Emotional intimacy is an important aspect of a healthy romantic relationship. Without it, the relationship can quickly become shallow and unfulfilling.
In this article, you’ll learn the key signs that your relationship may be lacking emotional intimacy and how to fix this issue.
What is emotional intimacy?
Emotional intimacy can be understood as a deeply rooted sense of connection between partners, where each individual feels understood, validated, and genuinely cared for. 1 Unlike the fleeting rush of romantic passion or physical attraction, emotional intimacy serves as the foundational framework that enriches the relationship over the long term. It’s the experience of knowing your partner appreciates you for who you are and offers a safe space for you to be your authentic self.
Emotional intimacy plays an important role in romantic relationships, and its importance cannot be emphasized enough. It is related to various positive outcomes, both on an individual and relational level. This includes improvements in mental and physical well-being, as well as greater relationship quality. 1Explore our comprehensive intimacy guide for couples to learn more about the importance of emotional and physical intimacy in relationships.
6 signs your relationship lacks emotional intimacy
Recognizing a lack of emotional intimacy is the first step to rebuilding it. While every relationship is unique, there are common signs that indicate a lack of emotional intimacy. If you’re noticing some or all of these signs in your relationship, it may be time to take proactive steps to rekindle the emotional bond with your partner.
Here are 6 signs your relationship lacks emotional intimacy.
1. You feel distant from your partner 2
If it feels like your partner has become a stranger, then you’re likely experiencing a lack of emotional intimacy. It is difficult to explain what feeling distant from your partner feels like if you haven’t experienced it, but it is an unmistakable feeling that something isn’t quite right.
Feeling emotionally disconnected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re heading toward a breakup, but it does suggest that proactive steps should be taken to rebuild the emotional bond.
2. You sometimes feel neglected by your partner 2
When couples lack emotional intimacy, one or both partners may feel neglected in the relationship. This can manifest as feeling ignored when your partner is busy with other activities or feeling like you don’t get enough attention from your partner.
Neglect can erode the emotional bond and lead to feelings of insecurity, resentment, and loneliness. If you’re noticing these signs, it could be an indication that your relationship is lacking in emotional intimacy.
3. You feel misunderstood by your partner 2
When your partner doesn’t understand your feelings or experiences, whether they’re positive or negative, it can cause feelings of frustration and isolation.
Feeling understood by your partner is essential to developing emotional intimacy, and if you’re feeling misunderstood, you should address this issue with your partner sooner rather than later.
4. You don’t feel supported by your partner
Do you feel like you can count on your partner to support you when things get tough? Do they have an open ear to lend and understanding words? If the answer to these questions is no, this could be a sign that your relationship is lacking in emotional intimacy.
Feeling supported by your partner creates a sense of security and can help you weather tough times as a couple. This is crucial for developing and maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
5. You feel like you can’t talk openly to your partner
Being able to talk openly and honestly to your partner is crucial for maintaining emotional intimacy. 3 If you feel like your conversations with your partner are always surface-level or like you can’t express yourself without getting into an argument, this could be a sign that your relationship lacks emotional intimacy.
Often, the reason why couples struggle to communicate openly is because they don’t have the necessary tools to do so. In order to open up to each other, couples need to develop communication skills that allow them to do so without feeling judged or attacked.
The first step to encourage open communication is to create an environment where each partner feels comfortable expressing themselves.Discover how to create a safe space in your relationship!
6. You feel lonely when you’re with your partner 2
Loneliness in a relationship is often the result of not being able to connect with each other on an emotional level. While it may seem counterintuitive, couples can be lonely even when they are together. It is an awful feeling that can take a toll on both your relational and mental well-being.
To overcome this issue, both partners must commit to rebuilding their emotional bond and finding ways to become closer.
How to fix a lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship
If you think that your relationship is lacking emotional intimacy, it is important to address the issue and work on rebuilding it. It might be challenging, and it won’t happen overnight, but with patience and dedication, you can rekindle the emotional connection with your partner.
Here are the first steps you should take when you notice signs of a lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship.
1. Address the issue
It is important to first acknowledge that there is a problem. Bring up the issue with your partner in an open and non-confrontational way. The best way to do this is by using clear and direct language. This means staying away from vague statements such as “You don’t love me enough” and instead stating your feelings in a kind yet assertive way. 4 Instead of accusing your partner, focus on how you are feeling:
For example: “I feel like we’re having trouble connecting emotionally lately, and it’s making me feel sad and lonely.”
By doing so, you can start a dialogue about the issue without risking your partner feeling attacked and becoming defensive.
2. Ask your partner how they see the problem
Once you’ve started the conversation, it is important to give your partner a chance to express their feelings. Ask them open-ended questions, such as:
“How do you view our relationship right now?”
By asking your partner questions, you give them the opportunity to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. 5
3. Actively listen to your partner
Active listening is an essential communication skill for any relationship. It means actively paying attention to what your partner is saying and reflecting back your understanding of their thoughts and feelings. 6
Make sure to be present in the conversation without being judgmental or dismissive, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying.
3. Work together to come up with a plan
Cooperation is key when it comes to solving any problems in romantic relationships. 4 Set some goals on how both of you can work together to rebuild the emotional intimacy in your relationship.
This could include things like doing certain activities together, scheduling regular date nights, or having honest and open conversations.
In order to come up with solutions that make you both happy, it is important to be open-minded and willing to compromise. 7For more tips, check out our guide on how to build emotional intimacy!
4. Seek help from a professional
If you and your partner are having difficulty finding ways to overcome the lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a licensed couples therapist.
A professional can provide guidance and support for both of you as you work on fostering greater emotional connection.
A lack of emotional intimacy doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. With patience and good communication, it is possible to reconnect with each other.Improve your communication skills with our comprehensive guide for couples on communication in a relationship!
Secrets to a healthy relationship: Books every couple should read
It's no secret that a healthy relationship is key in a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. This list of books about healthy relationships will help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and deepen your connection. From classic self-help books to more modern reads, these titles will give you the tools you need to build a strong and healthy relationship.
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships
- Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship
- Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples
- Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship
- Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are
- ↑ Milek, A., Butler, E. A., & Bodenmann, G. (2015). The interplay of couple's shared time, women's intimacy, and intradyadic stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(6), 831–842. doi.org
- ↑ Schaefer, M. T., & Olson, D. H. (1981). Assessing Intimacy: The pair inventory. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 7(1), 47–60. doi.org
- ↑ Shulman, S., Tuval-Mashiach, R., Levran, E., & Anbar, S. (2006). Conflict resolution patterns and longevity of adolescent romantic couples: A 2‐year follow‐up study. Journal of Adolescence, 29(4), 575–588. doi.org
- ↑ Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., & Sibley, C. G. (2009). Regulating partners in intimate relationships: The costs and benefits of different communication strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 620–639. doi.org
- ↑ Dillon, J. T. (1982). The multidisciplinary study of questioning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(2), 147–165. doi.org
- ↑ Weger, H., Bell, G. C., Minei, E., & Robinson, M. J. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions. International Journal of Listening, 28(1), 13–31. doi.org
- ↑ Lantagne, A., Furman, W., & Novak, J. (2017). Stay or Leave: Predictors of Relationship Dissolution in Emerging Adulthood. Emerging adulthood (Print), 5(4), 241–250.