Staying connected in a relationship
December 14, 2013
Everyone knows that it feels more intimate to be connected to the people we care about and love.
But what does that mean, and how do you do it? How do you stay connected with your spouse or intimate partner — or for that matter with your children, family and friends? What do you do? How do you stay connected with each other, and what do you pay close attention to so you don't get disconnected?
Staying connected requires that you offer your undivided time, attention and presence. It calls for you to be diplomatic and tactful when you are upset or angry. It asks of you to state your feelings — even when you know s/he isn't going to like what you say — but in a friendly, kind, non-judgmental way that communicates acceptance and respect.
You must be able to listen without interruption, and let other people say how they feel and what they think, even when you think they are wrong or are being unfair. You must be able to tolerate disagreement without withdrawing, and hear someone's angry feelings or harsh judgements without responding back in a harsh way.
In addition, you will feel more connected (and other people will feel more connected to you) if you take a true interest in their feelings, their life and their ongoing struggles, along with offering your empathy, compassion and support. This means that you are willing to make important what s/he considers to be important, and you do nothing to belittle or dismiss what the other person treats as important. The bottom line is that you must act as if you value what the other person says and how s/he feels.
In order to pay full attention to how to connect and stay connected, it is helpful to look at how people get disconnected. Here are a few of the ways we disconnect from each other:
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By not being dependable.
By not showing you care.
By complaining a lot.
By not having enough time for you or by not treating you as a top priority.
By lying, being dishonest or keeping secrets.
By being angry a lot, insulting, yelling, name calling, acting intimidating or threatening you.
By being focused on myself and my own feelings and treating your feelings as if they're less important.
By finding fault with you, judging you, criticizing you or treating you with disrespect.
By not giving you the benefit of the doubt and the assumption of good will.
By not trusting you.
By acting untrustworthy.
By not letting you express your true feelings without charging you some kind of penalty.
By being defensive, and therefore not accepting feedback, requests or strong emotions.
If you wish to be more connected, then put some time and energy looking at how the two of you are disconnected, and at what needs to happen in order for the two of you to reconnect. That will assist you both, along with eye contact and affectionate touch.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website, http://www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.