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Advice: Reconnecting at an emotional level

A client of mine felt like her marriage was doomed. She had zero interest in engaging with her husband and he reflected that back to her.

A client of mine felt like her marriage was doomed. She had zero interest in engaging with her husband and he reflected that back to her.

Digging into her relationship, we realized that he locked up his feelings. He learned at a young age that, (as a man) sharing feelings showed a lack of strength. In return, his wife felt his hostile energy, felt he was unsafe and this shut her down emotionally. Resentment crept in and built faster than expected and now, they were at a crossroads.

Lack of emotional intimacy was the sliver in their marriage and with help from me and a lot of work on their part, they salvaged their marriage and are now thriving individually and as a couple.

What creates the feelings of being heard, appreciated, and truly seen for the person you are? Emotional intimacy. This is the feeling of closeness, security and connection we feel for another person. People joke about feeling like ‘ships in the night’ with their partner. No connection, no desire for connection, and functioning as opposites. By working hard at building emotional intimacy, you are rewarded with increased trust, deep connection, and security in the relationship.

A disconnect within a relationship doesn’t mean you need to throw the towel in. Emotional intimacy can be restored but know that it takes daily effort and with both couples involved.

Emotional intimacy looks like sharing values, being vulnerable, aligning on a needs level, and sharing without judgement. There is understanding of each other on a deep level. Emotional intimacy isn’t built during the first date, second or even 20th. It’s a gradual process, building as both involved share more and more about themselves. If you can share with the other person, feel safe and not judged, this intimacy grows. Trust is built and as a result, vulnerability and openness is displayed.

Signs of emotional disconnection look like:

a) Everything in the relationship is ‘good enough’ and appears fine on the surface. There are no deep, soul nourishing conversations because one or both fear being vulnerable and how the other will accept their feelings.

b) Talk is just … talk. No difficult and important conversations are had. Worries, fears, and desires are stuffed deeper into the self and any connections are restrained because of the lack of trust and vulnerability.

c) Your partner doesn’t ‘get’ you. If you find you’re having to explain or convince your partner of your thoughts and feelings, there’s a lack of emotional connection happening. One side is giving and the other is blocking.

d) Lack of physical affection (holding hands, sitting closely, kissing etc). With emotional intimacy comes more meaningful physical connection.

e) Lack of support and feeling lonely in the relationship

You can get it back!

I wish I could give you a list of things to do and the emotional connectedness would be restored instantly. It doesn’t work like that.

It starts with you.

To feel connected to another human you must first connect with yourself. Get to know your emotions and understand why you may not want to share them or, understand why you do put yourself out there and feel so rejected when it’s not reciprocated. Our behaviors are reflected from our childhood. Get curious with yourself and get connected to the real you. Being vulnerable and connected with yourself means you’re more likely to do the same with someone else.

Easy ways to get going:

1) Share memories and feelings attached to those memories.

2) Show interest in your partner. Ask them questions about themselves and get to know the real them. What is their favorite childhood memory? What ways do they feel most loved? Biggest fears and worries about the future?

3) Make small gestures meaningful. Bring them coffee in bed. Give them a backrub without prompting. Rub their feet as you’re watching TV. Pack a lunch for them. This shows caring and fosters emotional growth.

4) Share deeper emotions such as worries about work, the kids, and finances. Share goals without fear of ridicule. Speak from the heart.

5) Show interest in each other’s work, dreams, feelings on subjects, and opinions without judgement and with an open mind.

Failing relationships don’t have to have an end. You can nurture yourself and your relationship, saving it from an early demise. It takes work but it’s worth it.

- Sara Aloimonos is a life coach and functional nutritionist based in Yellowknife.