Intimacy is a necessary part of the foundation of a relationship. It requires a level of emotional strength and bravery that can be intimidating to those entering into a new relationship. Intimacy requires becoming comfortable with being vulnerable. The journey to build intimacy with new potential partners can look very different for each couple. What is universal to all intimate relationships, however, is this: There is no true intimacy without honest effort from both parties.

Think about the people with which you have the most intimate relationship, maybe a parent, a best friend, or a sibling. Why are you comfortable with them? Why can you be vulnerable with them as opposed to other people in your life?

For most, it is because this person is someone you can be yourself with, someone who doesn’t judge you no matter what. You may also be comfortable because they are: accepting, supportive, caring, and trustworthy. These are all pieces of a relationship that nurture intimacy. So how do we build this with our partner? Take a look at our date by date journey to building emotional intimacy:

Dates 1,2, and 3:

Having a good mindset going into your first couple of dates can make or break the potential for a new connection. When thinking about a potential partner, remember that you are truly trying to find your best friend. Think about how you and your best friend became so close. Those same experiences can work for a potential match as well. Get curious about each other, show support for each other’s goals and accomplishments, and check in between dates.

When you are making your first impressions, body language is very important. Do your part in building a safe and welcoming place to build trust on your first couple of dates. Make eye contact and face your date during your conversations and demonstrate active listening by leaning in and making sure they see that you are listening. Nodding along or making small comments that affirm that you understand is helpful. Make sure you stay aware of your facial expressions. If you smile at your date, it is more likely they will be more comfortable- and so will you.

Additionally, when you notice things about your date that you really like, don’t be shy – tell him/her! Identify what you admire in your date.

Dates 4, 5, and 6:

With the more dates you go on and the more comfortable with each other you become, there comes an important opportunity to level up on how you approach verbal intimacy. You can begin to use their name when you compliment them or ask questions. This small change of speech can help put the focus of your words on your date. This is a great habit to build that can elevate your conversation and show that your attention is completely on your date.

On a more tangible note, maybe you notice that they have a specific favorite flower or you see a little token that reminds you of them that you know they would like. Buy it for them. It doesn’t have to be big and you don’t need to do this every time you see them, but it can be a nice gesture to show that you were thinking about them throughout your day to day life.

Dates 7,8, and 9:

As you get closer and more vulnerable with each other, there is a chance that you will be discussing things that are more difficult to share. Similarly, you will be hearing very personal things from your potential partner. Through this stage, practice non-judgmental listening. You will start to hear things that you may not agree with or that may make you uncomfortable as you take your relationship to a deeper level. Demonstrate openness and trust, creating a safe space where your date can talk freely with you.

Be respectful and supportive, showing that you truly want to get know this person for who he or she really is. Throughout your journey, don’t be afraid to mess up. Just make an effort. Information that you share needs to be increasingly personal. What are the things that really matter to you? What do you have important opinions on? Really get to know each other. Remember, deep conversations are good, but it must truly be personal if you want to develop real intimacy.

Heading towards engagement

The final step in your connection could lead to engagement. If that's the case, the two of you will continue to explore in detail your future. Where you will live, the community you prefer, engagement and wedding details. You’ll also begin to see each other more and have to balance me time vs we time.

You may begin to experience some challenges as you introduce each other to your family and friends. It's not a given that everyone in your family will get along with the person you desire to spend your life with. People may also start to question your decision. Stay strong and know that transition is difficult.

Going from single to married will present a number of challenges. Sometimes you’ll need to face those alone and other times your partner can support you through these issues. Lean more on each other and try to count on one another more as time goes by. The number one thing is to be supportive. You need to be there for them and vice versa. This is the foundation and beginning of your journey together. Make sure your foundation is strong and built on trust, love and support.

May you have courage to be vulnerable and compassionate on your next date.