Here at Core Values Counseling, we talk about seven pillars of connection common to every romantic relationship. Early on in our practice, we realized that all couples experience a need for connection in seven distinct areas:
- Emotional Connection
- Relational Connection
- Spiritual Connection
- Physical Connection
- Sexual Connection
- Financial Connection
- Recreational Connection
We explore these seven areas in our free relationship assessment, and they help establish a framework for thinking about the different areas of connection you share with your spouse — and where you may have some room for improvement.
In exploring each of these areas, you’ll probably notice that your unique needs are deeply informed by your family of origin — and the “baggage” you bring to the relationship. In some areas, you may find you need to do work on your own (individual counseling can help); in other areas, you and your partner can work together to make things better.
Just remember: none of us is perfect, and we all need work. How can we support you? Individual therapy and couples therapy are great starting points, but there are myriad resources we’d love to share with you in addition. Get in touch today to find out more.
Today, we’d like to unpack that first area of connection: Emotional Connection.
At the end of the day, emotional connection boils down to this: the ability to be vulnerable with one another. What does it look like for you to be able to vulnerably share your inner world with one another? Do you know what makes your partner sad or happy or stressed or hopeful? What have they recently worried about? What are they excited about? Do you know these things about yourself?
Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart digs deep into these questions of vulnerability. She says,
“If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. In Atlas of the Heart, we explore eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human and walk through a new framework for cultivating meaningful connection. This is for the mapmakers and travelers in all of us.”
Several episodes of Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, take a closer look at this subject, too, and we highly recommend them.
In our last blog post, we touched on three questions from Dr. Sue Johnson that we consistently return to in our work with our clients, questions that every couple asks of one another, consciously or unconsciously:
- Are you there for me?
- Will you come when I call?
- Do I matter to you?
Do you feel like your partner gets you? Do they have your back when you’re feeling sad or processing negative emotions? How do you deal with anger when your partner is angry? Are you able to express yourself? Can you both express how you feel in a way that doesn’t hurt one another? Is your partner there for you? Are you there for them?
Much of how you answer those questions will depend on your attachment style (we like the free attachment style quiz that they recommend here).
We also find this video from the Happiness Initiative to be very helpful:
For instance, if you have an anxious attachment style (i.e. you didn’t have those questions answered in a positive way by your parent(s) as an infant and as a child), you may have a greater need for assurance and reassurance.
What was it like for you to be an emotional being growing up? How does that relate to your relationship now?
You might ask yourself, “Why do I chase after my partner with great zeal (and sometimes overwhelm them)?” Or “Why do I back away when my partner is emotional? Why am I not able to be available for them when I’m really upset?” (It can help to talk in individual or couples counseling as you explore these questions.)
It’s so important to know things like this about yourself — and each other as a couple. Understanding your emotional needs and effectively communicating those needs is essential to a healthy relationship with your partner.
Does your emotional connection with your spouse need improvement? Maybe you’d like it to feel more consistent, like it’s an equal priority for both of you — that you both value it and have a vested interest in growing your connection. Sound like something you’d like to work on?
Our two-day conference for couples created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, called The Art and Science of Love, has been shown to achieve results similar to those of six months of marital therapy. It’s the perfect opportunity for you and your partner to communicate better and do better.