Why Eye Contact Is So Integral to Intimacy.
A short lesson in vulnerability.
You know you have chemistry when a simple meeting of the eyes makes you feel like electricity is coursing through your nervous system—no physical touch is even needed to feel the intensity of the moment. Eye contact, simply put, is powerful. And it’s an important tool to utilize, consciously or not when you’re trying to build your intimacy with a partner.
It’s long been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul—and the science behind that sentiment holds up. A study published in the journal Psychological Science in 2014 found that when viewing a person that they associate with feelings of romantic love, they look more frequently at the person’s face; when viewing a person that they primarily associate with feelings of sexual desire, their eyes are drawn more frequently to the person’s body. That doesn’t mean that eye contact is devoid of sexual inclinations,—much rather, the contrary. A 2019 article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that eye contact is a “two-way street.” Meaning, that eye contact increases arousal for both participants.
Admittedly, eye contact during sex isn’t everyone’s favorite. Some people can find it overwhelming or distracting, while others may find that, in the heat of the moment, a little too much eye contact makes them suddenly feel shy. But some eye contact—at the beginning of a sexual encounter, for instance—can make for better sex, says psychologist and emotion researcher Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D. After all, having sex with the lights on can make for a more intense (and satisfying) experience. With a partner that you trust, a bit of vulnerability can be emotionally revelatory.
Deliberate eye contact will deepen your relationship beyond the bedroom, too. There’s a reason the New York Times’s famous 36 Questions That Lead to Love instructs people to make eye contact for four whole minutes. Research published by researchers at Duke University in 1974 found that three minutes of sustained eye contact increased feelings of intimacy between people, as well as more “empathy, positive feeling, and willingness to tell intimate details about their lives.” These emotions are integral to building good communication—and good communication is critical to both healthy relationships and good sex. Eye contact may be the first part of an intimate relationship, but it’s a connection that builds the foundation for everything else that follows.