Many months ago, I wrote this piece completely inspired by my beloved boyfriend. He asked to know more about what Emotional Connection was for me. We noticed we each have very different ways of approaching and being in relationship, including having unique sets of emotional needs. This question has become unmistakably important in our success as a couple: “What exactly is Emotional Connection?”
Following is my attempt to answer the unanswerable; emotional connection is so vastly different from relationship to relationship because we each are so incredibly dissimilar. Because the definition of Emotional Connection is always dependent on those enjoying it, or experiencing lack of it, the best I can hope for in what I’m sharing here is that my suggestions guide individuals and couples into more fulfilling experiences of connection with everyone. As with any set of guidelines, please feel free add what works even better for you and leave behind that which isn’t useful right now.
I am happy to say that my boyfriend and I have grown significantly and emotionally in our relationship, especially since the time of our first questions about Emotional Connection. As is true for any living system, our relationship growth continues! May your significant relationships, as well as your connection with yourself, grow, mature, blossom, fruit, and nourish the earth of your entire life.
Guidelines for Emotional Connection
- eye contact
- smiling and other facial expressions
- feeling the other person by first feeling yourself, then becoming curious about the other, and finally opening your heart and emotional experience to include the affect of your significant other’s emotions
- feeling sensations in your own body
- sharing sensations felt in your body
- feeling emotions as they pass through you
- sharing emotions that are passing through you and in the affective state between you and another
- noticing the other person as she / he is – physically, kinesthetically, posture, shape and activity of eyes, breathing patterns, etc.
- non-judgmentally and compassionately sharing what is noticed about the other person, while leaving space for the other person to share his or her own experience about his or herself
- asking questions about the other’s experience
- allowing the other to be the authority on his or her own experience while staying connected to your own
- feeling how the other’s responses impact you and giving yourself permission to share about this in a kind and clear way
- being curious about how you are impacting the other
- empathically guessing how things may be for your beloved as context of his or her reality becomes clear
- if no empathy is felt, being honest about it… but not stopping there… staying interested in what IS happening for you
- staying in conversation and contact till both people feel complete
- trusting the process
- not attempting to control anything – within yourself or the other
- if / when you are noticing the other trying to control something, gently acknowledging what you are witnessing and continuing to witness what happens next, without trying to control the other. This does take practice!
- breathing at a rhythm that feels good for you
- feeling your heart. Yes, the heart is a body part. It also puts out its own electromagnetic field, which is different than any other part of the body – even the brain. Feeling your heart is a physical sensation and an emotional experience. Through feeling your heart, and with practice, you will be able to feel the other person – not because you are in his or her skin, nor is that appropriate, but because connection exists beyond words and beyond physical sensation. Connection happens emotionally and energetically. This includes nonverbal body language that neither person may be aware of. Even when two conscious people are aware of many things about themselves and the other, there is always more room to grow and more space within which to increase conscious awareness. This is what makes emotional connection an ongoing practice and forever interesting!
- breathing with the other person. This means matching your breath to the other. It is necessary to notice the other person breathing first – as well as yourself, and… if someone starts breathing with you, let it happen – or if you start breathing with the other person, there is a natural rhythm to letting it happen. This is attunement, and this form of attunement is non-verbal. It is the basis for all emotional connections. Some infants do not get this from the get go and as older people find it very challenging to know that it is safe to attune with another and / or be attuned with. I assure you this is very safe and even extremely emotionally / psychologically healthy. It also improves sex and functioning in the world! Attunement is important. Simply breathing with another is an excellent place to start.
- asking for what you need and being prepared for the other person’s response. It is essential to be able to hear yes as well as no. This requires being in the unknown while the request is being made and realizing that no matter how much we know another person, there is always the possibility they will respond unpredictably.
- allowing yourself to respond unpredictably and spontaneously as the relationship unfolds moment by moment
- listening to the other person’s needs, and responding honestly – in an emotionally connected way – meaning having space for however the other person may respond
- staying connected with yourself ALWAYS! When and if you are no longer connected to you, admit it, and do whatever is necessary to take excellent care.
- allowing for a transition that keeps the two of you connected, meaning no need to be abrupt about anything – especially not while nurturing an emotional connection
- when and if there is a need to take some space, making an agreement about when the two of you will connect again, and following through
Emotional connections are subtle and are the back bone of all meaningful relationships. Emotional connection can happen in silence, through words, physical touch, and many other ways – pictures, images, fantasies, and more!
Have patience. Ask again. Be clear. Express your truth gently. Let clarity happen though admission of what is already known. Non-judgement is very helpful. Enjoy not being in control; this is a bit of a free fall at times; at other moments, it is a leap of faith. Notice… always notice that, in this human way, you are not alone… and you are not leaving the other alone…. you are in this together with another amazing and intricately designed whole being!