John Gottman, there are two distinct categories of couples -- the masters and the disasters of relationships.
The masters are those who've been married for a certain number of years who (although they have issues in their relationships just like everybody else) have an uncommonly strong bond.
And one of the things that he talks about which I've also observed in my practice is that people must continue to build emotional intimacy to have a lasting relationship.
The one sure fire way to do this is by establishing a good friendship.
In other words, in order to build emotional intimacy you have to show respect and truly care about the other person.
I mentioned in earlier articles the importance of having regular meaningful conversations.
Because if you feel that your partner is also your most trusted friend, then you also feel that you can really talk with them and become closer to one another.
Friendship also ingrains a genuine fondness, enhances your expression of affection for each other, and builds greater trust and honesty.
It's the sheer absence of this sort of friendship that results in clients (the disasters of relationships) saying to me, "We went out to dinner and we had nothing to talk about.
" Or, "He gave me this gorgeous necklace for my birthday, yet I don't feel connected to him.
" Or, "I'm living in this beautiful house and he gives me all sorts of expensive gifts, but I feel so alone and empty because I don't really feel any closeness.
" This closeness that a couple once enjoyed in the beginning gets lost if they do not keep up the friendship that regenerates all the necessary ingredients to keep the flames of love alive.
It's when we're living in our homes, yet living parallel lives; when we're doing different things all the time and relating to one another like roommates; or when we see each other some time during the end of our day, but act as if we're passing ships in the night because we're so busy ...
that emotional intimacy dies.
What's the secret for maintaining and building emotional intimacy? There is none! You simply must make the time.
Plan for it.
Make it important enough to be together so you can have those regular connecting conversations.
Go out with one another and have fun (not just talk about the kids, but about you, me, and us).
That's how you build emotional intimacy.
Because that's how you become good friends.
Then rinse and repeat often ...
Because when you truly know that you're cared for and you truly care for your partner, respect comes easy and fondness follows.
For it's difficult to admire someone you love, if you don't first respect them.
And it's difficult to show appreciation and love, if you don't feel loved in return.
Then when you do receive that surprise gift, or your dream home on the hill, or that diamond to die for ...
you'll be filled with the kind of love that's brimming with appreciation, rather than feel the emptiness of a fake relationship.