The feeling of connection is probably the number one sought after feeling in a romantic relationship. Disconnection, on the other hand, appears to be just the opposite. So, how do we create more connection and less disconnection? I've got four helpful tips for you below! Check them out!
The feeling of connection is probably the number one sought after feeling in a romantic relationship.
Disconnection, on the other hand, appears to be just the opposite: the feeling we all wish would go extinct in our relationships.
But which of the two do you think is more frequently felt in relationships these days? Connection or disconnection?
While I don’t have the exact statistics — how would you measure such a thing, anyway? — I’d bet couples experience disconnection more than connection. Or, at the very least, I’d say couples don’t experience connection as often as they’d like — maybe they’re experiencing something more neutral than disconnection.
What can we do, then, to cultivate more connection in our relationships?
Before answering that question, it’d be best to start with a word or two about what I mean by connection. Like, what actually is it for two partners to be “connected”?
There’s quite a bit of opinion on this question, but I think the following definition gets at the heart of it:
“Feeling in touch with someone who cares about us.”
This way of thinking about connection comes from clinical psychologist, Dianne Grande, Ph.D. And it’s easy to see the usefulness of this definition, isn’t it?
First, connection with those who don’t care about us is something like an oxymoron, so it makes perfect sense for connection, whatever it is, to be relevant to those who care about us.
But what about this “feeling in touch with someone” part? Doesn’t this sort of beg the question? What does it mean to “feel in touch with someone”?
Drawing on work from Dr. Grande, you can think of feeling in touch with someone as being a matter of the following three things:
1. Receiving the attention you need and deserve.
2. Experiencing responsiveness from your partner (i.e. they notice your desires/needs and can appropriately respond to them).
3. Your well-being is cared for, not neglected or intentionally disturbed.
Now that we’ve got a working idea of what it means to be connected to your partner, let’s talk about how to cultivate that connection. I’ve got four helpful tips that will bring more connection to your relationship.
It’s incredible what intentional time with your partner can do for your relationship. In a previous piece, I talk about how “being on the go” all the time can be extremely detrimental to a relationship.
It’s true. And the reason for that, among others, is that it communicates a kind of unavailability from one partner to the other.
Connection, however, demands availability. Connection requires attention.
There are a million ways to give your partner attention, but one classic tried and true method is to sit and talk with your partner. Devote just a little time each day to catching up with your person. Make eye contact. Ask follow-up questions.
Even if it’s 3-5 minutes, or on the phone on the way home from work, fight for time to catch up. It’s an essential ingredient for connection.
Couples tend to go in one of several directions when it comes to enjoying hobbies or activities together.
Option A: neither of you ever tries to do what the other person enjoys.
Option B: one of you always does what the other person enjoys — even though you don’t enjoy it yourself.
Option C: each of you occasionally joins in on what the other partner enjoys.
I think option C is the best. Notice, I’m not saying you need to actually enjoy the thing yourself. But do try and spend time with your person every now and then — it certainly needn’t be often — enjoying what they do.
In my case, it looks like joining my wife to watch a certain series on Netflix that I might not be fond of. For my wife, it might look like her joining me at a coffee shop to sit and read.
The product of such moves can be connection. Why? Because attempting to spend time enjoying what your partner enjoys (even if you don’t actually enjoy it) communicates a responsiveness to what your partner may need or want.
This tip is useful for just about everything in life. It has especially profound impact for romantic relationship.
Why is that? What about self-awareness contributes to connection?
I think the easiest way to see the answer to this question is by thinking about how lack of self-awareness contributes to disconnection.
Imagine the person who’s preoccupied with themselves. When in conversation with them, it’s nearly impossible for the conversation to revolve around anything but that person’s life; when the conversation does shift to another person, this person finds a way to connect the content back to themselves.
Do you have such a person in mind? People like this lack self-awareness. They’re not attentive the what’s going on in others (unless it benefits them in some way); and with the lack of attentiveness comes a lack of responsiveness.
And with a lack of responsiveness comes a disregard for the well-being of others — though it’ll vary in extremity, of course.
So, commit to developing self-awareness. Find out who you are, what you need, what you like, etc. Bring this to your relationship and you can expect more connection (provided your partner is invested in a similar journey).
Last but not least, give space where space is needed.
Believe it or not, space when space is needed is one of the greatest gifts you can offer your partner. Whether it be because they’re elevated from an argument, tired from work, or you two have simply just spent a lot of time together.
Space when sought after for healthy reasons allows the both partners to recalibrate if you will. For some, they may need alone time to reflect, read, or relax. Maybe they run a little anxious and over-stimulated, and then space becomes even more crucial.
For others, space can feel terrifying — as though you’re going to lose what/who is most important to you. If this is you, space for you is still important.
Tolerating the feelings that come up when space is happening will enable you to be more present. This is one of those things you’ll have to trust me on because it certainly won’t feel like this in the moment if space is difficult for you.
When there’s space, there’s room to remember and appreciate the other; room, also, to take care of yourself and then become better fit for the relationship.
Healthy amounts of space are just another essential ingredient to connect.
I hope the above tips help you and your person experience more connection together and less disconnection!
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