How to Spark Intimacy With Someone New

Due to quarantine restrictions, singles are facing new challenges to finding connection

Candice Smith
Hugs & Kisses

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@chrisigno via Twenty20

We all crave it, but we often don’t want to say that we do. Especially for singles, it can be easier to call ourselves “independent” and stifle our underlying desire for it. I’m talking about intimacy.

Let’s talk definitions, for a moment. Intimacy, in the broadest definition, is about experiencing closeness with another human being. Intimacy comes in different shapes and sizes, and applies to all kinds of relationships: familial, platonic, or romantic. In a romantic relationship, you can have physical intimacy and emotional intimacy.

Knowing how to foster closer connections helps you see if you are romantically compatible

When you’re single and dating, it can be difficult to just come out and say you are looking for emotional intimacy. It’s like there’s some guilt or fear attached to admitting this (I know, I’ve been there!). Here’s the reality, though: just because you want intimacy doesn’t mean you hear wedding bells. You’re not being clingy, either. Wanting intimacy isn’t about defining a relationship one way or another. It just means that you want to be closer to someone, which is what dating is all about. Intimacy is about creating closeness.

When you’re initially dating and talking to potential matches, you’re still in evaluation mode. If you know how to foster closer connections with people you meet on dating apps, it helps you see whether or not you are romantically compatible.

Download XO on iPhone or Android!

As a former serial swiper, and as an intimacy coach myself, I have some insights into how to develop the intimacy that you want and start making deeper connections when dating. Below I’ve included some steps on how to spark deeper intimacy with a potential match:

Identify what you’re looking for — and be honest

Dating can often feel like you’re balancing on a tightrope, especially when it comes to intimacy: you don’t know how early is too early to say what you’re looking for, and you don’t want to come off too strong. On the other hand, you don’t want to completely stonewall someone, either. It’s a lot of work to get close to someone who has the emotional range of a rock (no offense, pet rock lovers), after all. It’s also pretty one-sided.

The matches who are on your wavelength will vibe with you, and the ones who aren’t will leave faster

The best way to start is to remember that you are evaluating matches based on how good they would be for you. Yes, there can be rejection involved, but shifting your focus from how they feel about you to how you feel about them allows you to stay objective. Remember what you want in a partner, and that will help you be honest and straightforward about your intentions.

The matches who are on your wavelength will vibe with you. The ones who aren’t will leave faster, which is good, because you don’t want to spend months with someone, wondering whether they are interested in a relationship, only to find out that they actually have two children out of wedlock with two different people, are still living with their “ex” and are “trying to work things out”, which was why they actually could never spend the night or text outside of work hours (why yes, that is an oddly specific example, and no, it didn’t end well).

Model, don’t mirror

If you’re not getting the intimacy that you want in your dating life, model what you want intimacy to look like by going first. Share the personal story, ask the deeper questions, dare to laugh until you snort.

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash

I can already hear the objections brewing at this. Yes, building intimacy does require comfort with being vulnerable, which can be awkward and uncomfortable at first.

It’s the slight risk of rejection that comes with exposing who you are to another person that allows you to get the potential reward.

Building intimacy does require comfort with being vulnerable, which can be awkward and uncomfortable at first

Ultimately, if you are getting absolutely no emotional response from the person, don’t bother “mirroring” their response. There is no dating secret, no “only text once every 3 days”, “wait-for-them-to-come-to-you” formula that will suddenly give you the intimacy you are craving from this person. Simply walk away and focus your attentions on engaging with someone else who is more romantically compatible with you.

Be present

Being “in the moment” has been consistently identified as one of the highest predictors of (short and long term) relationship satisfaction. This makes sense: after all, if you’re gazing lovingly at someone, and their eyes are glued to their phone screen, it’s hard to maintain a connection.

Model presence for your match when you are in person or on a video call by keeping your eyes on them. Be an active listener in the conversation, asking them questions about themselves and responding to what they say thoughtfully, not just waiting for a pause in the conversation to speak again. Everybody just wants to feel valued, and being present is a very simple way of showing that appreciation.

Get playful

I like surface-level conversations just as much as the next person — which is to say, I don’t like them at all. They’re one of the quickest ways to boredom (and disengagement) on a dating app. Playing games, on the other hand, has been scientifically proven to boost intimacy. It helps you be present in the moment (a bonus, as I just mentioned), it helps build social bonds, and it allows you to open up and be more vulnerable.

Playing games has been scientifically proven to boost intimacy

Having trouble finding a way to play with a match? Sometimes it’s not about the people we meet, but where we meet them. Apps like Bumble and Tinder have been known to encourage poor dating behavior with Swiping.

Try a dating app like XO instead, which was specifically designed with co-op games as conversation starters for matches.

Instead of stumbling over what to say or ping-ponging questions back and forth like the most boring game of table tennis, play a game that’s actually fun and designed to get you laughing.

After all, couples who play together, stay together.

Talk about your desires and your deal breakers

With a new match, it’s easy to just put on the rose-colored glasses and assume that you are on the same page about everything — but there are actually quite a few conversations worth having to see whether you are on the same page.

Case in point: A college friend of mine had a whirlwind romance with a guy she met on Match. They were married in 4 months. A couple of months later, she called me crying. They had just signed on a condo, and had a disagreement over whether the second bedroom was going to be for their future children.

There are quite a few conversations worth having to see if you are on the same page

She never wanted children, and just assumed he didn’t want them either. They had been so caught up in the romance that they never had the difficult conversations. Needless to say, other dealbreakers came up. They signed their divorce papers a couple months later.

So kids maybe are one of the most common topics to get out of the way, but there are also muddier topics, such as:

Relationship structures: What does an ideal relationship structure look like to you? What counts as infidelity or betrayal to you? Do you want to get married one day?

Politics: Right or left and how engaged?

Sex: What are you into? What are your hard limits? What are your fantasies? What does a “healthy” sex life look like for you?

Health + Civic duty: What are your mask-wearing habits? Are you pro- or anti-vaccine?

Financial health: Are you a saver or a spender? Do you believe couples should have joint or separate bank accounts?

Don’t shy away from the difficult questions. Desires and deal breakers are far better to discuss earlier on, because they ultimately help predict future relationship success or failure.

Don’t shy away from the difficult questions

Whether you try one or all of these tips, they all help build vulnerability and deepen intimacy between you and your potential matches while you are dating. Remember, intimacy building won’t work on every match. And it’s not supposed to. Sometimes, you’re just not compatible with someone. And that’s okay.

Download XO on iPhone or Android!

However, if you go into dating with the courage of your convictions, be honest, model what you want, ask deeper questions, be present, and get playful — and you get the response you’re looking for, you’re on the fast-track to building a deeper connection.

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Candice Smith
Hugs & Kisses

Intimacy Educator, Serial Entrepreneur, & Publicist. Founder of Tango, the Couple’s Game Night for Your Bedroom.