24th September 2023

Emotional Intimacy – The Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Emotional Intimacy – The Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Humans are built with a need to make connections with one another. No wonder we seek out people who can love us and share our inner worlds. If you’re looking for an authentic human experience, emotional intimacy has to be at the top of your list.

Emotional intimacy is a vital component of all intimate relationships, whether romantic relationships, friendships, or family bonds. It encompasses a deep trust and understanding between two people and goes beyond physical and sexual intimacy. Emotional intimacy allows us to open up and share our thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities with another person. It allows for the creation of a deeper level of connection and understanding.

It is the foundation upon which healthy and successful intimate relationships are built. Without it, relationships can feel superficial and lacking in fulfillment. Emotional intimacy is not just a nice-to-have in a relationship. It is necessary for a genuinely satisfying and fulfilling connection with another person.

Emotional intimacy is a type of intimacy that involves the sharing of one’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires with another person. It differs from other types of intimacy, such as physical and sexual intimacy, in that it focuses on the emotional and psychological connection between two people.

Emotional intimacy can lead to relationship satisfaction, deeper levels of understanding, and a healthy relationship. It can be strengthened through quality time, open communication, and vulnerability. A lack of emotional intimacy can lead to emotional distance and is vital in long-term relationships.

So then, what is emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is the deep sense of trust, understanding, and connection between two people in a relationship. It is an emotional bond that allows people to share their innermost thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment and rejection. Emotional intimacy will enable us to feel safe and understood. This, in turn, fosters a sense of closeness and emotional security.

Emotional intimacy isn’t something that happens. It is built over time and requires open and honest communication, vulnerability, and the ability to share our true selves with another person. It isn’t only about verbal communication. Non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, touch, and body language, can signal emotional intimacy.

The Difference Between Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Intimacy

As mentioned earlier, emotional intimacy is the deep sense of trust, understanding, and connection present between two people in a relationship. The emotional bond allows us to share our innermost thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment or rejection. It also allows us to feel safe and understood, fostering a sense of closeness and emotional security.

Physical intimacy refers to the act of physically connecting with someone else. It includes actions like holding hands, hugging, or kissing. Physical touch can be a critical aspect of building intimacy and can help to strengthen emotional bonds.

Sexual intimacy refers to the physical act of sexual intercourse and other sexual activities. It is an essential aspect of romantic relationships and can lead to sexual satisfaction.

All three types of intimacy are important in a healthy relationship. They work together to build a stronger relationship. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. A codependent relationship can happen when one type of intimacy is prioritized over the others.

Signs of Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship

Some signs of emotional intimacy in a romantic relationship include:


Partners that are open and honest with each other about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences have emotional intimacy. They share their innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement or rejection.

High levels of trust

When there’s trust in a relationship, romantic partners are confident that their partner will be there for them, keep their confidence, and support them no matter what they’re going through.

Positive feelings about each other

Of course, each relationship has its unique ups and downs. However, positive feelings mean you generally feel happy, secure, and fulfilled when you’re with your partner. You feel a sense of closeness and connection that isn’t present with other people.

You spend quality time with each other

For emotional intimacy to be present in emotional relationships, partners have to make time for each other and prioritize spending time together. You must enjoy each other’s company and look forward to spending time together.


Communication is one of the most vital building blocks of a successful relationship. A short and long-distance relationship can benefit from effective communication, whether it is through verbal or non-verbal cues. When there’s open communication in a relationship where partners prioritize active listening, each person can understand the other’s needs and thoughts.


Vulnerability occurs when you can share your feelings and thoughts with your partner in a safe environment. Being vulnerable with your partner can heighten your partner’s trust level and encourage a higher level of transparency in the relationship.It’s worth noting that these signs can also be present in a long-distance relationship or transnational intimacy as well.

Emotional intimacy can be established and maintained in a long-distance relationship through open and honest communication, trust, and quality time together despite the physical distance of such relationships. A family therapist can help couples to establish and maintain emotional intimacy in their relationship, regardless of the distance.Top of FormBottom of Form

Why is Emotional Intimacy Important?

Emotional intimacy is vital for many reasons, including its role in creating a deep sense of trust, security, and understanding in connected relationships. It is often measured by the 5-item Emotional Intimacy Scale, which assesses the level of trust, self-disclosure, mutual support, and positive feelings between partners.

Here’s why you should prioritize emotional intimacy in your relationship:

Overall life satisfaction

A key benefit of emotional intimacy is how it enhances overall life satisfaction. People in emotionally intimate relationships tend to report higher levels of positive feelings, like happiness, contentment, and a greater sense of well-being. This is in contrast to relationships that lack emotional intimacy, and often show signs of loneliness, dissatisfaction, or even abuse.

Enhances physical attraction

Emotional intimacy plays a significant role in physical attraction and personal development. When we feel emotionally connected to each other, we are more likely to feel attracted to one another. This contributes to a greater sense of physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy is also a powerful tool for personal growth, as it allows partners to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, which helps them learn more about themselves and each other.

It helps to maintain long-distance relationships

It’s worth noting that we can establish and maintain emotional intimacy in a long-distance relationship or in transnational intimacy as well. Even though it is challenging to establish and maintain, especially in situations of distance, open and honest communication, trust, and quality time together can help us get there.

It helps to develop trust and security

Emotional relationships require a deep sense of trust, security, understanding, and positive feelings. Emotional Intimacy plays a significant role in physical attraction and personal development for both partners in a relationship. While it is challenging in long-distance relationships or transnational intimacy, you can establish and maintain it with effort and communication.

How to Build Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship

You now understand what emotional intimacy is and its role in relationships. To be honest, it’s hard to maintain physical attraction for each other if there’s no intimacy in a relationship. However, we must also acknowledge that emotional intimacy doesn’t occur on its own. We must constantly strive to increase our relationship intensity by building emotional intimacy every chance we get.

While building emotional intimacy differs for every couple, you could still benefit from some general tips. Here’s how to do it.

Show appreciation

One of the most important aspects of building emotional intimacy is to show your partner that you appreciate them and everything they do for you. Take the time to acknowledge their accomplishments, and tell them how much you care about them. Make sure you let them know you’re grateful for their presence in your life. This will help create a deeper sense of daily intimacy and connection and foster feelings of love and respect.

Avoid bringing up the past

Leave the past in the past. One of the biggest barriers to emotional intimacy is unresolved issues. If you or your partner are holding on to past hurts, it can be challenging to open up and be vulnerable with each other fully. It is crucial to address past issues and to work towards forgiveness and healing. This helps to create more connected relationships.

Create your rituals

Introduce couple rituals that are unique to your relationship. It can be something as simple as cooking dinner together each night or something more elaborate like a weekend getaway every other month. Whatever the ritual, it is crucial to make it a regular part of your relationship, as this will help to create a sense of connection and enhance intimacy.

Make time for sexual intimacy

Physical intimacy is integral to any relationship and vital to a healthy sexual relationship. Learn to discuss your needs and desires openly and honestly, and make sure that you are both comfortable and happy with the level of physical intimacy in your relationship.

Be vulnerable with each other.

You have to learn how to be vulnerable with each other if you want to increase relationship intensity where intimacy is concerned. This means sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences honestly and openly without the fear of judgment. Ensure you both feel comfortable being open and honest with each other to increase daily intimacy.

Recognize when you’re in an abusive relationship

Recognizing when you are in an abusive relationship is crucial for building emotional intimacy. A lack of trust, security, and understanding characterizes abusive relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship, it is essential to seek help and make relationship termination decisions as soon as possible.

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Chari Bong'osa

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