Relationship counseling

Expert Tips: How To Enhance Emotional Intimacy In Any Relationship

By Annie Miller, LMFT


This past weekend, we kicked off our new Community Enrichment Series at Sync Counseling. We partnered with Coffee.JPEG in Sierra Madre, CA for this series.  Dr. Curtis Miller, Executive Director at Sync, spoke with couples about the key elements of “Making Love Work.” As I listened, I realized that his words could resonate in any kind of relationship, not only in a couple dynamic. Dr. Miller shared that there are two ways we live in our relationship with the world and with others: objective & subjective. These two things play a big part in the degree of intimacy present in our relationships. Here’s how. 


What Does It Mean To Relate In An Objective Vs.  Subjective Way?



When you relate to your partner objectively, you are mainly relaying facts. You are talking about the factual details of something. For example, you get home from work and share with a partner, family member, or friend. “I was in a two-hour meeting and then it took one hour to get home in traffic.” Here, you are relating in an objective way. 


An alternative way of relating to someone is subjectively. When you relate in this way, you share more of your feelings with that other person. An example would be “I had a migraine during the meeting and struggled to get through.” Or, I was frustrated with the traffic but I put on some classical music and that helped me relax.”


Both ways of relating are important. However, relating objective facts to your partner too much of the time allows emotional distance to grow. Throughout the presentation, we received a lot of questions about how to foster change in a relationship. 


“So how do we even make the shift?” 


“How do I stop doing that negative cycle of our relationship?” 


“How can we find more moments together at the subjective level?” 

The Importance Of Empathy & Novelty


Dr. Miller emphasized  EMPATHY & NOVELTY


What Is Novelty?  


Novelty in a relationship refers to trying something new or unusual in a relationship and we are not talking about just in the bedroom. It can refer to solving a problem in a different way. Or, it could mean relating to your partner in a completely new way. Here are some examples of novelty. 


You respond to your partner in a different way after you realize that your current way of responding is not healthy. Perhaps humor becomes the novelty. Together, you see something silly in the old pattern and laugh about it. This allows you to shift more into your subjective experience.  


How To Introduce Novelty 


Some of the many ways we can introduce novelty, as explored by Dr. Miller, are to…


  • Look for the subjective in yourself, risk sharing it with your partner
  • Seek ways to build trust through attending to old hurts in new empathic ways
  • When you find yourself repeating a pattern that directs blame, anger, resentment, or defensiveness, ask yourself… what am I feeling underneath it all, What is my hurt, fear, or sadness?  … Begin to find ways to share these feelings with your partner.  


What Is Empathy?  




Empathy is loosely defined as: 


The experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences from their point of view. Most people tend to try to understand others’ experiences from their own point of view. But, this generates sympathy, not empathy.


Empathy facilitates behaviors that come from within, that are more genuine. With empathy, you learn to pay attention to your partner’s subjective experience. And, this facilitates a deeper connection. 


As I understand it, empathy is the ultimate novelty for a relationship. Empathy can help heal conflict in a relationship.  When you start to attune to your partner, regardless of your own experience, change happens. A famous psychological thinker, Heinz Kohut says “empathy is the cure!”


This approach to making love work requires building trust with your partner. You begin a reciprocal process of trust where you share a deeper part of your subjective experience. You also know that your partner is committed to taking steps to turn towards you in empathy.  


Relationship Counseling Can Help!



If you’d like to know how to start this type of process in your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out.  I’d love to chat with you and share more about how relationship counseling can help you enhance both novelty and empathy in your relationships. 


Sync Counseling has a Couples Enrichment Program. This program includes an in-depth couple assessment of your growth and strength areas. You’ll also get six sessions of relationship counseling. During these sessions, you’ll learn how to explore vulnerability and novelty in your relationship. The program costs $350. Would you like to enroll in our Couples Enrichment Program? Do you want more information about relationship counseling in Sierra Madre, CA? If so, contact us today.