Note: This is the second of a three-part series. Click here for part three
Emotional intimacy is being open and revealing about what you feel and what you think. When you are emotionally intimate with someone, you allow that person inside your private emotional space by sharing your deepest emotions and your innermost thoughts. Many couples “make love” by listening and communicating matters of an exclusively private, personal nature. These disclosures in which you tell each other “everything” is the foundation of emotional intimacy, and they make up a couple’s intimate dance, says Mary and John Valentis in the book Romantic Intelligence (New Harbinger).
They say that in any intimate relationship, but especially a new one, it’s always a question of whether you put up boundaries with your partner that are too strong and you never reveal yourself—or you have no boundaries at all, allowing your identity to merge with your partner’s. It’s also important to note how much intimacy you express—or your don’t—with your partner. With a lack of intimacy, your relationship won’t feel very warm or close, and you’ll likely feel as if you’re missing out on something exhilarating and essential.But the problem with all of this is the fact that emotional intimacy is a risky business, because it requires you to let down your guard and allow your partner to see your vulnerabilities-and know many of your deepest secrets and soft spots. You must trust that s/he will accept you as a whole person, will value you for who you are, keep your confidences, hold your secrets close and not judge you. You trust your partner’s character and judgment not to betray your trust or to ridicule your dreams, say the Valentises.
So what can you do if you want to build a more romantically wise, intelligent relationship? The Valentises have the following suggestions:
- Have a strong drive to communicate with your partner and to connect with him/her at a deep emotional level. That means that issues and problems must get talked through, and that feelings and emotions —yours and the other person’s—must be heard and acknowledged. There is reciprocal listening, giving and mutuality, and there can be no pretense. In general, a generous and altruistic spirit needs to permeate the relationship.
- You must exercise emotional impulse control. When you think before you act on your emotions, you are exercising emotional impulse control. You simply allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you may be feeling, while you consider the wisest way to express your thoughts about that feeling. Or you may decide not to discuss the matter at all. You may even want to wait and cool down before discussing it. When you don’t exercise emotional impulse control, you may satisfy a momentary urge to vent or release hurt, anger or tension, but you are much less likely to solve the problem.
- When you have a relationship problem, don’t expect instant answers. Absorb the experience of being upset. Just feel it, acknowledge it and stay with it. Don’t ignore, minimize, deny or judge the whirlwind of unsettling emotions that you feel. When you do not react with your immediate impulse to strike back, to defend yourself, or to somehow salvage your dignity, that allows the space to open up for a new vision and some clarity to settle into your consciousness. You will find that your delay in reacting lets you take stock of the situation more clearly. It allows the time for your mind to “read” the messages that your emotions are sending. Emotional impulse control is the key virtue that characterizes romantic intelligence.