In our last post about intensity vs. intimacy, we went over intimacy disorders and what your relationships might look like if they are lacking emotional intimacy. Below we will explore components of emotional intimacy. There are many levels of emotional intimacy. Know the signs that you may be swapping intensity for intimacy, and how to reclaim your relationships.
5 Levels of Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intimacy can result in great sex, but it is NOT SEX! Let’s dig a little deeper into the levels of emotional intimacy.
Level One – Safe Communication
This is the most base-level communication like ‘are you enjoying this weather?’ or ‘are you gonna watch the game today?’
These types of communication are nearly void of any emotional connection or vulnerability applied or inferred from the communication. The risk-level of any rejection is minimal and doesn’t share much about either person.
This could be a conversation with the barista at your local coffee shop or the mechanic where you get your car serviced. These chats are usually reserved for people we don’t have much of a relationship with.
Level Two – Opinions and Beliefs of Others
At this level, people will begin to share the opinions and beliefs of others such as parents, coaches, famous people, politicians, etc.
You might think of it as feeling out the other person. It usually will sound like advice you have received from others – like something you heard on your favorite podcast or an old adage your grandmother used to say. You can monitor their reaction to see how they feel about it. If they react negatively, the risk was still minimal as it is possible to reject the statement and frame it as though it is not something you necessarily believe.
Level Three – Personal Opinions and Beliefs
When you reach this level, you may be feeling a little more confident in the depth of the relationship. You begin to share opinions and beliefs that are your own. These are statements that get a little closer to your true personality.
You might start by sharing your personal beliefs about something small. For instance, you believe on a first date that the check should always be split. You’re letting your personal opinion be known but there is still wiggle room to backtrack.
Level Four – Your Feelings and Experiences
If this is starting to sound crazy, then you may have been focused on relationship intensity rather than intimacy in previous relationships. On this level, you’ll begin sharing how you feel about things as well as what you have done and gone through in the past.
This is the first level of some true vulnerability because there are no take-backs. Once you put your previous experiences or actions out there, there is no reeling them back in. The same goes for sharing your feelings about the actions or experiences of your partner. If you tell them you feel something they did was terrible or hurtful, you can never take those words back.
Your only escape from sharing on this level is to say your feelings have changed or you are no longer the person from your past. However, it is important to acknowledge who you were and the growth you have exhibited over the course of your life
Level Five – Your Needs, Emotions, and Desires
If you reach this level of emotional intimacy in a relationship, you have reached the top-tier of relationship intimacy. At this level, you are sharing your innermost emotions and truly baring your soul. You have true faith this person will not reject you, use you, or judge you.
You might tell them ‘it makes me sad when you don’t call me to say good night’ or ‘I want to have your children someday.’ You trust this person will respond with kindness and say they will do their best to call or they are also excited to start a family with you.
This level of emotional intimacy is for your best friends, closest relatives, and serious romantic partners.
Defining Emotional Intensity
Plainly speaking, for people that experience emotional intensity all the emotions are felt and expressed in a much stronger sensation than most people feel.
You would experience much more vivid and wide-ranging emotional experiences such as being moved to tears by a rainbow or get completely irate when you see someone litter. Big events in the news can keep you caught up for hours or days on a regular basis.
Everyone else might seem like an emotional void because their reactions are nothing like yours.
Signs of Emotional Intensity in Your Relationship
Look back at your recent relationships. How long did it take for you to fall in love with the person? Relationship intensity might look like a revolving door. You meet a person and instantly they are the greatest person you have ever met and then within a few days or weeks you’ve lost all interest.
Here are a few other signs of emotional intensity in your relationship:
- Roller coaster of emotions – everything is great, I hate you, blissful, hatred, lovely, hell
- Clingy – your partner can’t go anywhere without you or you blow up on them
- Hugs to hand grenades – Constantly going from ugly fights to passionate make-ups and back again
- Dramatics and theatrics – excessive reactions to small issues like responding late to a text
- Rushing – doing too much and doing it too soon; being overwhelming
Disadvantages of Relying on Emotional Intensity
If you have been relying on relationship intensity rather than intimacy, you may be familiar with some of its disadvantages.
You might find yourself lonely because the partners you choose don’t understand you and leave – sometimes without explanation. You are always looking for a connection but can’t seem to ever feel connected with anyone for long periods. You are building your relationship on something that fades quickly – like a candle in the wind, any turbulence can extinguish the fire.
Your sense of relationship satisfaction is never fulfilled and you very rarely, if ever, feel long-term gratification in your relationships.
How to Reclaim Your Relationship Intimacy
If all of these things are sounding familiar and you are concerned about your current or future relationships, take action to resolve the issue. You are not broken! These are some steps you can take to get back on the right track.
If you have had relationship problems with family, friends, or past partners then you need to take steps to resolve that trauma before you can truly experience a loving relationship. Physical, sexual, or mental abuse, neglect, and authoritarianism are all things that could negatively affect the way you relate to others. Take a step back from relationships and put the focus on self-care until you are healed. The methods below can aid in the process.
Sex Addiction Treatment
If you think you may be suffering from compulsive sexual behavior and find yourself craving intense or risky sexual situations, new partners, or are increasingly watching porn (or seeking out harder porn), you should reach out to Begin Again Institute to discuss your struggles with intimacy, sex, or compulsive/risky behaviors.
Begin Again offers treatment options such as a 14-Day Men’s Intensive. This program focuses on Trauma-Induced Sexual Addiction (or TINSA®). This treatment model was developed by BAI and is based on the latest research in Brain and Neurobiology. Begin Again Institute and his staff have been using this model for 12 years to locate and treat the causes of sex addiction while simultaneously putting an end to these damaging addictive behaviors.
Begin Again offers several other programs like partner support programs, 1:1 partner and couples intensives, continuing care, and an online program called Stopping for Good.
Say this out loud: there is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist! So many people have been mistreated or learned unhealthy ways of relating and this is especially true with romantic partners. Find yourself a professional therapist or counselor that can give you unbiased and educated methods of healing. Therapists will be in your corner without judging you or looking down on you. It is also a great way to practice a healthy relationship with boundaries.
There are several different 12-step programs that are geared towards sex addiction and all of them have some different tactics and beliefs. This article has some information about four of the main sex addiction groups. These groups are generally going to be voluntary meetings you attend where you gain support from others that have the same or similar addictions.
It may feel safer for you to stay away from the public so temptations are not there, but humans are social people and you will likely grow lonely and depressed or more anxious about your condition. Find yourself something to be involved in that is as non-sexual as you can get such as volunteering at a homeless shelter, joining extracurricular church activities, or join one of the 12-step programs. Do not try to go at this alone – not only is support available, but it is necessary.
If you believe you may be struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, sex addiction, or other intimacy disorders, Begin Again Institute is here to help. Take this self-assessment or contact us to to become a part of our next 14-Day Men’s Intensive. You don’t have to wait for help – our next intensive begins November 7, 2020.