“We can’t seem to connect anymore.”
This is one of the most common complaints I hear in my counseling practice.
We all know that it is generally easy to connect at the beginning of a relationship – before all the protections and defenses come up. But what do you do to reconnect once you feel disconnected from each other?
In order to answer this, let’s first look at what creates disconnection.
Emotional disconnection occurs when one or both partners have closed their hearts. We emotionally connect with each other from our hearts – not our heads. We can connect intellectually from our heads, but when people complain that they can’t connect, they are generally talking about emotional disconnection.
When your heart is closed, you have disconnected from yourself. The heart is the channel through which you can feel your feelings, so if there are feelings you don’t want to feel, you close your heart in order to not feel them.
What are the feelings you don’t want to feel?
It took me a long time to understand why I would close my heart. I had been closing off from some very painful feelings for so long that I didn’t even know what the feelings were. Upon exploration, I thought that I might be closing myself to avoid feelings of anxiety, fear, hurt, guilt, shame or anger. But with deeper work, I discovered that it was actually my disconnection from myself – my closed heart – that was causing my anxiety, hurt, guilt, shame and anger. So, if I was causing these feelings by closing my heart and staying in my head, and by judging myself or by turning to various addictions, why was I closing my heart in the first place? What was I avoiding feeling?
It took me years of inner inquiry to discover the deeper feelings that my closed heart was protecting me from feeling. These were the feelings of intense loneliness I had experienced as an only child, with distant parents and no siblings to play with. These were the feelings of heartbreak when my mother screamed at me daily, blaming me for her misery, and the heartbreak of my father’s attempts to have sex with me. These were the feelings of helplessness over their disconnection from me and over not being able to ever get them to see me. These were the feelings of grief at having my beloved pets suddenly disappear because my mother didn’t like them.
I could not handle any of these feelings, so I learned to disconnect from my heart and stay in my head. I learned to turn to various addictions rather than feel these feelings. I learned to be a very good girl, to try to get the love that I had not received, and didn’t know how to give to myself.
When two people do this in a relationship – each partner protecting against feeling their deeper core feelings with each other – the feelings that are there when there is anger, blaming, judgment, withdrawal or contempt – they feel emotionally disconnected from each other.
The challenging truth is that we cannot connect with another until we connect with ourselves. This means that we need to open our hearts to feeling and learning from all of our painful feelings – the wounded feelings we create and the core existential feelings of painful life experiences.
When you learn to fully embrace all of your painful feelings – with a compassionate intent to learn – you will be able to keep your heart open with your partner. When your partner is also able to keep his or her heart open, the two of you will connect.
Connection with your partner will occur easily and naturally when you and your partner have the courage to fully embrace all your feelings with a deep intent to learn. You will easily and naturally connect with each other when you are both openhearted and connected with yourselves.