Clients often come to therapy and say they don’t have a sense of intimacy. While that can sometimes include sex it usually is more about something less tangible. They may describe it as a feeling that there is a connection or a certain energy between them. It is the difference between being connected like friends and being connected in a special way with a partner.
Often there are other issues to work through like creating emotional safety or reducing existing anxiety and/or anger. But once those issues are being worked on clients may not know how to go about bringing back the feeling of intimate connection. Some clients say that they “don’t know how to do it” or “I’m not good with words.” Others just aren’t interested in creating it and say, “what’s the issue? I’m talking and not being mean. Why isn’t that enough?” It isn’t enough because it isn’t evoking the feeling in your partner that makes them feel intimately connected.
From my therapeutic perspective that feeling is about energy and focus. It isn’t about eloquence or grand gestures. There are a few easy actions you can take to begin creating that feeling.
1) Give the other person your full attention. Stop doing what you are doing. Sometimes we try to reduce our anxiety by doing another activity while we talk about a difficult issue. This sends the message that you don’t really want to be in the same intimate space with the other person, that there are more important things to do. That’s not the message you want to send.
2) Turn your body towards the other person. Turn and open your body…don’t cross your arms or block yourself off in other ways. You are telling the person that not only is your focus on them but that you are making yourself vulnerable and want to connect. Keeping our body turned away or keeping things in front of us is another way to reduce the anxiety associated with the feeling of vulnerability that is tied to connection but works counter to what you are trying to achieve.
3) Make eye contact. When you look into someone’s eyes it creates an immediate feeling of connected energy. In fact, if you lead with this the first two steps will follow naturally. Once your eyes connect it is very difficult to do another activity or face away from someone.
4) Use touch. If it is appropriate reach out and touch the other person. Hold their hand. Touch their shoulder. Lay your hand on their leg.
5) Use a soft, caring voice. The tone of words can have so much more impact than the meaning of the words. Let your voice create a sense of intimacy.
We feel vulnerable with we open ourselves to emotional intimacy. Because we are vulnerable. We are exposing ourselves to potential hurt. But hopefully you’ve decided that the person you want to connect with is worth the risk and they aren’t setting out to intentionally hurt you. That doesn’t mean they may not hurt you unintentionally…there is always that risk. But if you think it is worth connecting don’t hinder your efforts by protecting yourself in ways that block the connection.
If you try the steps above then how you say the words you feel becomes much less important. They don’t have to be flowery or eloquent. You are demonstrating their importance and your desire to connect by your actions. The words only have to say what you feel, not create the intimate moment.
I challenge you to try this. You can do it with anyone you know and have positive feelings. In fact, if you try it with someone that is a more casual friend I think you’ll be surprised how much impact these steps can have. Get two people in the room. Face person A and say nice things about person B. Think about how it feels. Ask person B how it feels. Now follow the steps above with Person B. Give them your full attention. Turn to them, your body open. Look them in they eye and say the same things. Now sense your body. How does it feel? Do you feel energy between you? How did it feel for them?
I use this technique in therapy. I’ll talk about a client but I’ll be talking to my co-therapist. Then, I’ll turn to the client and say the same things. If I do it well and talk for a bit it sometimes feels like we are the only two in the room. We forget about everyone else as our focus draws more and more on each other. And the funny thing is that often my words are about therapy. I’ll actually be describing what I’m doing. Nothing else. The words aren’t what is creating the sense of connection. It is my body, my eyes, my tone….my focus and energy.
Give it a try…see if you aren’t better at creating a sense of intimacy than you think you are.