I figured something out about a month ago. I have been writing and speaking about emotional closeness in relationships for 30 years.
First I taught parents how to build emotional closeness with their children and teens. Then, I taught couples and others to build emotional closeness in their relationships. Finally, I spoke and wrote about building emotional closeness with ourselves, by practicing self-compassion.
Until recently, I didn’t realize that the thread throughout all I have shared over the last 30 years is the power of emotional closeness to strengthen all relationships. I found my notes from a talk on this important topic I gave a couple of years ago, and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you today. I recorded this talk and will let you know a little later how you can take a listen.
What is Emotional Closeness?
Emotional closeness or intimacy occurs when there is enough trust and communication between you and the other person so that you feel safe and comfortable to share you inner self. Part of what creates closeness is knowing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as fears, hopes and dreams. Emotional closeness fosters compassion and support, providing a firm foundation for both the good times and bad times.
Why is Emotional Closeness so hard to establish?
There are lots of reasons we struggle to get connected emotionally with ourselves and others. Here’s a few reasons we all struggles with:
- Fear of rejection
- Unfamiliarity with our own feelings, needs and wants
- Not knowing how to express our inner feelings, needs, and wants with another person
- Without meaning to, we often expect others to “just know”
- No model growing up that being vulnerable with others is safe
What are signs that Emotional Closeness is low in a relationship?
Here are a few signs that will let you know whether emotional closeness is low in your relationships:
- Little talking and sharing about daily events and happenings. Communication has decreased and silence has developed
- Not a lot of touching and affection
- Less listening to one another. This leads to bickering, frustration, depression, loneliness, emotional pain, and a sense that the other person doesn’t care about you
- Forgetting to express appreciation for one another. More focus is spent on noticing and pointing out what the other person isn’t doing
- More time spent talking about scheduling and carrying out the necessary duties of the day. What is missing is having fun together, talking about emotions, and planning for a positive future together
- Lack of having meals together, and instead watching TV or reading during meals. This include being on your phone, ipad, internet, computer, texting, Siri, etc.
So, how do we build Emotional Closeness?
Here’s a couple of ways…
1. A decision to move toward the other person, whether that be ourselves, a friend, child, spouse, parent, roommate or co-worker. Part of being a grown-up in a relationship is having a talk with yourself and say, “It’s up to me to do what I can. Waiting for the other person never works. Part of my integrity as a person is moving toward the other person with caring and attention.”
2. Learn how to be a safe person for others to open up to:
- Listen, don’t interrupt
- Learn how to regulate your emotions so you respond rather than react
- Validate the emotions of the other person
- Keep your focus that it is the relationship, and how you are speaking to one another that matters, not the topic at hand
3. Learn what your own thoughts, feelings and wants are, and learn how to share them safely with the other person. As you share the above, don’t let them know how they’ve let you down and disappointed you in the past. I’ve done this, and caused a lot of problems.
4. Set aside time to connect in emotional ways:
- Take a walk
- Have coffee and talk
- Play together (games, fun activities, cook, etc)
- Take a drive and talk
- Take the conversation from facts to also include feelings
I wish I could share more, but it would be way too long! Don’t forget that all these tips apply to your relationship with yourself as well. Go back and read the points above and apply these healthy principles to how you treat and care for yourself.
I’ve decided to make the recording of my talk available for $10. This recording of my talk comes as an mp3 recording, an 18-page filled in handout, and several articles and resources to help you Build Emotional Closeness in Your Relationships! You can go here to get your recording and handout!
I would love to get your input
What do you think about the definition of emotional closeness? What stood out to you in this post? What are ways you build emotional closeness in your relationships?
Please leave your comments below and share on social media or via e-mail with others who might benefit!