Little Questions That Improve Emotional Intimacy In A Big Way

"Emotional connection is how we build intimacy."

Love & Relationships

If you're the least bit wise, one of the first things you've learned about life is this: not all things that glitter are gold. And, because that phrase is applicable to virtually anything, let me be specific. In this case, I mean, you're sitting (stuck even) in the house with your significant other in the midst of a pandemic and boom, you realize you don't know them as well as you might have thought sans lockdown. This could be for many reasons but in my expert opinion and observation, it comes to the over-pouring into one type of intimacy while not necessarily honing in on others (which absolutely matter).

While some couples ignore sexual compatibility, others are missing financial intimacy or the type of intimacy that is built on non-sexual communication. There are several types of intimacy and it's very rare that couples are well-versed in all of them—we're human, after all. Perhaps you're placing too much weight on sexual intimacy, which can definitely build intimacy but it's similar to when we're locking our thumbprint into our iPhone — it can only span over so much before you have to lift and replace your thumb on another area to ensure you've covered all your grounds.

But, what I'm here to tell you is that by improving your emotional connection and learning to build emotional intimacy in your relationship as a whole, there will be a trickle effect that occurs in the other areas of your relationship. (Might even unlock next-level sex). So I spoke with one of my faves, Shadeen Francis, licensed sex and relationship therapist, for her thoughts on improving emotional connection in our romantic partnerships.

She wasted no time expounding on the need for emotional connections in our partnership emphasizing the magnitude of knowing someone deeply. She shared, "Emotional connection is how we build intimacy. Intimacy is the deep knowing of one another, not just things about them, like that they don't like onions, but their actual experience in the world, such as it makes them anxious to travel alone. Rather than the belief that we are supposed to be able to predict or interpret one another's feelings, we learn about each other over time."

"Emotional connection is how we build intimacy. Rather than the belief that we are supposed to be able to predict or interpret one another's feelings, we learn about each other over time."


Many of us are under the impression that millennials have a disconnect when it comes dating, one that makes us insensitive to the opposite sex. Whether that's true or not, I won't confirm...at least not today but what I will say is that fixing the disconnect will require an entire generation to come together for community building that further explores the current dynamics of Black love. It seems that the more independent we grown — as we reform gender roles — we have lost our ability or incentive to be vulnerable, in my opinion. But according to Francis, vulnerability is a necessary climb but a difficult one for most of us. "Emotional connection requires emotional vulnerability, the regular sharing of emotions. That can feel really hard when we are feeling hurt or afraid. To tell someone 'I am feeling sad' or 'I am feeling scared' is to essentially give them a clear roadmap into your heart. We might not have had the permission, guidance, or the safety to do that in our families, friendships, or past relationships, but it is a necessary practice in relationships."

She continued, "A sign that [this] might be missing [is] if you notice yourself being unwilling to confide in one another, defensiveness, conflict avoidance, or consistently feeling misunderstood." Though, so much of the work does and will occur in your relationships directly. I must add that getting to the healthier version of what our grandparents had (that seems to always be the comparison) — a love that endures all but without so much of the hurt that they suffered due to unspoken trauma (generational and otherwise) — will require vulnerability on a larger scale in addition to doing the work in our individual relationships.

"To tell someone 'I am feeling sad' or 'I am feeling scared' is to essentially give them a clear roadmap into your heart. We might not have had the permission, guidance, or the safety to do that in our families, friendships, or past relationships, but it is a necessary practice in relationships."

Maybe you read this and know immediately that, when it comes to emotional intimacy, you and your boo are lacking. Or maybe you don't feel like that area doesn't need work at all. Either way I'd say there's always room for improvement. We're always evolving individually and in our relationships, thus there's always more intimacy to unpack — things to learn and unlearn — and when you think about it, that's the fun part about partnership. The ebbs and flows.

That said, Francis recommends asking these questions to improve the emotional connection and intimacy:

  1. How are you feeling? (Invite them to use an emotion word, like angry, surprised, sad - "aight", "good", "fine", and "some type of way" are not feelings!)
  2. What do you wish I knew about you?
  3. When you are feeling _____________, what can I do to help you feel better?
  4. What's a favorite memory we've shared so far? How can we create some of that feeling again?


She further suggests that you make it a game if it feels a bit odd or "challenging to initiate emotional conversation," adding that "there are a number of card decks and conversation cards that are designed to promote intimate conversation. Pick one that feels like a good fit and set aside some time, maybe over dinner or on a date night, to go through them. Or pull one card each day. Let your partner know it's not a test, you just want to get to know them better."

Additionally, you can check out Pinterest for more activities to help build emotional intimacy. Lastly, because I know society has a habit of asking Black men and women to stay "strong" all the same and yet differently, I inquired about how this intimacy homework and the questions provided might change based on gender...just to be on the safe side. But truly, Francis' response was the perfect f*ck you to the white supremacy that has especially left Black men feeling less than for participating in the human experience that is emotion.

"Society socializes men to disengage from their emotions, but having feelings isn't 'feminine.' Emotions have no gender. Everyone has emotions, they are necessary parts of our survival as they make it clear what we are experiencing."

Love seems sparkly and it definitely has its moments, but much like self-love, the real stuff lies in the ongoing buffering and polishing to ensure that it's not just good lighting reflecting off that jawn. Taking the time to reflect, both actively and retroactively, then initiating change through efforts such as this — well, that's how you truly get to live life in love and … golden (the sparkly stuff too).

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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