1) Be all There- be Emotionally Engaged
Lets face it, this day and age it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find time to connect with our partners. Between technology, work, children, and extracurricular activities, our opportunities to deeply connect can be limited. So how can we take full advantage of our time with our partners? How can we ensure that time spent together equates to moments of deep connection?
For starters, you can consider this Jim Elliot quote: “wherever you are- be all there.” Although this phrase is applicable to a variety of situations, it is important that we view it from a relational standpoint- that we apply it to our adult relationships. Don’t just give your partner your time; give them your focus- your undivided attention. Listen whole-heartedly to what they are saying, reflect back what you hear, and encourage them to share both their dreams and fears. Ask questions and try to engage without “solving” an issue. Remember, understanding and empathy must always precede advice. If you can attune to your partner, they will most likely feel heard, valued, and safe in the relationship. And what does safety do, you might ask? When safety is present, people tend to take more emotional risks- they become more inclined to turn into relationships. Thus, being present will help strengthen your bond.
2) Promote Vulnerability within Yourself and with Each Other
Vulnerability is the cornerstone to any solid relationship. The unfortunate piece is that the word “vulnerability” often gets a bad reputation. Many people are afraid to be vulnerable for a fear of getting hurt or of feeling exposed. The truth is, however; vulnerability can help foster a strong bond and lasting connection.
Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, said it perfectly when she stated: “One of the reasons there is such an intimacy deficit today is because we don’t know how to be vulnerable. It’s about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need, and, asking for what we need. Vulnerability is a glue that holds intimate relationships together.” Although being vulnerable is not an easy feat, your relationship depends on it. The true meaning of intimacy is “into me you see.”
3) Attend to the Emotional Needs of the Relationship
We now know that the foundation for a deep connection and strong bond is based on nurturing the emotional needs of the relationship. The emotional needs are comprised of three vital pieces: accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. Because we’ve already covered emotional engagement, lets talk about the other two parts.
Dr. Sue Johnson, researcher and founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), believes that we all want a positive answer to the following questions: Are you there for me? Can I reach you? Can I rely on you to respond to me? Do I matter to you? Essentially, we want to know that if we are in need of comfort, support, or connection, our partner will be there.
Here are some tips to becoming more responsive and accessible: 1) Make your relationship a priority. When your partner calls, answer the phone. When they cry, comfort them. When something is important to them, listen; 2) Pay close attention to your partner’s cues and show up for them during their time of need. Is it hard to tell what they need? Ask, and try to make it safe for them to share; 3) Don’t minimize or dismiss emotions. What may seem like a small deal to you, may be a painful experience for them. Validate what they are going through and do your best to let them know that they truly matter to you; 5) Follow-through. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Follow-through on your promises and commitments. Your partner needs to know that they can count on you. It’s that simple, folks.