By Ashley Edwards Walker
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of building such a strong bond with your partner, it’s as though they know you better than you know yourself. This level of connection is being prioritized by Bumble daters, according to our dating trends research for 2024. Of members surveyed, 32 percent said that emotional intimacy is now more important than sex. Furthermore, 78 percent of those surveyed feel it’s paramount that their partner understands both emotional and physical intimacy.
“Emotional intimacy is that feeling of closeness, safety, and security,” says certified relationship and intimacy coach, Nathalie Sommer. “And the foundation of that is trust.” When emotional intimacy is at the core of your relationship, it allows you and your partner to feel safe enough to be yourself and open up emotionally without fear of rejection.
Of course, emotional intimacy doesn’t just happen. Even long-established couples have to work at it. And if you’re in a new relationship, opening up to someone you’re just getting to know can feel particularly intimidating. That’s why we’ve turned to the experts to find out the best ways to encourage and increase those feelings of closeness between you and your Bumble match.
Create a safe space
One of the first steps of encouraging more emotional intimacy in your relationship is building a safe space for you and your partner to open up. “Think of it like taking off your emotional armor,” says sociologist Jennifer Gunsaullus. “Being raw and real about who you are with another person creates the emotional safety for them to be able to take their armor down as well.” Ease into it by sharing something personal with your partner, then ask them if they’ve ever had a similar experience.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
For most of us, being vulnerable is difficult—especially with a new person. But you can really deepen your connection if you’re able to overcome the initial discomfort. Showing vulnerability can serve as a test for your compatibility: if you’re communicating your feelings and your partner is unable to do the same, it could be a sign they’re emotionally unavailable. It’s also a way to establish trust, which is essential for building emotional intimacy. “We’re so scared of sharing the deeper parts of ourselves,” says Sommer. “But at the end of the day, we all want to be seen.” This is why Sommer encourages embracing conflict in relationships. By navigating uncomfortable conversations together, you’ll learn that you can communicate frustrations with your partner without the anxiety of rejection or abandonment. You can also make this process feel easier by offering words of affirmation. If your partner shares something with you, make it a point to listen, then acknowledge their feelings and experiences. Sommer suggests a simple phrase like, “I can see this is really hard for you” can help bring you closer together.
Ask a variety of questions
Building emotional intimacy with a new partner can feel daunting and stressful, especially given the vulnerability it requires. But building emotional intimacy doesn’t mean you have to “go deep” all the time. In fact, Liz Higgins, a therapist and founder of Millennial Life Counseling, recommends using question card games to take the pressure off and help spark conversation. The questions in these games often vary in subject matter and level of earnestness, making it easier to balance the more serious moments with enough levity to keep both of you feeling comfortable.
Set aside specific time to build your connection
Scheduling in time to check in with each other emotionally might not sound like the most romantic approach, but Gunsaullus advises that it’s essential for your communication. “As relationships evolve, it’s invaluable to have frameworks to make sure you’re being intentional around emotional intimacy,” she says. “Otherwise, there’s so much competing for our attention, and connection doesn’t happen as naturally.”
Schedule a weekly check-in so you have a designated time to air anything that might otherwise get swept under the proverbial rug and harm your emotional intimacy. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes for one person to share while the other person does their best to listen quietly, then switch. You can even prompt each other with questions like: Is there anything you’ve been afraid to bring up? Have I done or said anything to hurt your feelings this week? “Just remember to never use what somebody shared in a vulnerable moment against them,” Gunsaullus adds.
Emotional intimacy is crucial for building a lasting, fulfilling relationship. Though the vulnerability, affirmation, and trust it requires can feel daunting in a new relationship, the ongoing effort you both put in now will build a strong foundation for your connection to develop.