Love and Connection


broken mask

In my last post I talked about connection, and how connection requires you to be able to be in the moment.

Increasingly I think connection is what we are all looking for.  In family, in friendships, and especially in romantic relationships, connection is the key that binds us together.  Brene Brown describes connection as:

connectionquote

 

Connection is intangible; but at the same time you know when it’s there and you know when it’s missing.  We all want connection, and because humans are social animals I think it’s just as much of a need as food and shelter.

Intimacy (closeness) and love, these are all about connection.

 

Learning about Love

Growing up, we are taught the wrong things about love.  I realize I’m stereotyping here (so feel free to ignore this if you disagree), but little girls seem to be taught that love is all about passion and romance – flowers, kisses and hearts that pound at the sight of the other person.  And many women seem to internalize this, and come to believe that’s what love is.  Intensity.  Passion.

In fact, I recently saw a blog post talking about how the author wants her love to be like a hurricane.  Passionate, and furious.

And I get that in a way.

But hurricane’s tend to not last very long.  They burn out quickly, and leave a lot of damage in their wake.

 

Boys?  I’m not sure if we are really taught anything about love.  We see the same stories about love that the girls see, but we are never really taught that love should be a goal, or something to strive for the way girls are (it’s pretty common to see little girls dressing up as a bride for Halloween – but how often do you see a little boy dressing up as a groom).

For us love seems to start as more of a physical/hormonal response, as we’re often oblivious to girls until one day we realize “damn, she’s pretty hot”.  Maybe because of this, for many of us it seems we come to associate sex with love.

I think this is why you hear that women need to feel connection in order to have sex, while men need to be having sex in order to feel connected.  And this fundamental difference in how we think (due to how we have been taught) is the source of a ton of problems.

 

In any case, I think we both learn the wrong things.  We are learning about the early phases of love, and thinking that’s what love actually is.

At its core though, I think we’re all really looking for connection.

We all want to find someone we feel connected to.  We feel safe with, we feel we can be ourselves, and they will hear us, and respect us, and value us.  And we’ll want to do the same for them.  Connection is what is truly important.

 

The Problem with Connection

As much as we really strive for connection however, many people are afraid of it.

Because real connection requires vulnerability, it requires letting someone else in.

And that can be scary as hell.

 

Many of us, and perhaps most of us, struggle with letting other people in.

True connection requires allowing someone else to see all of you – the good sides and our darker sides, the parts of us that we hide from other.  And it requires allowing that other person to love us anyways.

Allowing.

My wording here is very deliberate.

As people, we often sabotage ourselves because we are afraid.

Afraid of rejection.  Afraid that we aren’t enough.  We don’t accept ourselves, and love ourselves enough.  And if we can’t even love ourselves, then how is someone else ever going to love us?

So we hold back, and we build walls.  We try to only ever let the other person see the parts of us that we want them to see.  We build these walls subconsciously with the intent of protecting ourselves from being hurt.

In doing so, we don’t allow that other person the opportunity to truly know us.  We don’t give them the chance to accept us for all of us, good and bad.

We’re scared they won’t, so we don’t give them the opportunity.

And in the process we ensure that we will never have the connection that we truly crave.

deadinside

Emotional Disconnection

We all limit how close we let people get to us.  We all have things that we hide from both ourselves and others.

In fact I’m not sure if it’s even possible to let the other person in 100%, as doing so would require a level of self-awareness that most of will never achieve.

But for emotionally healthy relationships, we have to be in a situation where both parties are able to let the other person in and feel safe doing so.

Emotional disconnection happens when people won’t let others in.  They will have healthy relationships on the surface, but will hide their feelings and not allow someone to get too close.

Sometimes this happens due to upbringing and a person’s attachment style, but it can also be brought about due to problems with depression or anxiety.

Both depression and anxiety can cause anhedonia, a state where a person feels as though they have no emotions, positive or negative.  For sufferers of anhedonia there is an absence of emotion and they often feel dead inside.  Sufferers do still feel some emotions, but they are primarily negative emotions or a pervasive sense of sadness.  Positive emotions are not felt very strongly, and they find it hard to feel happiness.

During these dead or flat periods, external relationships frequently suffer, as connection breaks down.

Calmclinic.com describes this as follows:

Emotional detachment is usually an issue caused by severe, intense anxiety – most notably panic attacks, although any form of severe anxiety can cause emotional detachment.

While it’s not entirely clear what causes this detachment, it most likely is a coping mechanism for the brain. Severe emotions are not only mentally stressful – they’re also physically stressful, and your brain actually experiences very real stress and pressure that can be somewhat overwhelming.

So your brain may shut off or turn down those emotions, because dealing with no strong emotions at all may be easier for your brain to handle than intense emotions.

Also, don’t forget that your emotions really do change your brain chemistry. Sometimes those changes stick around for a while. Your anxiety may have caused your brain to produce less “positive emotion” neurotransmitters, which in turn causes you to experience emotional distance.

 

Allowing Love and Connection

We all need connection.  Without it, couples aren’t a “we” and instead are just two people occupying the same space.  Without connection, you aren’t able to truly share life, and experiences.

Connection however requires you to accept your emotions (good and bad), share them, and be vulnerable.  It doesn’t happen unless you allow it, and allow the other person in.

Without that there is no intimacy, and only a hollow, dispassionate version of love.

vulnerability

People are scared to be vulnerable because they are scared to be hurt.  Scared to be rejected.  And so they hold back – both consciously and subconsciously.

But all holding back does is limit your ability to connect with another person.

It’s true, people can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.  And allowing yourself to be vulnerable means you will be hurt sometimes, by those you love.

That’s part of life though, and you need to be willing to accept it as part of the tradeoff.

 

Given a choice between being vulnerable and allowing myself to be hurt, or walling myself off from potential hurt and instead feeling nothing, I know what I pick.  And really, it’s an easy choice.

Because without connection, you can’t really have love.

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16 thoughts on “Love and Connection

    • Thanks. That post was a bit rushed, but I’m still fairly happy with it. Some posts I spend a long time with, and edit, re-edit etc. Others are a short spurt of writing, where I hit publish and don’t notice all the mistakes/errors/awkward writing until later.

      I enjoy writing though, and am passionate about the topics that I cover. Hope you do come back – there’s quite a back catalog of posts too under “quick links”.

      Some of my favorites are “Forever is Now”, and “It will never be the same”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’ve been doing this for a while new, and although it’s not always up to date or very well organized, I’ve tried to group my older posts under the “quick links” section at the top.

      I think Brene Brown really writes about things that people need to put practice in their lives in order to have a fulfulling life.

      Like

      • Yes, I regret that I am deep int self help a little late in the game. My husband asked for a divorce 6 months ago and probably this time next year my life will be very different. Both of us could have benefited from Ester Perel and Brene Brown years ago, I wonder with regret😢

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry to hear that’s the case. I’ve read bits of your blog, and it’s at once sad and familiar. Although I’m sure you feel very alone, many of us go through some variation on that same thing.

        That was actually a big reason behind my blog. If you saw my “about” page, I noticed that when you read stories and listened to people it seemed we were all making some variation on the same mistakes. So why can’t we do better? Why does it have to get to that point?

        Esther Perel, Brene Brown, John Gottman. There are so many people out there who can truly help relationships. But we don’t start to look and learn until we’re well past the point of needing them. Even then many of us don’t bother trying to understand what went wrong and how we could have been better, instead we just blame the other person and refuse to own our own part in the issue.

        It’s crazy, people have to pass an exam to drive a car. But pretty much anyone can go get married, and all they need is to say “I do”. We think feelings of love will last forever and that will be enough. We don’t learn how to support each other, take care of ourselves, communicate, deal with conflicts etc.

        Really, there should be mandatory classes every few years for maintenance and upkeep. Kind of like bringing your car in for periodic checkups to ensure it stays in good health.

        Ah well, it’s just a situation that always makes me sad.

        The extra hard part of relationships is that you can only control what “you” can control. And no matter where life takes you, as long as you’re growing and learning, that’s the best you can do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t agree with you more. I have Ben resisting writing for so long, I was very intimidated by it. Frankly the blog is secondary therapy for me. I knew that I could do something to help the solitude and dark was I feel so often.
        I do believe that given the tool early on divorce rate and abuse if any kind would be reduced.
        My husband recognizes the change but cannot get himself to trust I won’t hurt him again. I have issues with vulnerability, even though I want to say had I don’t dare because my learnings haven’t been put through the test by him. He shut down too early in my process. I am so sad because I do love him, and I know he cares about me but love might be possible in the future. I am devastated because the emotional affair will get physical very soon as they plan to meet in person. She who might have been a distraction is filling in a huge void for him. It is an awful feeling to watch it unfold.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I think the emotional affair is actually more damaging (or at least just AS damaging) as the physical.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in monogamous relationships and think affairs are a huge deal. But it’s the betrayal of trust and the going outside the relationship for comfort/security that’s the real problem. Sex is just kinda a symptom of that.

        Some people are able to rebuild and be stronger than ever. But to do that both have to be invested, and be willing to let go of everything that has gone before.

        Tough spot to be in, but all the best. One way or another you will come out of this, hopefully stronger and healthier.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know I can come out stronger, I worry about my son. He knows our relationship is stressed but like any other child hopes we can resolve and stay together. I actually believe we could be explosively better because we both embrace experts like BB and EP. I will look into the other person you read because if not for my marriage certainly to better myself. 💟

        Liked by 1 person

      • The John Gottman book “7 Principles for making marriage work” is one of the best books I’ve read (on relationships).

        Brene Brown is great, but is a bit more touchy/feely theory, and although it makes a lot of sense to read the question of “how to implement” is often a missing piece.

        Gottman has some things any couple can do that I believe can make actual improvements. IF both people want it. A lot of it is common sense, but still, having a path on things to try is always of value.

        As for your son, that’s always the challenge. And there’s no great answer there. A while back I wrote a post called “For the sake of the Children” where I talk about the impacts on kids.

        Short version, I think staying for the kids only works if people use the kids as a reason to make the relationship the best it can be. If they just “stay” and don’t work to improve, I think it’s pretty destructive.

        Accepting the failure of a relationships often means accepting the loss of 1/2 your childs life (shared custody), and that’s really difficult. It’s proven to be damaging to the kids over time, but I think it’s just as damaging to the kids to grow up in a stressed relationship, learning that is “normal”. No easy answers for any of it.

        Sometimes you’re at a fork and none of the options in front of you are very appealing. But you’ve still got to pick one and then make the best of it. Again, all the best in whatever comes next.

        Liked by 1 person

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