“There is no intimacy without vulnerability.”
~ Brené Brown
To allow healthy intimacy in your current or future relationship, consider the meaning you have placed on your current and past experiences of intimacy.
Here are three tips:
Know your thoughts, be aware of how your brain works, and learn to embrace intimacy!
1. Know your thoughts
When you have a thought or feeling about connecting with a current or potential partner, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this thought or feeling a useful warning, a message of hope, an encouraging thought? or is this a message based in anger, bitterness, or fear?
Decide what you want your actions to be informed by.
2. Our brains and intimacy
Our brains are wired for intimacy and connection. Our brains are also naturally wired to protect us from harm. Sometimes, the protective drive becomes over-active because of the meaning we allow ourselves to place on our past experiences.
That is why we sometimes listen to fear instead of hope.
Make conscious efforts to connect with your partner, fear-free, with the hope and warmth that allows healthy connection to build.
3. Embrace intimacy
Don’t get too wrapped up looking for clues and signs about your partner in order to decide if it is time to be vulnerable and intimate.
Healthy intimacy depends just as much on your own openness as it does on your partner’s trustworthy-ness.
Allow yourself to access the intimacy that you deserve by letting go of fear and embracing hope. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles
Kristine Tye, M.A. LMFT – www.kristinetherapyla.com
If you are ready to start dating again or in a relationship now, you should know what to anticipate and how to avoid the common relationship pitfalls.
The number one mistake women make is bringing the past into the present. Any unfinished business needs to be cleaned up as part of the closure process so you can move on.
Here are the steps you can take to release yourself from the past:
1. Identify your “issues.”
Are you having trust issues because your spouse cheated on you? Were you a victim of physical or emotional abuse from a controlling partner? Are you so co-dependent you don’t know how to live your own life?
It helps to pinpoint areas that are bothering you and identify your underlying concern. Notice any patterns you keep repeating and be responsible for changing what you can about yourself.
2. Once you know the problem areas, feel the feelings associated with them.
Are you feeling sad, angry, guilty, bitter, hurt, resentful or just plain disillusioned?
Some external trigger, like a familiar song, a comment, a certain look, a meal, etc, will usually uncover these feelings and other feelings that are suppressed.
Your new partner, unaware as to what is going on, will be a clueless recipient of your snide remarks and inconsiderate behavior.
By getting clear on what triggers may be setting you off, you can neutralize your feelings, making those emotions lose their negative charge.
In that way, you allow your new relationship to move ahead successfully, without the usual drama.
3. Visualize yourself happy in a relationship.
You know what you want and what you don’t want. Have a clear image in your mind of your desired partner and see yourself happy together. Experience how that would feel.
The more genuine the feelings are, the more you will attract what you are looking for and what you most deserve.
When you release old baggage from your past, it is very liberating. You feel a weight lift off your shoulders, setting you free to have a healthy, long term relationship.
Remember, insight is the gift you get for learning your lessons and taking another path.
The time you spend letting go of the past will make you and your potential partner grateful that you took the time to clear your mind, heart and soul to love again.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Let’s face it. Intimacy is hard.
Most of us don’t feel safe exposing our soft, imperfect underbellies to our partners, even when we are in a long term relationship.
I think our guardedness comes from a mistaken belief that in order to be loveable, we must be perfect or at least be able to hide our flaws well enough that our partner will not see them.
But if we want our partner to be fully “in” the relationship, we must be willing to be fully in it as well.
This means bringing our whole self to him, not just the parts of us that we think he will like.
Perhaps our work is in first learning how to be intimate with ourselves and being able to acknowledge and have compassion for all parts of us, even the imperfect ones.
If we are able to do this, we will be implicitly giving our partner permission to do the same.
Some questions to guide us on our path of intimacy are:
What am I afraid to show others, what would it be like to accept those parts of myself rather than condemn, fear, or hide them, how often am I critical of my partner, and how is this related to my criticism of myself.
If we are not allowing ourselves to fully be who we are in our relationships, we are thwarting intimacy.
Conversely, when we give ourselves permission to be vulnerable and share those parts of us that we might not let everyone else see, we are being intimate; and when we give our partner permission to do the same, we are fostering intimacy in our relationship.
Margot McClellan, LCSW – www.margotmcclellan.com
When I think of intimacy, I usually think straight to a romp in the bedroom. Being physically intimate with someone can be relatively easy because it is what our bodies naturally want to do (in most cases).
We feel the drive and our bodies begin the natural reactions to prepare for sexual intimacy. We don’t even have to think about it. Easy, cavemen were doing it.
Lets talk about a different kind of intimacy, emotional intimacy.
What I have discovered is the emotional intimacy is the more challenging of the two. Emotional intimacy requires work. It’s letting your guard down and having those difficult conversations that no one really wants to have but are necessary for the connection you really desire.
1. Finding the right time to talk:
A time when the two of you are alone and not distracted is ideal. A car ride can be a good place because you’ve got the time and no one can really go anywhere until you get to the destination.
You’re stuck. WARNING: it can also get uncomfortable…
2. Be ready to get uncomfortable:
You’re not talking about the weather and baseball. You are talking about things you value and are important to you. Your heart may be racing and your palms are sweaty but that means it’s important. These topics will be the foundation of a relationship with open communication.
Long periods of silence aren’t a bad thing and don’t feel like you have to fill it if he isn’t saying anything. He is probably just collecting his thoughts.
3. Find time to continue conversation:
Being vulnerable and letting your guard down is important in fostering any relationship. This is the way you grow deeper. It can be terrifying to start some of these conversations, but it’s easier to take care of them on the early end than damage control on the later end.
Conversations may not go as planned but as you engage in more and more of them they become more natural and you begin to learn who you are through them and how to navigate your relationship.
Emotional intimacy is necessary in a relationship so don’t be afraid to develop yours with your boyfriend (or anyone else)!
Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC – www.openpathcollective.org/clinicians/haley-gage-2/
Being intimate with your partner is about having a partner who is willing to be intimate with you.
So before you go looking for solutions on how to find intimacy in your relationship, ask yourself this:
“Is my partner willing to be intimate with me?”
If the answer is yes, then by all means proceed with the research, effort and time it will take to increase intimacy in your relationship.
If the answer is no, then it’s important to take a look at why you stay and what options you have in your relationship.
So, your partner wants to become more intimate in your relationship and now you’ve got to figure out what to do?
Why not work with your partner to come up with ideas on how to do it together?
Write out a list of things you would do together if time, money, jobs, children or any of those other intimacy killers didn’t get in the way.
While you may not be able to do everything or anything on your list, it will be a jump off point. If you and your significant other both say you want to sail around the world, you could start with a one night cruise.
Communication is another key ingredient in intimacy.
It is the basis for all relationships so making communication a priority will allow for chemistry and passion to happen organically. Talk to each other about you day, your fears and hopes, your desires for your relationship and anything else that comes up for you.
The most important thing in finding intimacy in your relationship is willingness on both parts.
Once you have that, with time and energy, everything will fall into place.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com
There is an array of definitions for Emotional Intimacy.
I am referring to a shared emotional space where there is an exchange that strengthens mutual understanding and the connection to one another.
Intimacy results in an experience of being known, and known at the deepest level when you are both accepting of one another.
Deepest intimacy occurs when you are able to say to the other what you cannot say to anyone else. This is an intimate dialogue and of course this intimacy can be expressed sexually as well.
Whatever your definition is, there is no intimacy without vulnerability.
There is no vulnerability without safety. We are only able to let down our defenses and become vulnerable when we feel secure with another person. Increased intimacy with him involves both how you present yourself and how you receive him.
Here are some pointers from observing well-bonded couples who are emotionally intimate;
- Be Patient and calm, developing the ability to maintain your composure when feeling strong emotion
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Be empathic, even if you have a different perspective
- Allow your feelings, and deny yourself defensiveness
- Repeat what you think you heard to check for accuracy. We all OFTEN interpret what we hear through our insecure parts
- Ask your partner what is needed from you
If you are the more verbal individual;
- Ask him when it’s a good time to talk
- Sit with your feelings, initiate the topic and quietly give him time to take it in
- Accept his slower response, then carefully listen as you do not interrupt
- Embrace his communication showing acceptance, use touch to confirm your attention
- Share your thoughts and feelings once his are complete
If he is the more verbal individual;
- Bring your thoughts and feelings into relationship even if it is your inclination to withhold them
- Be patient with yourself as you share, your words do not need to be perfect
- If you are conflict adverse or concerned about his reaction, let him know instead of being quiet
- Be completely honest so that you can be known
Marta Hatter, LCSW – www.revelationcounseling.com
The world can be a very cold place, especially for men.
While it is usually acceptable and welcoming for a woman to freely share her trials and tribulations with family members, friends, and even her trusted therapist; our American culture tends to propagate an entirely different message to our male counterparts.
While females are expected to “share,” men are mostly expected to suffer in silence.
This suffering affects the physical, emotional, and mental health of men. While it may not develop into clinical depression, the signs of wear and tear appear all too often within the precinct of a marriage or serious relationship.
To combat the harsh reality of this relentless “coldness,” women must learn to make home a safe place for their partners to return to.
The home, namely the bedroom, must represent the direct opposite of an unfriendly world in which men spend most of their time. The home should represent as less chaos as possible.
By using the 5 senses, woman can easily accomplish this:
1. The home and the woman should be pleasant to look at.
I am not suggesting that women should sign up for the next Ms. America contest, but there should be some effort to look nice and create a nice environment since men are visual beings.
2. There should be no nagging.
Instead of the hustle and bustle of the outside world, full of demands, there should be respectful communication.
3. Gentle physical touches as well as emotional touches help make men feel that it is safe to have their own feelings and not be so uptight about life.
4. Nice and peaceful fragrances give the message that home is a totally different world from the outside world.
There are many fragrances that are specifically designed for use in the home. Some people opt to use essential oils to give home a calm and serene smell to it.
5. Lastly, food is important.
The benefits of families sharing a meal are often highlighted, yet there are benefits to partners having dinner together as well. A nice quiet meal opens the lines of communication.
Intimacy takes time, but when women recognize the need to deliberately create an environment of safety, love and support, this is time well spent.
Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey – www.linkedin.com/in/kirsten-ramey
Human beings are born to connect deeply with each other and we all want emotional intimacy in our lives.
It makes us feel whole and it heals us. It provides us with that closeness that makes our soul resonate with well-being and gets our hormones flowing.
Emotional intimacy thrives when we are open to one another and when we are not defended against feeling.
So, if we are busy being angry, critical or withdrawing, then our emotional connection will be lacking. But some people only know how to express strong emotion via anger and so they use this as a way of connecting, albeit a very negative way of inter-acting.
We all want to feel good. We know we feel good when we are emotionally connected.
So, we need to learn how to make offers to connect and how to respond to those offers.
We do this in myriad ways.
- We do kind things for each other.
- We demonstrate affection.
- We pay attention throughout the day to our partners and we look for ways to offer love and support.
- We notice our own behaviors and we pay attention to what triggers us.
- We recognize our style and pattern of communication and we commit to acting and behaving in ways that support the relationship, even when we don’t feel like it.
- We spend time together and we have fun together.
- We make our relationship a no-negativity zone and we refuse to let the child in us have the last say in a conflict.
- We commit to building bridges and to being quick to repair when there has been a breach in the intimacy.
- We let each other have our own feelings and we refuse to take things personally.
- We share our dreams and our hopes for the future and we listen from our hearts to what our partner is really communicating.
- We treat each other with respect.
This is key to making the relationship a safe place and when we make mistakes we own them.
Respect, openness, honesty and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to be seen in all of our humanity; this is the magic of which great relationships are made.
The state of emotional intimacy is supported by all of these actions and behaviors.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
Emotional Intimacy is the key to feeling fulfilled, close, and happy within a relationship. Women and men both need this to feel that a relationship is worth committing to.
Here are some tips for creating and sustaining intimacy in a relationship:
1. Maintain good and consistent communication with one another.
This entails creating positive approaches and attitudes towards one another. This also entails being mindful of the words that are being used in conversation and the acknowledgement that is given to each other’s feelings and perspectives .
It is important to spend time thinking and working on how you want to present yourself, your perspective, and to understand that it is important to be kind and considerate. Trust can erode quickly without this good will.
2. Be clear about your needs and what your priorities and life values are.
Use examples and be specific about what is important to you. Realize that meeting ones needs is a reciprocal process and it is important that it is worked out about how needs are going to be met for both of you.
3. Manage your anger and work on not letting it destroy the positive feelings that have been developed.
Anger is a deterrent to feeling close and safe with one another. Take breaks to decompress if emotions get heated, and come back when anger has de-escalated and share what had triggered you. This can help you understand one another and ultimately bring you closer.
Good communication, being clear about needs and values, and anger and conflict management are important ways to create and maintain intimacy in a relationship.
Stephanie Newberg, M.Ed., M.S.W., L.C.S.W – www.stephanienewberg.com
When creating emotional intimacy, two things have to happen: you have to build trust and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable can be scary but if you want to connect emotionally you will have to take risks.
However, you don’t have to “unzip” yourself at the beginning. Setting boundaries and taking time to get to know each other can set the stage for building trust.
What does “trust” mean?
It actually starts with trusting, loving and valuing yourself.
What I mean is, love yourself enough to know that you are worth loving, trust your instincts when you see red flags and value yourself enough to move on if your instinct is telling you that you are not emotionally safe with this individual. This is why setting internal and sometimes external boundaries are so important in the beginning.
Trust builds in a relationship where each partner shows no judgment or criticism to the other.
It also comes when each allows the other to be who they are in any given moment and exist in whatever emotional space they are in. It is at this point that guards can be let down and feelings and emotions can be nurtured.
Share, ask for what you want, attend to one another, actively listen to one another, and communicate with kindness.
Jacqueline V. Cohen, LPC – www.therapymama.com
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