Without emotional intimacy, relationships founder on the reefs of emotional discord or flatness—no matter how heated the sex, no matter how much we hold in common—leaving us marooned from the interpersonal closeness for which we yearn.
En route to developing emotional intimacy, we must learn to find a fitting balance between containment (as when our anger is on the verge of turning into hostility) and expression (as when our held-back anger needs to be given emphatic voice). There’s a lot of debate about the merits of expressing versus not expressing emotions, particularly those that are labeled “negative,” but beyond the sniping between these two camps is another approach: we can make skillful room for both expression and nonexpression, so that expression ceases to be self-indulgent or harmful, and nonexpression ceases to be mere repression. Imagine emotional restraint and emotional uninhibitedness in savvy sync, coexisting consciously and compassionately.
If we want more depth and connection and joy in our relationships, we’re going to have to develop more emotional intimacy with our partners, our friends, our family, our coworkers. It’s that simple and that challenging. Connecting only through our upbeat emotions is not enough—we also need to find, and keep finding, relationship-deepening connection through all our emotions. And there is no way we can do this if we are not significantly intimate with our emotions.