Does connection happen effortlessly? Or does it take work?
An inside joke among close friends. An encouraging word from a parent to their child. A gentle hand on the lower back from a loved one. These are all small ways that we connect with one another effortlessly. When we feel loved and accepted in our relationships, these gestures are simply a sign of a deeper emotional connection already present. When we don’t feel loved, those small gestures become inaccessible to us.
Moreover, when a relationship has gone awry, it can become tempting to focus on these gestures, such as physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts. While the five love languages can be a fun way to talk about the different ways we show and receive love, it significantly misses the mark in how to achieve deep emotional connection. It’s not simply about mismatched expectations; it’s about how we feel respected and valued as a person by our loved ones.
Anyone in a relationship with anyone else knows that nothing hurts as much as a moment of disconnection in an otherwise loving and trusting relationship. When more and more of those moments of disconnection add up, the relationship is no longer emotionally safe—which is why the most dangerous thing you can do in a relationship is to let those moments pile up and never repair them. Disconnection is a threat to your relationship, and it doesn’t just resolve on its own overtime.
If you are to re-establish a deep emotional connection by repairing those hurt feelings in moments of disconnection, there’s no way around being vulnerable. Vulnerability takes effort. It requires you to tap into your pain and longing. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as a few seconds of your time and muttering “I’m sorry.” And, it certainly isn’t dismissing your pain and saying, “it’s fine” and going rationale.
Below are some simple steps to tap into being vulnerable. First, slow down the communication. Second, check in with yourself. The more you focus on the other person, the more you exit your own experience and the more likely you two will get caught in a dangerous cycle of disconnection.
- Identify what you were hoping for in the connection.
- Identify how the disconnection made you feel.
- Identify what it is you would like from the other person (e.g. acknowledgement of your experience, reassurance they care about you, a hug).
- Share those longings, feelings, and basic needs.
Being vulnerable is a habit that can be learned and strengthened. Perhaps it’s the fairy tales or romantic comedies that make us think that connection should just happen if it is meant to be. Nothing can be further from the truth. All good things require us to give of ourselves in very real ways, and nothing is more valuable than the gift of lasting emotional connection with our family and friends.
If you struggle with making space for your own experience in relationships or are quick to attack another or shut down when you perceive an attack, finding a therapist you feel can help you is the best gift to yourself and the life you want to live.