One of the most satisfying benefits to friendships and love relationships is the feeling of connection with others. When we sense our link to those that we love, we feel the full joy of being a valued human who holds an important place in the world. This feeling of connection is an integral part of our well-being. It reminds us that our lives have meaning, it protects us from loneliness, and proves to us that we are all part of the family of mankind.
Connecting emotionally is an essential part of the falling-in-love process, and one that often happens naturally as you spend time with your partner discovering them and how they perceive the world around them. As you share your views, you weave this emotional connection which is one of the guy-wires that keeps your love relationship grounded, and keeps it from flying away even in times of disagreement and other less-than-happy moments that happen to all marriages.
But what if you are having trouble connecting emotionally to your partner?
You know you are in love, and you want make sure this love stays strong. You know that an emotional connection is just as important as a physical one. What are some of the ways you can make sure you are doing everything you can to plant, nourish and tend to your emotional connection with your spouse so that it blooms and takes root in order to help you through the rough patches that may occur during your life together?
Bond in the healthiest way possible
An emotional connection starts with a bond, and that bond needs to be constructed in a healthy way. Here are some of the components that make up healthy emotional connections:
Empathy is the act of placing yourself in the other’s shoes, of seeing things from their perspective. When you are empathic with your spouse, you emotionally contact with them because they sense that you know them so well, you can use their “eyes and heart” to look at things their way. Emotionally connected couples practice empathy not only with this spouses, but with all of the people whose paths they cross each day: parents, children, friends, colleagues, the barista at Starbucks…everyone!
Active listening connects you emotionally to your partner as it shows them you are fully engaged in the conversation. Active listening validates the other person’s feelings. To listen actively, allow your partner to talk. Then repeat what you have heard, using your own words. A conversation about household chores might look something like this:
She: “I’m really tired of being the only one who seems to be concerned with keeping the kitchen clean.”
He: “It sounds like you aren’t getting the help you need to get the kitchen.”
She: “That’s right. I just can’t do it all myself.”
He “Tell me how I can help you. How would you like us to divide the kitchen cleaning work up?”
Non-active listening would be using short word responses such as oh, ok, whatever, cool, uh-huh. These are merely filler words and do not indicate that you are really taking part in the conversation in a mindful way. (You may be used to hearing these brief responses when you talk with a teenager!)
Making large, life-impacting decisions? Build consensus together
Even if one of you is the breadwinner in the family, deciding how to spend that money should be a joint decision. Whether you are making a decision to uproot the family for a better job offer, or upgrade your home, emotionally-connected couples listen each other’s opinions on these large scale decisions even if only one person in the marriage will be bankrolling them.
Power is equal in the marriage
Emotionally connected couples have a balance of power and they view each other as equals. Each voice carries equal weight in the household.
Obstacles to emotional connection
There are some ways of relating to others that stand in the way of building an emotional connection, but all of these can be surmounted with some dedicated effort, provided perhaps by an outside person such as a therapist. These include:
- One of the people in the relationship may feel uncomfortable using techniques like “active listening” and “practicing empathy”
- One of the people in the relationship may not like examining heavy emotions at close range
- One of the people in the relationship may think that devoting time to building emotional connections takes too much energy
- Someone’s personality type is “get in and get the job done” and resents that connecting emotionally isn’t quick and easy
- Certain roles have taken shape in the couple, due to one person being the “emotional” one, and one being the “stoic, non-feeling” one. Changing roles is hard work and requires an overhaul of the couple’s dynamics.
In these cases, it is vital that the couple work together to overcome these obstacles. If they don’t, the relationship can work, but without the depth and satisfaction that an emotional connect provides. A relationship lacking in emotional connection is more like a partnership, and that is not what most people seek when they fall in love.
Once you acquire the skills to build emotional connection, you will find that your ability to connect with all around you becomes easy, natural, and extremely satisfying. One positive takeaway is the sense of belonging that you will feel; that sensation of inclusion that buoys you and reminds you that you are not alone as you move through the world. And this is the real purpose of marriage: to join two people together on both the physical and emotional level, so that they can provide each other with a sense of belonging and feeling “home.”