Emotional connection essential to a healthy relationship

Emotional connection
Emotional connection
Image: 123rf

Emotional connection and attachment can be easily confused because they can sometimes be seen as mutually exclusive.

Partners with an emotional connection can then experience attachment to one another, but someone that develops an attachment first will struggle to find an emotional connection, if at all.

Basically, if you’re attached to a relationship because it fulfills a need [eg: a need to get married], you’ll be more focused on reaching an end goal rather than building a deep and meaningful connection with your partner.

But if you want a fulfilling relationship that goes the distance, you need connection, not just attachment.

Attachments can develop when needs for intimacy, companionship, validation, or anything else go unfulfilled. And when you find someone who fulfills those needs, you might develop a strong attachment to them.

Everyone has needs and everyone wants to get those needs met. There’s nothing wrong with seeking a partner who fulfills important needs, as relationships should.

But it’s important not to place unfair burdens on someone else to meet needs that should be met by yourself. Depending on someone else to “complete” you can create difficulties for you both.

Here are some signs that you have unhealthy attachments to your partner, but aren’t really emotionally connected.

• You don’t just want your partner, you need them

We only dated for 10 months before we got married. In the first year or so of our marriage, we literally couldn’t be apart from one another. When one of us would go on a business trip, the other would feel a gaping hole emotionally.

The first night apart would feel so lonely and empty without the other. We were deeply attached to one another in a very unhealthy way. And it’s very easy to mistake it with love and connection.

When you’re attached, you’ll feel a need to see or hear from your partner every day. When this doesn’t happen, you’re likely to feel rejection and abandonment. You may question the entire relationship, or at least have doubts, when a day or two passes by without them checking-in with you.

Needs are one thing, neediness is another. You may feel you need more time with them and find yourself communicating this need over and over, yet it’s never fulfilled.

If you have to constantly communicate your needs to your partner, then maybe you’re not emotionally connected to them, but more connected to your need and the idea of a relationship.

• You heavily rely on their approval

If you struggle with self-validation and self-confidence, you might define your worth by how your partner sees you. In an unhealthy attachment, your sense of self-worth may totally depend on your partner’s regard.

When you disagree or experience other conflict, this might entirely disrupt your perception of yourself. You might believe they no longer love you, or support your needs. As a result, you might feel hurt, empty, depressed, and your self-esteem might diminish.

These feelings can persist until your partner does something to demonstrate they still care about you, whether that’s giving a gift, offering physical affection or complimenting you.

• You keep negotiating your boundaries

If you regularly feel the need to lower your standards, wants or needs, then you’re probably not emotionally connected to your partner, but are attached to the need for a relationship. When you are emotionally connected to your partner, there's no need to negotiate your needs. Those should already be met.

When you don’t want to risk rocking the boat for fear that it could cause a break-up, that’s called “peace-keeper chaos”, not connection.

Basically, when you’re attached, you’re going to convince yourself to settle for less than you actually deserve.

And please don’t confuse this with the mutual compromise couples often need to reach in order to meet each other halfway. This point refers to when you always have to be the one lowering your standards just to keep the relationship going.

• You don’t know how to function without them

Depending on someone else to meet your needs often means you have trouble meeting them on your own. Attachments typically develop for this very reason.

If you don’t feel secure, loved, or accepted on your own, you’ll look to your partner to offer comfort and security, and help you feel less alone. You often wonder, “What would I do without them?” And you’ll also feel like your world would literally be of no worth without them.

• You display a self-seeking behaviour

Attachments come from a place of trying to fill a void. It’s an unhealthy emotional need for someone else to behave a certain way in order to make you happy.

This often manifests itself by giving yourself too much in the relationship, in the name of selflessness when in reality, you’re giving in hopes of getting. It’s really a form of control.

You seek acceptance, love and approval by doing in a relationship instead of just being. You do so much in an attempt to avoid rejection, in hopes of having our deepest needs met by someone else.

• You rely elsewhere for emotional support

When you’re in an attachment-based relationship, you’ll likely find yourself turning to your friends or family for emotional support, but not your partner.

Vulnerability is key in building emotional connection. It involves showing up, all of you, the real you, and letting yourself be seen by your partner. But if you can’t feel safe and comfortable enough to do that in your relationship for whatever reason, you’re probably just attached.

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