Deep Connection in long-term relationships is a mental state and a choice.
We choose to feel connected and choose to feel disconnected.
In general, life is better when we choose to feel connected.
We connect to other human beings on a mental, emotional, spiritual and a physical way.
If you’ve tried to improve your connection and failed, it was likely due to a default attitude of disconnection.
One or both of you consistently acted on habits of blame, denial, and avoidance.
With an attitude of disconnection, all attempts to negotiate turn into coercion or manipulation, due to the overwhelming subtext:
- I can’t connect with you until you do what I want or think the way I want you to think.
In an attitude of disconnection, every disagreement causes emotional divorce.
With an attitude of connection, specific behaviors are negotiable but not the connection itself:
- We need to… (for example, respect each other) to enhance the connection we both value.
I once saw a research recording of interviews with couples in long-term happy marriages. One couple was married for 60 years. They asked the wife if, in all those years, she ever thought about divorce.
She replied immediately and incredulously:
After a moment, she shrugged and said with a tiny smile:
Murder maybe, but never divorce.
Aside from the humor of her response (and she wasn’t trying to be funny), she made a point that distinguishes long-term happy relationships from terrible ones.
When you live together, your partner will occasionally do things that irritate you and you might get pretty angry.
But you always know that the negative feeling will pass and what really matters is the connection.
How to Develop an Attitude of Connection
Regard yourself as connected. An easy way is to make a simple semantic shift.
Clinicians know that unhappy couples think and speak in terms of “Me,” “I,” “You,” “Mine,” and “Yours.”
Happy partners (with an attitude of connection) think and speak in the plural: “We,” “Us,” “Our,” and “Ours.”
Working “we, us, ours” into your everyday vocabulary strengthens your attitude of connection.
Try writing this sentence a few times to see how it feels to you:
We want our relationship to bring us the safety, security, love, and happiness we both want and deserve.
Behave as if you’re connected.
Avoid the trap of waiting until you feel closer to behave in loving ways. When you behave as if you are connected, you’re likely to think more like a couple and begin to feel more connected.
Feelings follow behaviour more than the other way around.
Root your connection in common values.
Deep connection is not based on shared preferences of what you like and enjoy. Rather, it’s based on shared values.
Common interests often attract people, but shared values sustain relationships.
A couple whose connection is based on common interests, without shared values, will likely become competitive in their interests.
For example, partners who were initially attracted because they shared the joy of hiking in nature, will soon try to hike farther or faster than each other.
With an attitude of connection, they’ll place more importance on sharing the experience of hiking in each other’s company.
Like the cords that spacewalking astronauts use to stay attached to their vehicles, emotional lifelines provide freedom of movement and a life-saving connection.
As a relationship metaphor, lifelines keep us anchored to what matters most.
Imagine a long, flexible lifeline that constantly connects you and your partner.
No matter what you’re doing or feeling, you remain connected. Even when angry at each other, or when you need a time out to get away from each other, you’re still connected.
If you imagine a constant connection by an invisible lifeline, your unconscious emotional demeanor around your partner will change for the better, increasing the likelihood of a positive response from your partner.
Bad moments will occur less frequently and won’t trigger disconnection when they do occur.
Stay focused on what is best for both of you. You both want to be well, with neither of you feeling put down, taken advantage of, devalued, or disregarded.
Appreciate how your partner enriches your life and that will encourage your partner to do the same.
Engage in a spirit of cooperation. Work together as a team for the best interests of your family. Remember always that the valued self cooperates and the devalued self resists.
Give the value you want to receive.
Seek to understand each other. Rather than argue, try to understand each other’s perspectives.
Instead of refuting or contradicting your partner, ask for and add more information.
Try to be flexible.
Life is cruel to the rigid but generally kind to the flexible. Be as flexible as you can, while respecting your deeper values, and you’ll be happier and love better.
Establish brief but frequent routine rituals of connection.
The principle of small moments of connection has interesting empirical support in the work of Barbara Fredrickson. Her research shows that what she calls, “micro moments of love,” improve individual health and well-being as well as relationships.
Small gestures of connection – eye contact, a smile, a gentle touch – built into your daily routine, do wonders to create a stable attitude of connection.
In contrast, special events, like romantic weekends or nice vacations, while they may be pleasant or enjoyable, are often followed by a let-down, when the unsustainable wave of well-being crashes back into the routine of daily living.
Don’t get me wrong, romantic weekends, nice vacations, and the like are good for relationships, if there is also routine connection.
The safety and security that maintain satisfying relationships rise from a steady attitude of connection, rather than big waves of emotional experience. The secret to loving big is thinking small.
How to Get to Know Yourself So You Can Connect with Others
Developing an understanding of your true self will help you develop deeper connections in your life.
These are some steps you can take to get to know the real you:
1. Dedicate time to getting to know yourself daily. Pick a time when you can be alone in a quiet place and journal your thoughts and feelings.
2. Ask yourself some tough questions. For example: What do I value? Am I spending my time and energy on the things that matter most to me? Am I showing up the way I want to for other people?
3. Reflect on your answers. Do they resonate? Do you need to think about them more? Is there anything you want to act on?
4. Practice self-love. Be patient with yourself as you get to know yourself. If there are areas you feel need improvement, be proud of yourself for acknowledging where you’d like to grow. Forgive yourself for anything you perceive as negative and commit to moving forward with self-compassion.
5. Practice showing up as you. Don’t hide yourself. Let people know who you are and what you value. The more you practice being exactly as you are, the more comfortable it will begin to feel, and your authenticity will lay the foundation for creating more meaningful relationships.