October 23rd, 2006 by Nina Atwood
As a middle-aged male, I feel we men are at a distinct gender disadvantage with respect to establishing and developing a strong emotional connection with a woman. For one, we don’t talk as much and therefore don’t get as much practice! To be honest, I don’t really have a good sense of what an “emotional connection” is. Could you please define this important term and suggest some ways to help create it between women and men so that it meets both their needs. - Robert
Defining emotional connection is somewhat like defining love. Like love, it is a subjective experience that is unique to each individual. What it means to me may be slightly different than for you. Like love, it is something that begins with the individual (man or woman) and then extends into a relationship. Connection on an individual level means being aware of our own internal experiences and being able to define them when they happen.
Often as a therapist, I help people understand what they are feeling and how to express it. Sometimes people begin therapy because they are emotionally “numb,” meaning that they feel an absence of emotion even though the events of their lives would indicate that they are in pain. One way of avoiding emotional expression is to over-analyze, depending almost entirely on thinking processes, an approach to life that can lead to empty, unfulfilling relationships. The emotional disconnection individually extends into relationships, leaving both partners frustrated.
In order to thrive, love requires expression, and that begins with emotional experience that extends into language and behavior. When I feel sad, I am able to share that with you. I have something really wonderful happen in my day, and I’m able to open up about that experience with you: Not only what happened, but also how it felt and what the significance is for me. Emotional connection happens when we open our hearts and share our life stories, past, and present, as well as our hopes and dreams for the future. Emotional connection happens when we dare to be vulnerable.
Someone once said that if you break apart the word “intimacy” phonetically, it reads “Into Me See.” By allowing others to see our emotions and to hear the stories of our lives, we allow them to see us, and when that happens both ways in a relationship, emotional connection flows. It is the source of relationships, and it is also the reward. It is the reason we are brought together. It is a powerful force that allows us to heal together, and thus to bring forward the energy of creativity and life re-generating itself. That is the nature of love, and emotional connection is the path to love.
If you have not experienced much of this, one place to begin is to practice sharing with other people. This means that you must develop friendships (see some of my earlier articles on social networking), some of whom will be your confidantes; i.e., true friends, those you can truly open up to and be vulnerable with. Join a support or counseling group if need be. One of the reasons that I frequently lead counseling groups for singles is to encourage them to develop this crucial life skill. To share with others helps us to heal, makes our hearts more resilient, and prepares us for a deep and soulful love.
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