couples counseling Scottsdale.

Couple Therapists Share Ways to Build Emotional Intimacy

It’s no secret that relationships are hard work. There are no secret recipes. There are no magic tricks. There isn’t really a top 5 tips list for a great marriage to which everyone must adhere. When it comes to a great relationship, we love the way Dr. Ashley Randall put it, “Relationships take work. It’s about finding the one you want to do the work with!” While there aren’t any hard and fast rules, part of that work is building emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is about finding your safe place. It’s that effortless comfort, closeness, and welcome vulnerability that we feel in a relationship. So, our couple’s counselors have put together a list of ten practices for couples to try to help when it comes to building a stronger emotional bond with one another.

Our therapists want to point out that creating and expanding emotional intimacy with yourself is step one. If you’re feeling disconnected from yourself, there’s a good chance that disconnection is going to make things more difficult in a relationship, and your chances at being a part of a harmonious couple are slimmer. Self-accountability is so important. Self-awareness is good. Self-accountability is great. Individual counseling is sometimes the first step when it comes to couples counseling. All the cliches are true… Hurt people hurt people. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself. You can’t pour from an empty tank. You get it. The point is that every couple consists of two people and if both of you aren’t in it and willing to do the work, on yourselves and on the relationship, there may be struggles. Let’s talk about the work.

Celebrate Wins in All Forms

Life is busy, and oftentimes life is hard. When there are so many obstacles that are easy to see as losses, it’s easy to overlook the small victories. I’m not talking about “always looking on the bright side”. We’ve talked about toxic positivity on the blog. I’m talking about taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s achievements, whether they’re personal, professional, or relational. From finishing a project at work to hitting a fitness goal, every win strengthens the bond between partners and reinforces a sense of shared accomplishment. Celebrating wins together shows the other that you care and value even the little things in one another’s lives regardless of whether it matters to anyone but you. Because our brains are hardwired to keep us alive, we tend to focus more heavily on the negatives or what is not being done, rather than the good things. Try catching one another doing it right. It’s true few men will turn down that pat on the back for doing the dishes and you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who isn’t going to get excited when someone notices the hard work she’s put into a project. This is a great way to celebrate wins in all forms and to satisfy that innate human need that we all have for recognition.

Initiate Intimacy

Intimacy is the lifeblood of a healthy relationship, and we’re not just talking about in the bedroom. Intimacy encompasses physical closeness, emotional connection, and spiritual resonance. Intimacy requires vulnerability, which as the queen of vulnerability Dr. Brené Brown puts it, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” Initiating moments of intimacy with your partner, whether through a loving touch, a heartfelt conversation, or a shared adventure, are all ways to encourage trust and vulnerability. Likewise, intimacy and vulnerability are oxytocin powerhouses. Oxytocin, which your brain is designed to release when it feels trust and kindness, is known as the “love hormone” for good reason. This literal feel-good hormone has all sorts of health benefits including anti-inflammatory and calming effects.

Check In Regularly

Anyone who’s been married or in a long-term relationship will tell you that communication is a cornerstone of a strong relationship. While we’re standing firm on our opening statement that there are no secrets, we will say communication is a must. Make it a habit to check in with each other regularly, not just about mundane tasks or surface-level concerns, but about hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations. Set aside dedicated time to engage in meaningful conversations, actively listening to each other’s thoughts and feelings without judgment or interruption. Be intentional with this time. It’s common for couples to spend their check-in talking about outside stressors. Identify once a week, even if only for 15 minutes, where you keep the topic on yourselves as a couple.

Be Present and Make Memories

marriage counseling Scottsdale. Life moves at a relentless pace. Everything and everyone is connected 24/7. So, amidst the chaos, carve out moments of presence and mindfulness. Create memories together by embracing simple pleasures, embarking on adventures, and savoring shared experiences. Whether it’s a spontaneous road trip or a cozy night in, prioritize quality time spent fully engaged with each other. Yes, this means putting the phone down, turning on Do Not Disturb, getting a babysitter, whatever it takes. We’re not suggesting that you need to take a vacation and go off the grid once a month, though that does sound great. We just want your one and only to be the one and only object of your attention for at least a dedicated period.

Stay Curious and Grow Together

Growth is an ongoing process, both individually and as a couple. Approach each day with curiosity and openness, eager to learn from each other’s perspectives and experiences. We’ve established that life is hard. Embrace the challenges as opportunities for learning and transformation, and embark on mutual journeys of self-discovery and personal development. Something we hear often in couples counseling is, “he/she isn’t the same person I married.” The first question we have is, “Are you the same person you were when you got married?” After some introspection, the usual answer is no. The goal is to grow together though, not apart. If a couple is married in their twenties, the likelihood of the two of them being the same in their forties is slim. A lot of life is experienced during a marriage. You become parents together. You lose parents. You get promotions. You lose jobs. You make new friends. You lose old friends. All these things change who you are as an individual. Learn from your partner about how to navigate these changes and they’ll learn from you. Honor each other’s different journeys and perspectives – two people can experience the exact same thing and come out of it very differently.

Face Conflict with Heart and Logic

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship and healthy to a certain extent, but it’s how we navigate it that defines the strength of our bond. Approach disagreements with a blend of empathy and rationality. Try to understand each other’s underlying needs and perspectives. This is where that individual counseling could come into play. If you’re not aware of your own needs or unclear on your own perspectives, you’ll find it may be difficult to express these to your partner. Practice active listening, validation, and compromise. Focus on finding solutions that honor both partners’ values and feelings.

Let Go of the Need to Be Right

The ego has no place in a successful relationship. This can be a sneaky problem in relationships with two highly intelligent or highly independent partners. Instead of prioritizing being right, prioritize being kind and compassionate. Let go of the need to win arguments or prove your point, and instead prioritize mutual respect, understanding, and compromise. Ask yourself, “What’s more important – being right or respecting my partner’s feelings?” Remember that you’re on the same team, and when it comes to love, there doesn’t need to be a winner or a loser because you’re both winners. You have each other.

Find Balance with Heart and Mind

Balance is the key to sustainable happiness. Strive to find equilibrium between heart and mind, honoring both emotional intuition and rational discernment. When we said to ask yourself which is more important, being right or respecting your partner’s feelings, honestly in some cases if we’re strictly speaking logically, being right may take priority. We know from studying anxiety, depression, trauma, and so many other areas of mental health that feelings don’t always tell the truth. This is why it’s important to work together to find that balance between heart and mind. Build a relationship that is grounded in both passion and reason, where decisions are made thoughtfully, and actions are guided by love and wisdom.

Give Each Other Space and Grace

While togetherness is great, autonomy and independence are as well. You are two different people, after all. Respecting each other’s individuality and autonomy allows space for personal growth, self-expression, and self-care. Offer grace and forgiveness freely, recognizing that we all make mistakes and stumble. Embrace imperfection as an integral part of the human experience, and love each other fiercely through the highs and lows. Conflict is healthy and emotions are imperative. However, those big emotions that tend to cause pain and trauma in relationships come when our prefrontal cortex is offline. Similarly, when we are under the influence of substances, we lose access to our prefrontal cortex which carries our logic and rational minds. That’s when angry outbursts, jealousy, or hurtful words are generated. When things are heated, give yourself 20 minutes to allow that frontal lobe activity to come back online before engaging again. This gives you and your partner a better chance at processing conflict more productively.

Embrace Challenges of No Risk, No Reward

gay lgbtq+ couples therapy in Scottsdale.Love is not for the faint of heart. Embrace the challenges and uncertainties that come with opening your heart to another, knowing that true growth and fulfillment lie on the other side of fear. Take risks together, knowing that even in failure, you’ll emerge stronger, wiser, and more deeply connected. No one is guaranteed a payoff of a lifetime of happiness, but sharing your life with the one you love is certainly a reward worth working toward and a risk worth taking.

Couples Therapy isn’t Just for Broken Relationships!

Relationships require dedication, intentionality, and a willingness to grow and evolve together. There aren’t any secrets to a “happily ever after.” It’s just people committing to doing the work and finding someone who’s willing to as well. It’s cheesy, but love really is not the destination but the journey. If you’re looking for a little help with your relationship, don’t wait until it’s WWIII. Couples tend to wait until something is broken before trying to fix it, but couples counseling isn’t just for broken relationships. It’s to help nurture and maintain healthy ones too!

We Love and Support All Love at Claibourne Counseling

We are proud to have couples therapists for all types of partners, including LGBTQ+-affirming therapists. Likewise, our founders Claire and Chas Karakey have been together for nearly 15 years. We love love and can’t wait to get to know you and your partner! Call today to set up your couples therapy appointment.

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Monday – Friday | 9am – 5pm
10613 N Hayden Rd, Ste J-100
& 10617 N Hayden Rd, Ste B-100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

(Note we have 2 suites. Please check with your therapist to confirm where to go!)

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