Emotional intimacy & committed relationships

Hi Mary Jo,

How do I go from a recreation type sex to a more spiritual, loving, emotional type intimacy?


Janie, if you’re in a primarily physical relationship it will be difficult to change to an emotional intimacy unless both partners want to change. Many people choose physical intimacy because it’s easier and less demanding on one’s ability to commit or be vulnerable. However, if you want to establish a relationship based on deep intimacy, these tips will help. 

  1. Begin with you. Sometimes people who are in an exclusively physical relationship feel less respected, connected, or secure with their partner. They notice a lack of depth in their communication. Wanting more is a sign of health. Great relationships begin with being invested in your self-worth, confidence, and personal goals. No relationship can restore the broken parts of you, so invest in therapy or self-improvement to restore the parts of you that feel disconnected or hurt. 
  2. Explore how you communicate. Every couple has problems with communicating occasionally, and that’s normal. But to add intimacy to your relationship, you need to take more time to listen to each other without responding or judging. When your partner tells you something they’re upset about, listen and tell them you are sorry they feel this way. Give them space to work it out and be supportive in checking in on them. Let them know you are there, and you want to help.
  3. Put them on your schedule. Emotional intimacy requires constant nourishment to keep it alive and growing. Set aside weekly dates and time to talk with your partner. Marriage experts have found that just 20 minutes spent together uninterrupted (free of phones or children) improved emotional connection. Your partner needs to feel exclusive to everything else you prioritize. It may feel awkward or less exciting to schedule this time, but do it anyway to improve your emotional connection.
  4. Be more thoughtful through small actions of love and appreciation. Couples who do small things to make each other feel special develop a deeper sense of emotional connection. Something as simple as a love note scribbled on a lunch napkin can make a big difference in the way your partner feels about you. Try to find at least one small thing you’re grateful for with your partner and share it with them.

Hi Mary Jo,

I want a committed relationship. Most of the women I hang out with say I’m not ready for a committed relationship. Why are they saying that, when I know that I want a committed relationship?


DB, you’d have to ask for more clarification from your friends to find out exactly why they feel the way they do about you. However, as a therapist, I see many people who fool themselves into thinking they’re ready for a serious, committed relationship when what they’re really searching for is validation that they’re worthy of someone’s love and companionship, so they won’t be alone. Here are a few behaviors that help confirm when someone is ready for a committed relationship.

  1. You’re able to be vulnerable, even when it opens you up to getting embarrassed, hurt, or rejected. It’s crucial to be transparent and honest with everything you say and do to build a relationship built on trust.
  2. Your words match your actions toward your significant other. You choose to be faithful and committed to one person through good and bad times.  
  3. You value another person’s feelings and happiness as much as you value your own.
  4. You value the relationship more than you value getting your own way. You work towards compromise and try to understand your partner’s point of view.