by D’Arcy Swanson, LPC
Most people want their romantic relationship to feel close, warm, and connected. At the heart of it, that is what brought you together in the first place. The truth is that feeling of connection is fluid. It ebbs and flows due to a thousand factors, many of which are just life. Children acting up, taxes due, a big work project, or just being exhausted can easily sap our energy and attention. And of course, some factors are about our relationship. Perhaps we feel unappreciated or dismissed or unimportant. These will almost certainly affect the connection we feel.
One of the more useful tools I have found is to imagine that you have inside you a gage or a meter that tells you how connected you feel to your partner at this very moment: your “Connection Meter”. Imagine that it reads somewhere between 0 and 10. “0” means that you feel completely disconnected. “10” is the most connected you’ve ever felt. A “5” means that you feel adequately or decently connected, not feeling particularly connected but not disconnected either. I invite you right now to pause, clear your mind, and go inside to see how connected you feel to your partner in this moment. Ask your heart not your brain! Whatever you come up with is fine. I encourage you not to think of it as good or bad, but rather as information. It’s an indicator of your current perception of the quality of the space between the two of you.
In many ways our sense of connection in the relationship is one of the most important things about it. By staying aware of how connected we are, we can manage it much better. One of the most important ways is to pay attention to your littlest interactions. A delicious hug in the morning before getting out of bed could make our meter jump and carry us joyfully for a while. A little sarcastic remark or an eye roll can easily knock us down a few notches. An unresolved argument takes us way down into the nether-regions of our connection range.
Start this practice by noticing what makes your sense of connection (meter) go up. It can help to jot down those things/times that make it increase. Also make a list of things/times when your connection decreases. You may also want to sort them out into simple, little things and big, difficult things.
Now make a conscious effort to do those connecting things more often, especially the simple ones. Even one little thing a day can make a big difference. A phone call, a text message, a big smile, an appreciation; whatever it is that helps your level of connection rise.
And then there are the things your partner does that move the needle on your connection meter. You can invite them to help by starting with the little things. Try something like:
“I really like it when you ___________. It helps me feel closer to you.” or
“It’s hard for me when you ___________. I want to pull away when that happens.”
Be careful not to sound blaming or critical! You are just telling him or her how the behavior affects you, not passing judgment on it being good or bad in general. Let it simply be information on what works and doesn’t work for you.
You might begin by giving feedback to your partner only on the things that make you feel more connected, and then eventually adding the things that make you feel less connected. It is almost always a good idea to communicate positive feedback at least twice as often as feedback that is about what you don’t like.
So tune in to your internal Connection Meter. Let it guide you throughout the day. Involve your partner and learn how their Connection Meter works. Sharing and practicing this technique can be a marvelous way of coming together. The simple act of saying “I feel far away from you and I’d like to find a way to be closer” can be the start of something wonderful!