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Do You Have Enough Emotional Intimacy in Your Life?


Talking about her marriage, a client said her couple’s therapist told her she and her husband lacked emotional intimacy. My client told me how they worked well together in their real estate business and how much fun they had when they went on vacation, with or without the kids. I responded that they seemed to have “work” and “play” intimacy but not the emotional kind the therapist was talking about. She reluctantly agreed.

Emotional intimacy is something you never may have thought about or maybe it’s something you crave and long for, but never feel you have with anyone. It’s “a feeling of closeness and connection with someone . . . a sense of being deeply seen, known, and understood. It requires vulnerability, empathy, a high level of trust, and finely-attuned communication skills.”

Sadly, many of my clients have never found or enjoyed true emotional intimacy. Some consistently choose friends or lovers who are incapable of engaging in it. Others find folks with the ability for intimacy but my clients won’t allow themselves to open up enough to form a deep connection. Yet others, seem so desperate to jump right into intimacy that it scares others away. 

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, your parents (or other relatives) did not likely share emotional intimacy. Many families yearn to feel close (clients have said that their mother’s or father’s motto was “family is everything” or “family is love”), but don’t have the skills or will to achieve real closeness. What they practice is pseudo-closeness consisting of asking questions or insisting someone tell them what they feel, but not really listening or offering compassion or validation.

If you lacked healthy attachments early on, you may have grown up mistrusting people, fearing being vulnerable, avoiding sharing your true thoughts or feelings, or wanting to share but doing it inappropriately, which is called spilling or leaking. I can’t stress strongly enough that if your first group experience, aka your family, was incapable of emotional intimacy, you’ll likely have a difficult time finding and enjoying it as an adult.

Do you yearn for intimacy, but never seem to find people who want it? Do you try to get close with others only to have them ignore or rebuff you? Do you believe you’ll end up spending your life with no deep connections because there’s something wrong with you? Read about emotional intimacy, take some online tests (I can’t vouch for any of them), and then contemplate what your issues are. If you want emotional intimacy, it may take some work (including therapy), but it’s definitely out there waiting for you.