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Four Ways To Become Closer (Developing Emotional Intimacy)

 

By Dr. Brenda Shoshanna May 2007

 

Even when they are in relationships, many wish to become closer to their partners and share quality time that is truly intimate. They want to feel free to express all of themselves. Although many try in all kinds of ways, it is helpful to learn some direct steps, which open emotional doors between partners and deepen the bond they share.

The heart and soul of intimacy begins with communication. However, few really know how to listen, or how to find the right time or way to express what is inside.

Some communicate to control, manipulate, or be right. Others communicate to present an image of who they are, to impress and gain approval. Their communication creates a wall that doesn't let another in. No matter how many gifts they give to their partner, it never seems to be enough. Of course the real gift everyone wants is to be truly known and heard.

True emotional intimacy begins with willingness to be who you are - to express yourself honestly and fully and to know that your partner is able to accept you as you are. This also includes the reverse - your being able to really listen, understand and accept your partner and what he needs to share.

Many relationships are based upon an on-going struggle to fix or change the other person. They are not good enough as they are. This struggle blocks intimacy as the partner always feels criticized in some way. The greatest barrier to emotional intimacy is the feeling that we have to be someone different than who we are.

 

The following simple steps open the way for intimacy. They allow you to practice a communication that sets up an atmosphere in which intimacy can grow. These exercises are simple and yet powerful. They will help you to make friends with both your partner and yourself.

 

1) Accept Your Partner As They Are. (Accept Yourself As You Are As Well).

Stop criticizing, complaining, and letting your partner know what's wrong with them, what's missing. Drop the desire to change them. When something happens that usually causes you to criticize or complain, just let it be as it is. Say to yourself, I will let this person be as they are and let go of my wish to control them. Watch how they begin to open up as this goes on.

 

Step 2 - Focus On What's Right About Your Partner. (Let Them Know).

You fell in love with your partner for some reason. Focus upon what it is that drew you to them, the things they've done that make you happy. Then, tell them so. So often we communicate the complaints and keep the praise and acknowledgment silent. Start doing the reverse of this.

Make a point of letting your partner know whenever he does something to please you, or when there is something about him that you genuinely like and respect. This is not flattery, but the process of acknowledgment. We usually think the person already knows what is good about them, but actually this is rarely so. It is crucial to "acknowledge" what is happening. Open up and tell them how they made you happy, or what about them you enjoy and respect. (This also lets our partner know what pleases and is meaningful to us).

 

Step 3 - Listening With Love

Listening means, stopping our own inner dialogue and drama and really being there for another person. We allow the person to say whatever it is they have in their mind. We do not correct, interrupt, try to teach them something, or bring up other instances when they were wrong. Instead really listening means creating an environment where the other feels and is "heard".

So often we do not "hear" the other, but only hear the voices in our own mind. We have personal agendas for how they should be acting and what we want them to say. Unless we drop those agendas, we can never really become close or know the person we are with. Here is a secret - when a person feels really listened to and heard, they always feel loved.

To practice this exercise - clear you mind and focus only upon your partner and what he is saying to you. Do not think of an answer, do not think of anything. Listen carefully and then at the right moment, paraphrase what he said to you, just so he knows you are with him and have heard what he said. For example, you could say, I heard you say that you feel you need more space. Don't comment upon this, analyze it, or anything. Just let him know he's been heard. Mirror to him the essence of what he's said. This will let him know you are with him, listening to him fully, not finding ways to criticize or change.

 

Step 4 - Asking And Receiving

Ask for what you want and need. You give a great gift to the other by asking for what you really want. Many are afraid to ask for fear that if they let their partner know what they really want, they could be turned down. It requires the willingness to be open and vulnerable. Ask for what you want and what is important to you. You will be amazed at the fact that very often your partner had no idea.

Once you ask for what you want, allow yourself to receive it, and offer thanks. Many people take what is given without offering thanks, gratitude and acknowledgment of how much the gift meant to them. This leaves the giver feeling upset. Make sure you fully let your partner know how much the gift meant to you.

Now, of course, do the reverse. Find out what your partner truly wants and needs. See if you can give it to them. If you cannot, discuss it. Don't allow it to fester. Once something is honestly discussed, the two of you can make adjustments and move on. When two individuals feel known, heard and accepted, not only does the emotional intimacy grow, but a sense of wholeness and well-being develops alongside as well. Although these steps are simple they are extremely powerful. Try one today and see. If you do them day after day, it is impossible not to find the bond deepening naturally.

 

Discover the surprising truths about love that will save your relationships, in Dr. Shoshanna’s new e-book Save Your Relationship (21 Basic Laws of Successful Relationships).

Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, relationships expert on iVillage.com, speaker, and author of many books, including The Anger Diet, (30 Days To Stress Free Living), Zen And The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Why Men Leave (Putnam), and many others.  You can contact her, or visit her personal website.

 


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