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Cheap Ways to Boost Emotional Intimacy that Have Worked for Us

Emotional intimacy in marriage is what we all crave. You need to build it as a foundation in any relationship, but then continually build onto it — which is what I’ll show you how to do.

We had a baby awhile ago, and wow did that rock our couple-dom!

Suddenly, there were three of us, and spending time together became much harder to do. 

couple massaging each other, practicing how to grow in emotional intimacy in their marriage

Desperate to keep the emotional intimacy in marriage alive, I decided to look for cheap ways to boost our emotional intimacy, whether we’ve got just three minutes, or three hours (on those rare drop-offs to the grandparents’).

They’ve worked so beautifully, that I want to share them with you!

But first off, what is emotional intimacy?

What is Emotional Intimacy in a Relationship?

So, what exactly is emotional intimacy in a relationship?

It’s when you’re both meeting each other’s emotional needs. You can confide in one another. You can work together on something, and take in each other’s differing viewpoints with respect. You share things with that person that you would never share with the rest of the world.

It’s demonstrating to one another how much you care for each other, and making a safe, sanctuary-type feeling in your actual relationship — no matter what the rest of your lives look like at the moment.

Building and sustaining intimacy doesn't take money. It takes time, effort, and intention. Click To Tweet

Can a Marriage Survive without Emotional Intimacy?

Can the 4th of July survive without fireworks? Well, yes.

But it wouldn’t be pretty.

I see emotional intimacy as something that feeds a marriage and supports a healthy, happy life enriched for both partners involved.

Not only that, but people need emotional intimacy. Think about it — we all love to have those deep, soul-changing conversations where we feel like we’re really being understood and seen by another person.

If you or your partner are not getting that from each other…then one of you might seek it elsewhere.

It’s human nature to crave that type of connection.

What Causes Lack of Emotional Intimacy?

I can answer confidently that part of what causes lack of emotional intimacy is a lack of time.

And on top of that, my husband, Paul, is in college full-time as well as working full-time.

Much less time together has left us feeling unconnected from one another, something we both were quick to decide we didn’t like one bit. Besides wanting that strong connection with one another, we’ve both always believed that a strong bond between parents is really important to our child’s health and well-being.

Baby or no baby, my husband and I still crave intimacy with one another where it’s just the two of us engaging, learning about each other, learning things about the world together, and just being “us”…you know, before we became a threesome.

What else causes a lack of emotional intimacy?

  • Shutting Your Partner Down: Shutting down your partner so much when they try to have conversations with you (you’re stressed, it’s not the right time, you think you’re right and they’re wrong, etc.), so that they eventually stop coming to you to talk.
  • Forgetting about Each Other: Focusing the entire relationship around the children, and forgetting that the two of you are a couple.
  • You Stopped Dating Each Other: Not having regular date nights (we started weekly date nights in our household when our little one was around a year old — they are wonderful! We each take a turn, every other week, to plan them. While we only get a babysitter maybe once a month or so, I can tell you, that our at home date nights are never boring).

The list can go on, and on. But instead of us focusing on the negative, let’s look at ways to BOOST your emotional intimacy — no matter what level it’s at right now.

I’m giving examples below of real emotional intimacy boosters we’ve done in our own marriage, and my husband’s input as well for how it felt to be on the receiving/giving end of them.

Emotional Intimacy Booster #1: Curate Something They’d Find Interesting

I like to tear out a magazine article I think my husband would enjoy − like the one I found about the new Star Wars movie leading up to when we saw it in theaters − and leave it on the bathroom counter (he’s a “reader” if you know what I mean), or even folded up in a lunch I pack him for work.

Not only does it show I care about what HE cares about, but it gives us a point of reference to talk about together…that doesn’t have anything to do with diapers, potty training, or the cat.

Paul’s Take: “Torn out articles are fun little gifts that show that you care. It’s a very small act, but it makes a person feel special.” 

Emotional Intimacy Booster #2: Leave a Shower Note

In a Biz mastermind group, I was once given a waterproof notepads with a waterproof pencil for the shower so that we could record our ideas if we have them in there.

white notepad with suction cup holder for pencil

What did it turn into in our household? My adorable husband began writing me love notes on it.

What a beautiful surprise!

It became a really nice way to convey love from, what sometimes feels like, two passing ships.

Paul’s Take: “Sometimes we spend so much time taking care of our baby, Conner, and working, that some days we hardly speak. That’s where a shower love note comes in handy. It is even more fun when you get a response in shower note form.” 

Emotional Intimacy Booster #3: Install a Pop-Up, Love Alarm on their Phone

Ever watch Married at First Sight? They have a challenge on it where the newly married couple must give each other access to their phones. Let me tell you — it gets kind of intense.

SO, this one only works if you and your spouse both give free access to each other’s phones!

Go into your partner’s phone, and set up an alert on their calendar with messages of love to pop up throughout the day! If daily is too often, you can schedule these for just one specific date or day of the week.

Emotional Intimacy Booster #4: Learn Something New About One Another

You don’t need to be together in order to take personality-like quizzes.

In fact, you can do these alone when you have time throughout the day, then send the answers to each other, or share them when you have time together at home.

Free personality quizzes ones we’ve taken include Fascinate (how the world sees you − I’m The Archer), 16 Personalities, the 5 Languages of Love (highly, highly recommend not only this quiz, but to read the book together and discuss. See below.), the Kolbe Index, and the Money Harmony quiz.

Paul’s Take: “In my opinion, most of these books and quizzes do not have any deep new insight into your relationship; however the act of doing them with your partner has real value. It is like a fun goal that you get to work towards with the one you love.” 

Emotional Intimacy Booster #5: Consume the Same Material, at the Same Time

You can stay more relevant in each other’s lives by reading the same material at the same time. For example, Paul and I both read 5 Languages of Love together (here’s the 5 languages of love list I created).

5 Languages of Love book with purple cover and couple embracing on beach

In order to do this, grab one copy from the library and purchase the other one, or grab your second one from Paperback Swap so that you can both read it at the same time. Then you can text, email, or chat about it when you do have a few minutes with one another.

Common interests are a good thing!

Emotional Intimacy Booster #6: Get this Free Printable for a Saucy Night

Have you ever interviewed your spouse about intimacy?

We both got quite into this once we had half an hour to sit down (after putting the little one to sleep). Very enlightening responses that made us both learn things about each other we didn’t know!

Another way to use this? Print it out, and put it in your spouse’s lunch. What an out-of-the-box surprise they can find a few minutes to fill in during the day.

Again, if you can’t find half an hour together, print two copies out and fill this out over lunch or other times throughout the day while you’re away from each other. Then share when you have the time (or simply switch with each other and read separately when you have a few minutes during your day!).

Paul’s Take: “I recommend this one, simply for the fact that marriage should never mean boredom in any aspect of your relationship, but for many it often does.”  

Emotional Intimacy Booster #7: Emoji Throw-Down

I just recently converted to the iPhone.

And I have to say, the emojis are torrents of fun. So if you have access to lots of emojis, then do what we did: an emoji throw-down. Text message each other an entire conversation in nothing but emojis. See how long you can keep it going!

Paul’s Take: “This is a strange one because to send an emoji is such a small act, but Amanda gets really excited about them. For instance, she loves octopi, so out of the blue I sent her an octopus emoji, and it made her day. Find something small and personal to do for your partner.” 

The fact is, building and sustaining emotional intimacy in marriage doesn’t take money. It takes time, effort, and intention. We’ll continue looking for ways to keep ours up to par, and I would love for your own examples to help show us the way in the comments below.

Emotional Intimacy Booster #8: Do a GIF Throwdown

I learned how to add GIFs to text messages this year…and it’s insanely fun to do. GIFs are animated image files, and there are thousands on the internet (for free).

Here’s what you do (on the iPhone):

Click in the box, like you’re going to start typing a text message. Then click the magenta-colored “gif” button.

screenshot of me texting husband

Type in a word to search for Gifs. Then click on the one you want.

screenshot of arrow pointing to search bar, with

The Gif file will populate your text message, and all you need to do is click the blue arrow button to”send”. Done!

screenshot of gif in text message, ready to be sent

Sending these is completely addictive!

Emotional Intimacy Booster #9: Leave a Magnetic Message on the Mirror

Do you remember when magnetic poetry became super popular? Well, I still have a set. Grab your old set or purchase a new one, and leave messages on the refrigerator, mirror, or other metal surface for your sweet.

black box of magnetic poetry

I hope I’ve shown you some fun and cheap ways to build emotional intimacy in marriage even more than you’ve got right now.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.