Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, just entering into the dating world, or somewhere in between, there remains a simple truth about human nature: real intimacy isn’t about getting naked with someone. In fact, intimacy is related to a different kind of “naked”. When we can expose our truest feelings and ideas with someone, closeness happens. That closeness is what defines a truly intimate connection. When we can trust that connection with our vulnerable feelings, it becomes easier to experience a freer physical intimacy with that person.
One of the greatest indicators for the kind of emotional intimacy that yields totally fulfilling physical intimacy is the quality of listening to each other. Whether it’s a conversation with our spouse or our dinner date, it’s often the case that both persons are half listening and half thinking about what they want to say next. Some of us have taken on professions that require deeply effective listening. Even for us, when personal emotion comes into play, we start to use “emotional hearing”. Emotional hearing dissallows us the opportunity to be present and allow our loved one to feel intimately connected. The key to fostering intimacy is to learn and practice the art of engaged listening.
“The art of listening involves engaging a person with our authentic heart, as I show in my book, Authentic Heart: An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love. It means being interested in a person’s well-being and happiness and wanting to support that. Just as plants need ample water and sunshine to grow, we humans need the nutrient of generous listening in order to thrive.”
Here’s how to practice the Art of Engaged Listening (and ultimately have better sex). Pass it along to your partner!
Scenario 1: Your partner wants to talk with you and you’re in the middle of something.
“It’s important to me that I can listen fully and right now I am distracted. Can we set some time later today to focus on this?”
Scenario 2: Your partner or date is sharing their feelings about something. It’s starting to feel critical of you.
“I can tell this is really important to you. I’m starting to feel criticized and trying to just hear you out without shutting down. I am listening now”.
Scenario 3: You are having a great conversation with your partner or date. Personal things are shared. Take the time to reflect back what you heard the other person say. It shows interest and allows the person to feel safely heard.
“Wow…can I just make sure that I understand you right…you said _____________. Is that right?”
Or, very simply, summarize what you learned about the person.
How we listen determines how we connect.
While many people don’t need emotional intimacy to enjoy the physical kind, it’s also true that how we connect mentally and emotionally determines how we connect physically.
Check out Huff Po’s article on how to heat up your sex life.