What happens in a relationship when the connection is lost? When a loved one is emotionally unavailable or unresponsive, we tend to feel anger, sadness, hurt, and most of all fear. As human beings, we all long for evidence that we are understood and cared about. This is especially true in the significant relationships in our lives.
Although communicating effectively with your partner is very important, many studies over the past two decades have shown that there is something even more fundamental that must be present in our relationships for communication techniques to work, Without a strong emotional connection, all the communicating in the world is not going to make your relationship strong and secure.
- make each other a priority
- stay tuned in
- respond to your partner’s needs in a positive way
- fight fair
- forgive and let go
- criticize each other
- hurl nasty zingers
- be defensive
- keep secrets
Everyone wants to feel and believe that they matter–especially to their partner. To matter is to feel noticed, appreciated, and that your partner depends on you. It is important to believe that we count in others’ lives and we make a difference to them.
When you make your partner a priority in your life, s/he will feel like s/he matters to you. Realistically, your partner cannot always come first. Kids’ homework and fixing dinner often have to go to the top of the list. However, choosing to spend time with your partner instead of your friends can go a long way toward making him feel important to you.
Remember when you first met and how you wanted to know everything about your new love? How much do you know about what is going on in your partner’s daily life, today? The more you know about each other the closer you feel.
It is in the little everyday things that you feel connected to your partner in a meaningful way. One very effective way is to spend at least 10 minutes a day focused on one another – with no TV or other distractions. The demands and pressures of our lives can easily rob us of time together. Deliberately creating moments of engagement deepens your connection.
Dr. John Gottman, considered by many to be one of the foremost relationship experts, says that the fundamental unit of emotional communication is “the bid.” He defines it as “a question, a gesture, a look, a touch.” Dr. Gottman says that relationships are built and destroyed, bid by bid.
Asking for what you need in a positive way means using words that are thoughtful and not demanding. Responses are more than just the words that are said. The tone of voice and the level of attention given to the bidder also speak volumes.
Positive responses are often open-ended questions that ask for more information even about small situations. This sense of curiosity tells your loved one that you are interested and that you care. Even declining a request can be done in a positive way.
Fulfilling relationships don’t just happen magically. They are the accumulation of substantially more positive than negative responses to our loved one’s bid requests.
Even happy couples fight. However, because happy couples have not lost their sense of connection, the arguments are much less likely to spiral out of control. And even if they do, the attempts to repair the situation are more likely to work.
If communication stays open in the midst of conflict, partners are more likely to be able to resolve issues, repair hurt feelings, and move forward. But this is only possible if the relationship is grounded in the everyday things that build and maintain the connection between the partners.
Accept that there will be some small issues that you two will never resolve and that it is normal in successful relationships.
Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the hurt and resentment caused by someone’s words or actions. Forgiving someone does not mean that you are minimizing or condoning what happened. It means you wish to release the negative impact it had on you.
Part of forgiving is to forgive yourself for whatever part you own in the events. It can be forgiving yourself for allowing someone to hurt you or forgiving yourself for hurting someone else – intentionally or unintentionally.
Forgiveness has many benefits. It is liberating when you no longer feel like a victim of what happened and it brings a kind of peace. In a relationship, it allows intimacy back in – and making up can be lots of fun!
How can anyone possibly feel emotionally safe when they are under attack? You certainly don’t feel emotionally connected when your partner attacks your personality, behavior, or intentions with insults or blame.
Criticism destroys affection and creates distance between two people. Instead of criticizing your partner when s/he does something you don’t like, request that s/he do it a different way. Practicing acceptance of each other does a lot to rebuild connection.
When a situation heats up, take a deep breath. If you think you are at risk of name-calling, sarcasm, or even body language like rolling your eyes, take a timeout until you are both more cool-headed and less likely to say something that could damage the safety of the relationship.
Most of us don’t like conflict. However, withdrawing when conflict arises communicates disapproval, disconnection, and distance. Airing grievance is very necessary, so stay engaged.
When your partner raises a complaint, defending your point of view before you have fully understood what s/he is saying drives a wedge between you. Take responsibility for your part in whatever is going on and look for a mutually beneficial solution.
Knowing or suspecting that someone you trust is keeping something from you makes you feel very vulnerable. It can deeply erode trust. Stephen Covey puts it this way: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Secrets kill relationships; don’t keep secrets.
Emotional connection is an essential ingredient in a healthy relationship. It is built and destroyed by the way you handle little everyday things. As the saying goes “The devil is in the details.” Support your partner by connecting in the littlest of details, because they can really add up big time.