In our last blog post, we introduced the seven pillars of connection we often talk about here at Core Values Counseling. In every romantic relationship, we experience a need for connection in seven distinct areas:
- Emotional Connection
- Relational Connection
- Spiritual Connection
- Physical Connection
- Sexual Connection
- Financial Connection
- Recreational Connection
Today, we’re talking about the second pillar: Relational Connection.
While your emotional connection with your partner has much to do with your inner worlds, your individual emotional needs, and the way each of you is wired, your relational connection is a bit more external. It has more to do with your outer world, the other relationships that have an impact on your life together, and the agreements you and your partner make about how to navigate all of it.
Fundamentally, a strong relational connection helps you and your partner:
- Protect your relationship,
- Know how to talk about hard things, and
- Create a community you can turn to.
At Core Values Counseling, when we help couples explore their relational connection, we ask questions like:
- Do you want kids? Are you in agreement on this?
- How do you want to interact with your extended family, parents, and siblings?
- Do you respect one another’s feelings during conflict?
- What happens when you disagree about a topic you care about? How do you handle that?
We believe that it is essential to make the implicit agreements explicit and make the covert behaviors overt before you run into problems. Having agreements is part of building the ongoing contract of your relationship.
One important area that we always want to call out is your agreements about outside relationships (often relationships with members of the opposite sex). Have you talked about boundaries? How comfortable are you with your partner having a relationship with someone else that has the potential to become a romantic interest? When would such a relationship be too close for comfort? Do you have these conversations, or do you take fidelity for granted?
What are the boundaries with coworkers?
Take it from Sabrina and Eric. It’s essential to have strong boundaries around your relationship so that you don’t accidentally slip into an emotional or sexual affair.
Another critical area to discuss is family. How much influence do your in-laws and parents have in your relationship with your partner? How do you discuss difficult things about your spouse’s parents? Can you talk about that together?
Do you feel like you know how to have these sorts of conversations without becoming hostile or taking offense with one another?
If this all feels a bit daunting, know you’re not alone. It’s absolutely normal to bring “baggage” from your past — even and especially your childhood — to your relationship with your partner. Counseling can help you navigate that.
In our experience, there’s one element to relational connection that is too often overlooked: community. For many couples, especially those living far away from family, community is a lifeline. Those wonderful humans that make up your community are, as Sara Groves might put it, “small ramparts for the soul.”
Who do you have in your community? Who can you turn to for support? Are they trusted relationships?
If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. We talk about the importance of community — and being intentional about building yours — in this post.
To learn more about where you stand with relational connection — and the other areas of connection we discuss — be sure to check out our free relationship assessment. It offers terrific insight into the different areas of connection you share with your spouse, as well as ways to improve that sense of connection.
For couples that want practical tools and strategies for connecting better — in all areas — we highly recommend our two-day conference for couples called The Art and Science of Love. Created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, The Art and Science of Love has been shown to achieve results similar to those of six months of marital therapy. It’s a great first step for couples that want to jump-start their relationship, whether they’re young or old, married for years or in a newer relationship. Register today for our next session.
For help individually or as a couple, our counselors are always here for you. Get in touch today; we’d love to connect with you.