You know about “A.I..,” Artificial Intelligence. It’s the quest for creating machines that can learn and approximate human cognition. But what do you know about “E.I.?” You encounter the need for it daily, and there’s nothing artificial about it. It’s Emotional Intimacy: the ability to know and be known to others at more than superficial levels. Emotional intimacy is one of the types of closeness we’re created for, but many of us struggle with how to achieve that closeness. In a romantic relationship emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy are not the same thing, and relationships can be characterized by either, both, or neither. Ideally, in a sexually intimate marriage relationship, emotional intimacy is present as well, although sadly this is not always true. At the same time, our closest friendships, even those that are not romantic or sexual, are at their richest when they include emotional intimacy.
So what is really involved in emotional intimacy, and how can you improve your ability to achieve it in your most important relationships?
- The first step to emotional intimacy is to know and accept yourself deeply. Until you know your own thoughts, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses, you cannot accurately convey them to another. And until you accept yourself, you will likely be afraid of risking rejection by sharing yourself with someone else. Finally, the process of knowing and accepting yourself will make you better able to accept others, and will make you a safe person to whom they can reveal their own inner selves. For Christians, the foundation of acceptance of self and others is our knowledge that we are created, valued, loved, and redeemed by God.
- Many of us have hurts and traumas in our past that make it hard for us to trust others. If your past affects your ability to trust and/or be trustworthy in relationships, you can improve your current and future relationships by working on healing those wounds. Talking to a pastor, mentor, or counselor may help.
- Another key to emotional intimacy is developing effective interpersonal and communication skills. Others cannot read your mind or your heart, so they need you to speak words to them so they will understand what’s inside you. Verbalizing your feelings, using “I” statements to express how others’ behavior affects you, and resolving conflicts productively are all examples of skills that will enhance your relationships.
Today, think about your own “E.I.” and consider how you can deepen your significant relationships. The Engle Center wants to help you develop better relationships. Check out the other relationship articles at our website or schedule an appointment to talk with a counselor about your concerns.