Connect With Your Spouse's Heart This Valentine's Day
- Dr. David Hawkins Director, The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2011 1 Jan
"I have a good relationship, but sometimes I wonder if we're really as connected as I'd like to be. He says I'm too needy, and I don't know what to think," Jamie said sadly, her voice sounding more and more hollow.
"I've tried to tell Brian we could have so much more in our marriage," she continued, as she glanced around my counseling office, "but he seems satisfied with the way things are. It's frustrating."
Jamie had shared that she and her husband had been married for ten years, with two young children. As busy professionals, they struggled to balance time for their careers and family, as well as their marriage. Jamie was a self-admitted "romantic," adding, "I want it all."
"What about what Jamie is saying?" I said, looking over at Brian, who seemed impatient with what Jamie had been saying.
"I guess I don't get it," he snapped. "We have a lot of love between us. We have two great kids. We have a lot of fun together. I just don't understand what else might be missing."
"You may be satisfied with the way things are," I responded. "But that still doesn't mean there isn't more out there for both of you."
I listened closely to Jamie, hearing how she longed to be more closely connected to her husband. I listened as she shared how she felt her marriage was strong, but wanted it to be even stronger. I listened to Brian share his frustration, sensing there was a disconnect between what she wanted and what she was getting. Yet, Brian wasn't purposely withholding from her—he really didn't understand what was missing.
I've been greatly impressed with the work of Susan Johnson and her writing on attachment, ("Hold Me Tight") noting how couples often live with brokenness in their relationship. They are inaccessible to each other, failing to repair breaks in their connection. Johnson encourages couples to ask the following questions:
- Can I get my partner's attention easily?
- Is my partner easy to connect with emotionally?
- Does my partner show me I come first with him/ her?
- Do I feel lonely or shut out in my relationship?
- Can I share my deepest feelings with my mate?
- If I need comfort and connection, will my mate be there for me?
- Does my mate respond to signals that I need him/ her?
- Can I lean on my mate when feeling insecure or anxious?
- If we fight or disagree, can I feel secure that we will find a way back to each other?
- Does my mate reassure me about my importance to him/ her?
Your answer to these questions, of course, will help you discern just how attached you really are. Though you might believe you have a close, intimate marriage, there may be areas that need strengthening.
Carefully review the above questions. Consider these steps to begin deepening the connection to your mate:
First, really listen to each other. We voice our feelings to our mate in various ways. If our mate is unhappy—as was the case with Jamie and Brian—it will come out. Do we listen not only for what is said, but what isn't said? What is our mate possibly afraid to share with us?
Second, share your most intimate emotions with our mate. Do we feel emotionally connected? The word emotion comes from the Latin word emovare—to move. We are "moved" when those we love share their deepest feelings with us. We are moved to give them what they need, forming a powerful connection. Have you created a safe place for your mate's feelings to land?
Third, offer your mate reassurance about their importance in your life. We never tire of hearing that we are Number One to our mate. We never tire of hearing that we are listening carefully to what our mate is feeling, needing, longing for in the marriage. Letting your mate know you are attending to them is one of the most powerful things you can do to strengthen your marriage.
Fourth, make time for your mate. With all the busyness and distractions of life, make an intentional effort to be with your mate. There is no alternative to quality time, spent laughing, sharing, relating to one another. This time creates a strong bond; the foundation of attachment.
Fifth, make repairs to your relationship quickly. When you fight, which you will do, apologize quickly. Acknowledge your wrongdoing and set things right. Admit failures. Share the sadness you feel about the disconnection in your relationship, vowing to improve your dance with each other. As the Apostle Paul says in the "Love Chapter" in the Bible, "Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (I Corinthians 13: 4-5)
Finally, set your sights high. Dream big romantically. Let your mate know that you want a deep, long-lasting, powerful connection with them. Commit to paying close attention to the connection, spending time cultivating a trusting, caring and safe relationship. In this strong, abiding connection you will both feel safe and secure, never wanting anything but what your mate alone can offer you.
Originally published February 3, 2011
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.