image Relationships Work connection in relationships

Connection is the lifeblood of relationships.

Dr. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight-Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, states that our relationships reflect our need for “attachment.” In other words, we look to our partner to acknowledge that we matter, that we exist, that we are important, that we are worthy of love and won’t be rejected or abandoned.

You may wonder, where does this need for “connection” come from? Why do we need it? Here’s how I think about it:

Though we can’t recall the experience, I imagine being born is a very traumatic event. I think of the womb as a warm and cozy place where we exist, safe from the outside world; protected, nurtured and fed.

One day we likely feel some rumbling and pushing like never before, then we are thrust out into the cold world. The safety and warmth we took for granted no longer exists. Though the doctors and nurses wrap us up and swaddle us in blankets, it’s just not the same.

The physical separation from our mother creates a void that must be filled. Our survival, and our feeling of safety, in the world has depended upon this physical connection.

After birth, we learn to bond and feel safe on the outside, when mom feeds and cuddles us, when mom gazes into our eyes and reacts with delight when we respond back. The sense of connection or attachment that is the basis of our survival moves from being a physical connection to one that becomes emotional.

The emotional connection that’s established, for better or worse, with your mom, and your dad, becomes your experience of the world. Since we can’t process, or cognitively understand what is happening, we just “feel” the connection.

If our parents were there when we cried to soothe our pain, you learn the world outside the womb is a safe place. If parents do not respond or are cold, we learn the world is unsafe, that people are not there when you need them, that you can’t depend on them, and that you are essentially alone. You survive by doing your best to care for yourself. Your sense of attachment is insecure.

In the Still Face Experiment – Dr. Edward Tronick you can see a baby’s reaction to their mother when the mother connects versus when the mother disconnects. Check it out then continue reading.

What we learn as children about safety, security and trust in others, sticks with us throughout our lives. We carry this into our adult relationships.

Fast forward to a couple that has been married for years. One has a secure sense of attachment and the other doesn’t; or, worse yet, both partners have an insecure sense of attachment. It’s important to remember, in our relationships, we are all that baby crying out to be fulfilled and satisfied emotionally.

The need for validation and affirmation from our partner is necessary for our emotional survival. It makes us feel like we exist as humans in a large world, that we matter, that we are valuable and worthy, since someone else is a witness to our life experience, our feelings and our pain. Bob describes it as psychological oxygen. Connection forms the basis for how we give and receive love.

That’s why we need connection in our relationships as adults.

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If you are in a relationship that hurts and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, we can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email info@relationshipswork.com.
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