Most, if not all of us, have learned very poor communication skills. American families have a way of avoiding intimate and vulnerable conversations, and there are many reasons why that has become the norm in our society (too many to talk about now!).
My family definitely liked to bottle up their emotions, so I’ve spent a good portion of my life challenging those patterns so I don’t carry them forward. I’ve learned and practiced many tools that help deepen relationships and open channels of expression, allowing both parties in a relationship to feel heard.
Communication is not just about speaking, it’s also about feeling heard.
As a Life & Intimacy Coach, part of my work is helping people communicate in a way that allows them to feel heard and seen and to effectively express themselves so that their partner can understand them.
Once you learn good communication skills, you’ll realize how simple and easy it can be. But what most people do is start conversations in a way that either builds walls or makes their partner immediately defensive. Once defenses are up, it’s hard for anything you say to be received.
Today, I’m giving you something special: a couples’ communication skills guide called Intimacy Sharing that I use in my coaching sessions. This offering will serve you on your journey and help you create a deeper connection with others. It is my gift to you!
I’ll walk you through the steps of Intimacy Sharing, and then there will be a link to download a PDF of the flow (or download it now so you don’t forget!).
Understanding Intimacy Sharing
When you watch a movie or TV show, what do you normally see when two characters try to discuss something? Usually, they yell, blame each other, and one of them might storm off.
While it adds drama, we often forget that the media we watch is fiction. Unfortunately, since we were raised with bad examples, a lot of real-life relationship discussions are just as heated—no one ever emulated intimate, caring conversations for us.
Communication isn’t a way in which we should blame or shame each other; rather, it is an opportunity to create space for each other so that we can all feel valued and respected.
Intimacy Sharing is a specific flow of conversation that will help you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and non-judgmental space with a partner or loved one. It involves opening up and being vulnerable, while actively listening and empathizing with the other person’s perspective. It’s a powerful tool for building intimacy, deepening emotional connections, and resolving conflicts that I teach in my couples’ relationship coaching sessions.
Side note: The flow I’m about to teach you can be used in all types of relationships; it’s not only for romantic couples. And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, you can ask a friend to practice the steps with you until the flow becomes second-nature.
Intimacy Sharing Steps
Make a Plan
Before you can intimacy-share, you need to plan it. Whatever you do, DON’T pick a random time and tell your partner, “Hey, let’s talk.” If it’s not planned, neither of you could be in the right mindset and there’s a higher chance of everything unraveling into an unpleasant exchange.
By planning it, you’re setting the intention so that you can emotionally prepare, thinking over what you want to share and giving yourself the time to develop an open mindset. I recommend that you schedule 30 minutes every week to sit down with your partner, ideally on the same day and at the same time. If it’s always on your schedule, then when a conflict arises you don’t have to hold onto it as strongly, knowing there’s a time planned for you to intimately share your feelings with your partner.
Think of this not as a time where you’re trying to resolve conflict, but as a time to share and be heard. Also, it’s a time to learn and listen (super important!).
Pick a Comfy Environment
Where you do the sharing matters, because an environment can either support us or work against us. Imagine trying to intimately share in a busy coffee shop! It would be impossible and you’d likely get distracted.
Find a place that calms your nervous system and helps your heart expand. Think nature or somewhere relaxing in your home.
Move Into the Conversation Flow
Once you’ve scheduled a time, print out the guide so you have a reference and then move into the conversation flow, which has four steps (one is optional).
Steps One and Two
The first and second steps work together to identify any triggers behind what you want to share and then express your feelings. You address the trigger by starting with: “When you did this…” or “When you didn’t do this…” Next, add in your feelings: “I feel/felt…”
Here’s an example: “When you walked out of the room while I was talking, I felt rage and then a deep sadness.”
When you state the situation plainly without blaming, you have a better chance of avoiding any narratives. Because, let’s face it, our minds love stories! While stories are great in other situations, creating narratives/stories now will only create a disconnect between you and your partner.
Here’s a personal example: I was talking to my partner when he suddenly walked out of the room. My brain immediately tried to read into what was happening and jump to a narrative; again, brains love stories! I could have listened to the narrative, run after my partner, and started criticizing, “Excuse you?! How could you be so rude and walk out of the room while I was talking? You always shut me down like that!”
If I had done that, how do you think my partner would have responded? By getting defensive, of course! Blaming and shaming are quick ways to kick someone else’s nervous system into fight-or-flight mode, so they shut down or become reactive.
Instead of playing into the narrative that “he wanted to shut me down and act rudely,” I took a moment to process. Since I can’t read other people’s minds, I stuck to the fact that he walked out of the room while I was talking.
That is the only fact. Anything else would have been me placing a judgment on my partner without talking to him first.
After you state the facts, you can keep it super simple by then stating your feelings. In my example, they were “”rage and deep disappointment.”
Now, I know facing your feelings can be vulnerable; that’s why you’re doing it in a structured and planned way where you and your partner are comfortable and receptive. Once you master intimacy sharing, you’ll discover that stating your feelings gets easier, and you’ll naturally start moving through the conversational flow even outside of your intimacy-sharing time.
Step Three (Optional)
After stating the trigger and sharing your feelings, you can move on to the optional step of connecting what you’re experiencing to any wounding. Doing this will help you see the patterns in your life that influence how you react to certain situations. If your emotions are particularly intense, then they most likely connect to a deep wound that needs attention.
In my example, I felt so much RAGE. I reflected on why my reaction was so intense, and memories of my family started popping up. I recollected many times where it seemed that when my brothers or other family members were talking they were listened to but when I spoke up, as the youngest, I wasn’t listened to or I was laughed at and not taken seriously and I felt excluded, like I didn’t matter.
Can you see the connection? When my partner suddenly walked out of the room, it brought up that old childhood wound. I sat down with my partner and shared that—I told him my perspective, my feelings, and how the experience had brought up a lot of past pain.
Since he was familiar with intimacy sharing, he was able to receive my words and acknowledge my vulnerability as I expressed the wounding of my inner child. Not only did I feel heard, but I also received healing from that conversation.
If you can’t connect your current situation back to a core wound, that’s okay. Not all arguments or situations involve them. I just encourage you to remain mindful of the intensity of your emotions. When they are more intense, take a moment to really consider if any wounds are involved so you can receive healing.
After you share, it’s time for your partner to reflect your words back. Your partner should refrain from trying to explain themselves (being defensive) or “fix” things. They should simply show that they heard your words and understand.
This is the most powerful step.
By avoiding any fixes or excuses for what happened (e.g., “Sorry, I didn’t mean to. I’m just so busy right now.”), you will feel heard in a way you have never experienced. So many couples have the same arguments over and over because they’re both struggling to be heard. Yet, they’re communicating in a way that dismisses each other’s experiences and feelings.
Guess what? Once you finally listen to each other, the arguments that used to keep coming up will suddenly stop because you are finally hearing each other.
Once you’ve moved through the conversation flow, it’s your partner’s turn. Your partner can now share by stating the facts, talking about feelings and wounds, and then you can reflect back to ensure they feel heard.
How to End Intimacy Sharing
After you’ve both shared, you may feel vulnerable. Instead of abruptly ending the conversation and returning to your day, both of you need to ease out of the experience. To help you strengthen your connection and process everything, you can end with the Appreciation Dyad.
Offering appreciation is very simple: Partner 1 asks, “Tell me something you appreciate about me?” Partner 2 responds.
When Partner 2 is done responding, Partner 1 can ask for more details if the answer is vague, or Partner 1 can close the appreciation sharing by saying “Thank you.” Next, it’s Partner 2’s turn to ask the appreciation question. Repeat no more than five minutes.
Ending with appreciation will help you both feel connected, even if the vulnerability left you unsettled. But just know that the more you practice, any defensiveness will fall away, getting replaced by curiosity. Each week, you’ll find yourself wondering, “What will my partner share this week?” And you’ll begin to look forward to that intimate time together.
Next Steps: You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
That was a lot, wasn’t it? But don’t worry about taking notes. Download the Intimacy Sharing Guide here, which has everything we discussed, so you can reference it when you meet with your partner each week. Think of it as a “communication skills for couples” PDF.
If you find that there’s a lot of tension when you try to share, or if you just don’t feel comfortable and can’t express what you’re trying to, I’m always here for coaching. I meet with a lot of my couples over Zoom or via phone to coach them through the process so they feel confident moving through the flow (sometimes, we even move through a few breathwork exercises to help them feel more centered before sharing). It can be challenging to break free from the conditioning we are subjected to growing up, so it can feel strange learning a new communication tool as an adult.
Let’s book a free 15-minute discovery call to discuss your questions and concerns and see if coaching can help you on your journey.