Cultivating Emotional Connectedness in Your Relationships

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How often do you find yourself thinking, “We’re just not as close as I wish we were,”? You might have this wish about any relationship, a partner, a friend, a family member.  When you don’t feel as connected as you’d like to be to someone you love, it can feel destabilizing and incredibly dissatisfying. If you’ve had this particular conversation with said loved one, expressing your desire to be more connected and you’re still not experiencing the closeness you desire, it can begin to feel hopeless.

Sometimes the two of you can have conversations about this that feel helpful. It allows you to feel that you’re working together to shift this, to deepen the relationship. Other times, you feel as though your conversations go nowhere and you’re on your own. You’re both dissatisfied with the level of emotional connectedness, but it feels as though the other member of your relationship is unwilling to put in the work.

Whichever less-than-ideal situation you find yourself, there are things you can do to empower yourself which will help you to take active steps toward cultivating the emotional connected you seek.

An important place to start is by showing up for yourself. Showing up for yourself allows you to feel self-supporting, nurtured, and in touch with your resilience. This might look different for each person, but there are some basics. Taking care of your health is an essential target that many people miss. Balancing the time you need for sleep, exercise, work, and play doesn’t always feel like a choice. It helps if you look at how you choose to spend your days. Whether you are going to school, pursuing a dream of starting your own business, or working two or three jobs. Ask yourself if this is your choice. If it’s not then the next question you might want to ask yourself is “why am I doing this?” If you answered, “because I have to,” take some time to check in with yourself about why. Most of us have more choices than immediately occur to us. Showing up for yourself also looks like employing thoughtful and nonreactive self-advocacy when you don’t like the way you are being spoken to or treated. You can show up for yourself by being protective of your time and ensuring that you provide down time for yourself. Showing up for yourself also means not taking on more in a relationship than you what you genuinely feel comfortable. This means emotional, financial, household, and any other type of responsibility. When you show up for yourself you are less likely to martyr yourself in relationship, more likely to show up fully for others, and less likely to experience feelings of resentment.

A second strength you can exercise to cultivate emotional connection is finding compassionate curiosity in yourself about the other person. Why does this person do what they do, say what they say, react the way they react? What is their experience in their relationship with you? You’ll notice that I put the words “compassionate” and curiosity” right next to one another. This curiosity is something that will benefit you and your quest the more genuine it is so, be sure to practice it freely and often. Ask your loved one how they experienced what you’ve just said that’s gotten them so upset. Allow yourself to be open to their feelings. This isn’t the time to defend yourself; you want to know why they’re upset, not how you can get yourself off the hook. I get that it can be difficult to feel compassionately curious about anything when you’re arguing with someone or engaged in an escalating conversation. Try it out when you are feeling calm or only mildly irritated. When you allow yourself to be genuinely and compassionately curious about someone you love the conversation can become about understanding and less about arguing and yelling over one another.

Another great way to work toward emotional connectedness is by exercising active listening. (This can also be used while you are compassionately curious!) When you are actively listening to someone with whom you are trying to build your emotional connection, you are not seeking convenient places to jump in to argue your case, set up your next defense, or find inconsistencies in their statements. You are trying to find out how they are feeling, what they are thinking, what their experience is, and what has caused them to think, feel, and experience these things. How can you find out this valuable information when you are preparing what you’re doing to say next? (The answer is: you cannot.) You want this person to hear you, right? They want you to hear them, too. Start by slowing down these interactions and give them your full attention. It will catch on.

Love and Be Loved,

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