5 mins

Lack of emotional connection in a relationship – what are the signs?

Do you and your partner feel like ships in the night? Do you “function” well together but always get the sense that there’s something missing?

Your relationship may be lacking in emotional intimacy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw the towel in just yet. That’s because emotional intimacy can be cultivated. It’s an ongoing practice and one you can start fostering today.

What is emotional intimacy in a relationship? 

Emotional intimacy is the foundation of all healthy relationships. It’s the sense of closeness and connection you feel with another person. The feeling of being truly seen, heard and appreciated by your partner. In turn, this helps create trust and security in a relationship.

At the beginning of a new relationship, there are all kinds of different feelings in the mix. There’s the rush and excitement of meeting someone new and that ever elusive spark… But these feelings can sometimes lead us to bypass the more important stuff, like:

Do we have the same values?

Do we want the same things in life?

Are we both willing to be vulnerable with each other?

Can we both share our hopes, dreams and fears with each other, without fear of judgement?

Emotional intimacy is something that is built gradually over time. It develops as we begin to share all the different parts of ourselves – and especially the parts we struggle with most. The more we are able to (safely) share our inner world with another person, the more we allow each person to truly be themselves.

Sharing our vulnerability with another person can feel scary – especially if it’s something we’re not used to. However, without it, we stand to risk much more. Because without emotional intimacy, our relationships are going to feel empty.

Lack of emotional intimacy – what are the signs to look out for?

Things appear OK on the surface level but the relationship is devoid of any real depth – you rarely talk about how you’re feeling and when you do, you worry a lot about how your partner will take it.

You don’t feel like your partner “gets” you – if you don’t feel understood by your partner, you’re probably lacking an emotional connection.

You’re not very touchy feely – physical closeness (like holding hands, kissing etc.) requires emotional closeness. If you and your partner are not very tactile with each other, your relationship may be more functional than it is deep.

You don’t talk about the important stuff – open and honest communication is the basis of all healthy relationships. Even though difficult conversations can feel hard, they often end up strengthening the bond we have with our partner.

How to build emotional intimacy

It’s true that emotional intimacy is a two-way street. That said, in order to feel connected to another person you must first feel connected to yourself. How comfortable are you with your own emotions? Are you the kind of person who wears their heart on their sleeve or do you have a tendency to brush things under the carpet? If it’s the latter, it’s time to start connecting to your own inner world. Therapy is a great place to start this process. The more you are able to be vulnerable and authentic with yourself, the more you’ll be able to extend this outwards to a partner.

Here are some steps you can take to create the opportunity for greater intimacy in your relationship:

Try and gradually start sharing deeper emotions with your partner – Share your hopes and dreams for the future, as well as the things you are afraid of.

Be curious – ask your partner intentional questions. For example, “what makes you feel most loved?” Or “what’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?”

Offer thoughtful gestures – surprise them by bringing them tea in bed (if that’s something you don’t usually do) or give them a spontaneous hug and tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.

Share memories – if you’ve been together a while, get out some old photos and share happy stories and memories.

Do meaningful activities together – instead of going to the same old restaurant on “date night”, try switching it up instead. Take an evening class in something you’re both interested in, listen to a new podcast or go to an exhibition.

Emotional intimacy doesn’t appear overnight. But the more you invest in truly being yourself – and allowing the space for your partner to do the same – the closer your bond will become. Connection is a basic human need and, fundamentally, it’s something we all want. It’s worth fighting for!

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

28 January 2022

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Dr Elena Touroni

Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector.


Having obtained a first degree in Psychology (BSc) at the American College of Greece, she completed her doctoral training at the University of Surrey. Dr. Touroni is highly experienced in the assessment and treatment of depression, anxiety, substance misuse, personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder and relationship difficulties. She works with both individuals and couples and can offer therapy in English and Greek.


Dr. Touroni has held a variety of clinical and managerial positions including as Head of Service in the NHS. Further she has held academic positions for the University of Surrey and the Institute of Mental Health lecturing on specialist postgraduate Masters and Doctorate programmes.


She is trained in several specialist therapeutic approaches such as schema therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based approaches and Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT). As well as holding a variety of NHS positions, Dr. Touroni is the co-founder of a private practice in Central London that has been a provider of psychological therapy for all common emotional difficulties including personality disorder since 2002. She is the founder and one of two directors of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.