Being in a healthy, emotionally mature, intimate relationship is something that most people aspire to experience. The American-German psychologist Erik Erikson defines intimacy as “a person’s ability to relate to another human being on a deep, personal level.” This is achieved when both people feel empowered to be their true selves through a strong sense of connection, mutual respect, and genuine love.
The reality, however, of how to construct a healthy, intimate relationship can be challenging. This is especially true if both people are unclear about—and not on the same page about—the mutual goals they could each benefit from in this ideal partnership. An added challenge would be if a relationship has devolved into an unsafe and toxic one. In this case, the effort needed to mend the relationship and heal any wounds could require professional help.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to create a long-lasting, loving, intimate relationship. Here are 10 simple yet effective ways you can make this a reality.
1. Find Things You Have in Common
An excellent way to create more intimacy is to share activities you both enjoy. Sharing builds intimacy and keeps you looking for what works well between you. It is important to foster a sense of fun and lightheartedness in any relationship. Find the joy you can share together, even in the little things. It doesn’t have to be a big vacation or expensive event to make it special. A picnic, a moonlight walk, a scenic drive, watching the sunrise, or trying a new recipe together are just a few examples of simple shared activities that can create lasting intimacy. Explore new aspects of life that bring you together and you will feel the closeness you long to have.
2. Give Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt
If there is a pattern of hurtful behavior from your partner, it can be challenging not to assume the worst about them. Rather than concluding that your partner is intentionally trying to be hurtful, take a deep breath and give your partner the benefit of the doubt that they were indeed not aware of their hurtful behavior or words. This will go a long way in keeping the relationship healthy, mature, and connected. It will also rebuild the trust needed to feel like you have each other’s back.
3. Avoid Comparisons
Your relationship is unique. Don’t compare it to others. Tune into the specialness of the bond you have with your partner. Your connection with your partner will look different than anybody else’s. Don’t contrast your relationship with your parents’ relationship, or your past relationship with a high-school sweetheart. It is not going to be like your best friend’s relationship with their partner, or what you read last week about relationships in a magazine. Be mindful not to turn other relationships that you see into standards. If you do this, you are unknowingly setting up false expectations and exacerbating differences you have with your partner, which can throw the relationship out of balance. Embrace your distinct relationship dynamic and all the beauty it offers.
4. Communicate Honestly and Respectfully
Blaming, judging, or criticizing your partner is not being respectful. Alternatively, speaking your truth in a mindful and polite manner means you have the courage to let your partner know that you are hurt, scared, angry, sad, or embarrassed by whatever interaction that happened. A simple way to achieve this is by using “I” statements that express what you are feeling and why, which eliminates defensiveness in your partner. For example, “I felt disappointed and angry when our dinner time agreement was not fulfilled” is coming from an empowered and non-threatening place. Versus “I am angry with you for being late to dinner,” which is blaming and disempowers both people. When you speak your truth, it means you are willing to courageously walk your talk by following through on the agreements you’ve made together. Being vulnerable and revealing your feelings to your partner is the gift of honest communication and trust that strengthens the foundation of a relationship.
5. Define What an Equal Partnership Looks Like
Having an honest conversation and making agreements about each other’s vision of what an equal relationship feels like helps to create and maintain that equality. This includes how to express gratitude to each other and how to treat each other with respect, kindness, and empathy. When this is practiced, it creates a Relationship of Equals. There are no double standards, i.e., you hold yourself to the same standard to which you hold your partner. Each person’s voice has the same weight and value. There is mutual support of each other’s need to grow. There is also an effort and willingness to think and act more like a “we” as a way to balance out the ways you already think and act like a “me.” An equal relationship functions more like an adult to adult interchange rather than like a parent to child dynamic. A useful exercise is to together write out a definition of an equal partnership and include the specifics of what you agree upon. This is a great tool to obtain clarity and transparency and a wonderful reminder when you may reach a bump in the road.
6. Check-in with your Partner Periodically
Having regular check-in’s helps keep a good relationship moving in a healthy and harmonious direction. It’s great to do this as part of a date night and encourages continued authentic communication. It is also important to find ways to do this in little ways every day, perhaps over breakfast or at the end of the day before sleep. Be creative and find what works for you both. You may notice a mutual lightness and increased adoration for the extra communication.
7. Downplay Differences
Outer discord can often make us feel like the relationship is doomed. We have a tendency to distort and fall for the exaggerated version we tell ourselves owing to our emotional wounds. Instead, consciously set aside what appears to be discord on the surface and listen deeply for the tones that are unifying and harmonious. This takes some effort because the sounds of yesterday’s argument may still be ringing loudly in our ears and stinging us. Let go of your interpretation and instead trust there is a deeper connection that is beckoning.
8. Ask Clarifying Questions
Sometimes telling a person that you understand their point of view is not enough because what they have expressed is really hiding at a deeper level. It is better to ask some clarifying questions. This is helpful for several reasons. First, it helps them know you are really trying to understand. Second, it helps you avoid assuming you do. Lastly, it helps your partner go deeper into their feelings so they can express them better. You can say, “If I understand correctly, you feel this…. because of that. Is that correct?” Really getting to the heart of any matter is healing and can help avoid miscommunication and possibly hurt feelings.
9. Develop Emotional Intimacy through Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence refers to having an awareness of the emotional journey you have been on that has shaped your personality. That emotional range must include both the light side and the dark side of your experiences. Along with being aware of what makes you feel loved, happy, passionate, courageous, appreciative, and joyful, you must also have an understanding of what makes you feel scared, hurt, angry, sad, and ashamed. Having this broad emotional knowledge of yourself gives you the ability to: a) have compassion and empathy for others, b) make it possible for you to forgive others and yourself, and c) create a deeper emotional connection with the person you love by being emotionally vulnerable with them.
10. Listen to the Underlying Vibrations
We often take the words of our partner literally. Even in situations where your partner is a good communicator, listen to what your partner is saying beyond the words. Vibrational attunement with your partner holds the key to great communication. Address the literal specifics when you respond, but more importantly address what is really being shared in the unspoken realm. Use your imagination and intuition—two critical tools that can reveal deeper messages. Feel into your partner’s essence and sense what it is they are feeling. Don’t always rush to fix things, simply be. This will open up doors to a deeper, richer relationship.
About the Transformational Authors of San Diego
We are a collective of authors from San Diego whose books focus on all aspects of well-being. Our writings guide our readership on a journey toward deeper personal growth and evolution. Transformational Authors of San Diego can be found at TransformationalAuthorsSD.com.
The authors are:
Cherie Kephart, award-winning author of A Few Minor Adjustments: A Memoir of Healing. CherieKephart.com
Diáne Mandle, award-winning author of Ancient Sounds for a New Age. SoundEnergyHealing.com
Hanalei Vierra, author of The True Heart of a Man: How Healthy Masculinity Will Transform Your Life, Your Relationships, and the World. HanaleiVierra.com
Suresh Ramaswamy, award-winning author of Just Be: Transform Your Life and Live as Infinity. JustBeBook.org