what is emotional intimacy and how to do it?
emotional intimacy in a picture


Emotional Intimacy - you what?

They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.

F. Scott fitzgerald

Emotional intimacy or the lack of it…

I never forget the couple of hours spent with the witch doctor over 2019-20.

An enquiry from a fairly distant acquaintance landed in my message box via my website. He saw something in me he recognised in himself. We engaged in an enlightening call. Later, i found myself travelling to Bournemouth to see a strange lady. ‘Keep an open mind,’ he suggested. 

One question she asked, like all her others, have remained with me. ‘Have you ever been emotionally intimate,’ Now I’ve had several boyfriends over the years. But she didn’t mean that. This tiny old lady with short white hair quipped back at me. I don’t mean physically. anyone can do that. i mean emotional intimacy between people.

emotionally inept

Emotional intimacy; a concept or practice that passed me by. I didn’t understand her question. She dug deeper. Who validates you? Again, zero comprehension. 

She explained, when a child falls over and hurts itself we run to them and coo. Tell them it’ll be ok. What the child needs, and all of us for that matter, is to be understood and heard. To say oh crumbs that must have hurt a lot. ‘Yes it did!’ Through sobs. Voila. Validated. and she explains this in her book ‘Mummy’s little helper.’ an eye opening and valuable short read.

I got it. and i don’t think i got to much of it in childhood. I had a chat with mum about it. who was essentially still a child when she had me and my brother. Hurt knee – ‘you’ll be alright’. and my Dad, well, there was definitely no room for fear, sadness or anything other than getting on. ‘no bleating’ and definitely, ‘no sob stories.’ chin up.

on one hand i think this has been positive, i consider it to have made me very resilient, too resilient perhaps. on the other hand i was emotionally void for many years. i recall a partner commenting that i show no emotion. ‘what you want me to cry or something?’ i didn’t know what emotion was and i certainly didn’t know how to communicate it. on reflection i think in my earlier years that could manifest itself in anger, I had a shorter temper in my twenties.

how do we change the narrative

so how often do we validate one another? who actively listens and wants to understand what we are going through? who validates us Physically or mentally. I find that us humans are Always trying to fix, find solutions or brush to one side those awkward feelings of discomfort. and then we feel lonely and abandoned. We’re not even aware that we do it. maybe the most important person to validate, is, wait for it, ourselves? urgh. it’s true.

the witch doctor told me i had to talk to the little girl that hurt her knee. or that was scared when she had to do something she didn’t want to. she told me to be kind to her, that she needed understanding and comfort. it was a practice that I was very uncomfortable with. i was uncomfortable with myself at the time regardless, so a willing participant in having a chat with my inner child, or at least the vulnerable side of that little girl. with time it became easier and it did help me. I remind myself sometimes, several years later, be kind to that little girl.

i observed myself over this period. The connections between me and others became mostly, more satisfying. If the exchange of listening and understanding was reciprocal the satisfaction was even greater.  by validating my previous vulnerable self and feeling safer as a result, i learnt to validate others. it bred a far deeper trust between the relationships i already had and when building new ones. and importantly i learnt to trust myself.

Validation – the core of emotional intimacy?

Validation therefore, the core of emotional intimacy? To feel mutually safe and unashamed to share? For feelings, emotions to be understood and accepted by others and ourselves? 

but the question is, can it go too far the other way?

Further reading

Mummy’s little helper, Sarah davis

have you ever asked your partner, or yourself, any of these questions?