Sharing stories, asking questions, and tackling new hobbies together are some active ways you can strengthen your emotional bond with your partner.

Romantic relationships come in all shapes and sizes. How you bond with one person may differ entirely from how you bond with someone else.

Emotional intimacy is often a key factor in supportive, stable, and mutually rewarding relationships.

If emotional intimacy has been lacking in your past or current relationship, there’s still an opportunity for it to grow. Knowing how to build emotional intimacy, however, is half the challenge.

Intimacy is a deep, meaningful sense of closeness and connection with someone else. Emotional intimacy refers to a psychological portion of this bond, where you feel safe and secure with your partner in a way that allows you to express vulnerability without fear.

Emotional intimacy is essential in stable relationships. It lays the foundation for other forms of intimacy, such as physical, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy.

For example, high levels of emotional intimacy have been shown in research to help maintain sexual interest and activity between partners over long-term relationships.

Forrest Talley, a clinical psychologist from Folsom, California, explains that the intimacy level in a relationship often correlates with the level of happiness. “But perhaps more than this,” he adds, “there is an innate human craving to be known, and in the process of being known to be valued (some would even say to be ‘cherished’). It is a uniquely satisfying experience that many people seldom enjoy.”

You can build emotional intimacy; it doesn’t have to involve big, sweeping changes to your relationship. It does, however, take conscious effort.

1. Share stories together

Part of emotional intimacy is learning about how your partner thinks and feels. How they react in a specific situation, such as what embarrasses them or what they consider “pet peeves.”

Dr. Kerry McBroome, a licensed clinical psychologist from Brooklyn, New York, suggests easing into expressing vulnerability with lighter-hearted stories from your past. “Disclosing more vulnerable pieces of yourself doesn’t have to start with the highlight reel of your most embarrassing moments,” she says.

2. Be bad at something new together

Another strategy McBroome suggests is exploring a new activity together that allows you to see one another in an imperfect state of learning.

“…practice being flawed, messy people together by trying a new hobby that both of you are terrible at doing,” she says. “Make some wobbly pitchers together or lose spectacularly at pickleball. This can help reduce the tension around being seen as vulnerable.”

3. Laugh together

Older research from 2015 suggests the more you share genuine laughter with your partner, the better your relationship’s overall well-being.

“Talk and laugh,” says Lauren Tetenbaum, a licensed master social worker from New York City. “You can play games if the structure feels less awkward. Having inside jokes or even watching a show that you both like and that brings levity can create emotional intimacy.”

4. Decide to learn something new about your partner

Spending time together can help naturally build emotional intimacy, but taking a proactive approach to building emotional intimacy during that time can help even more.

Talley recommends making the decision to learn something new about your partner when you spend time alone together. Achieving this goal means giving your partner sustained attention and asking questions that help you understand them more deeply.

He says examples of questions you can ask during an activity include:

  • “When did you first have this dream for your future?”
  • “How would that change your life if you could accomplish that dream?”
  • “What was it like to have that disappointment and no one was there to be supportive?”

The overall goal is to be compassionate and empathetic while you listen. When your partner is done, you can thank them and tell them you’re glad they opened up to you.

5. Show affection

Showing affection for your partner, physically or through acts of thoughtfulness, helps your partner feel valued. It shows them you appreciate their presence in your life.

Showing affection doesn’t — and shouldn’t — always end in the bedroom, either. “Looking into each other’s eyes, cuddling, and holding hands are also ways to build emotional intimacy without traditional physical intimacy,” indicates Tetenbaum.

By engaging in nonsexual displays of affection, you can show your partner that their value goes beyond what they physically bring to the relationship. Doing so can increase their sense of security and safety in the partnership.

6. Communicate openly

Regarding emotional intimacy, open communication allows you and your partner to build trust and empathy.

When communicating openly and honestly, there are no hidden meanings or guesswork. You learn that your partner is saying what they mean, and you can trust it to represent their true feelings.

7. Respect each other’s boundaries and individuality

When you don’t feel respected in a relationship, it can be challenging to want to be emotionally intimate.

Setting your boundaries and respecting your partner’s helps create mutual trust and allows you to maintain self-agency and autonomy.

Questions to help build emotional intimacy

It’s OK if you’re not sure how to begin building emotional intimacy with your partner. Questions are a simple place to start, and these may help you kick off a more profound conversation:

  • What are your current goals or dreams?
  • When you were a child, what professional did you want to join and why?
  • What is your favorite memory of us?
  • What do you appreciate most about our relationship?
  • Are there any current challenges you feel stressed or anxious about?
  • What values and beliefs are most important to you?
  • What’s the best way to support you when you’re having a bad day?
  • Can you tell me about a time you felt the happiest?
  • Do you have any worries about the future?
  • Have you ever had a funny but embarrassing moment?
  • If you could be any fictional character who would you be and why?
  • What’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet?
  • What would be your dream future?
  • What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
  • If you had one year free to do anything, what would you do?
  • Where was your favorite place as a child?

All of these questions can prompt an in-depth conversation that sets you up to learn more about how your partner thinks and feels.

Was this helpful?

Emotional intimacy is a broad concept that involves feelings of trust, connection, and being valued. If you don’t feel emotional intimacy in your relationship but want to — you can absolutely work to build it.

Spending time with your partner, actively learning more about them, and having new experiences together are ways you can start to build emotional intimacy proactively.