I-language is linked to better problem-solving and greater marital satisfaction. 5.

For example, rather than saying, “You never show me any affection anymore”, say, “I feel lonely and miss the affection we used to share”. I-language can help you communicate your feelings without pointing fingers or getting into an argument with your partner. This conveys the same message but in a more direct and respectful way.

Using I-language allows partners to be honest and open about their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. This helps create a sense of understanding between partners and can go a long way in rebuilding emotional intimacy.

5. Cooperate to find a solution

Cooperation is important and necessary in solving any problem in a relationship. 6 When both partners are willing to cooperate, the chances of finding a solution to any issue is much higher.

To foster cooperation, it’s important to focus on what can be done together as a couple instead of blaming each other. This means putting aside differences and working towards a common goal in order to find the best path forward.

Discussing different solutions together will help partners understand each other better and come to a mutual agreement. This is an important step in rebuilding emotional intimacy and can help couples navigate challenges that arise in the future.

There are many ways to build emotional intimacy in a relationship. From spending quality time together and reducing the use of electronic devices to boosting your sex life. 1 7 8

Discover practical tips on how to enhance emotional intimacy with your partner!

6. Take action

The most important step is to take action and start the process of rebuilding emotional intimacy in your relationship. After you’ve gathered ideas on how to tackle the problem, decide on a plan of action and start going through it.

Remember that rebuilding emotional intimacy takes time and effort from both partners. It won’t happen overnight, but with patience and dedication, you can restore that special bond in your relationship.

If you need more support, consider reaching out to a professional counselor or therapist who can help you navigate the process. With support and commitment, you can make your relationship a strong one again!

7. Make regular relationship check-ins

Once emotional intimacy has been restored, it is important to keep it that way. To do this, couples should make time for regular check-ins. This means dedicating some time to discuss how the relationship is going and setting up plans to keep it strong and healthy in the future.

These check-ins are also a great way to prevent issues from cropping up again and to identify any potential problems earlier. Making regular relationship check-ins can help partners stay connected, foster trust, and nurture emotional intimacy in the long run.

Rebuilding emotional intimacy is possible, and the first step is good communication. Learn more about the importance of communication in relationships with our communication guide for couples!

  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. 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, 8, 382. ↩︎

  3. Frattaroli, J. (2006). Experimental disclosure and its moderators: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 823-865. ↩︎

  4. Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. R. (2018). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In Routledge eBooks (pp. 113–143). ↩︎

  5. Simmons, R. A., Gordon, P. C., & Chambless, D. L. (2005). Pronouns in marital interaction: What do you and I say about marital health?. Psychological science, 16(12), 932-936. ↩︎

  6. Overall, N. C., & McNulty, J. K. (2017). What Type of Communication during Conflict is Beneficial for Intimate Relationships?. Current opinion in psychology, 13, 1–5. ↩︎

  7. 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. ↩︎

  8. 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. ↩︎

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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