Are we truly connected? Here’s a way to tell

    I recently read an article concerning being connected to one’s spouse. Dr. Sue Johnson, in her book “Hold Me Tight,” states that “a sense of secure connection … is a key in positive loving relationships and a huge source of strength.”
    Johnson goes on to say most fights are really protests over the fear of emotional disconnection. Each person in the relationship is actually testing the waters as to whether or not they matter to the other. They want to know the other person is one they can depend upon.
    As a marriage and family therapist, I hear individuals in couple therapy repeatedly state they are seeking that No. 1 status in the relationship. They desire to feel they matter and count to the other. As a result, each conflict becomes the testing ground seeking affirmation as to where they are in the relationship.
    Couples who have not lost their sense of connectedness, though they may fight, focus more on the issue at hand rather than the fear of losing the other person. They are not consistently looking for affirmation that they matter and are loved.
    This requires that the relationship be grounded in everyday actions that maintain the connection between the two.
    Dr. John Gottman, a noted relationship expert, states that the fundamental unit of emotional communication is what is called “the bid.” This is defined as a gesture, a look or a touch. Simply put, this expresses “I feel connected to you.” The more positive the response, the stronger the affirmation of feeling connected.
    Positive responses take on the form of seeking more information while, at the same time, affirming the connection. The example given: “Bid: ‘Can we have lunch today?’”  The positive response: “Oh, I’d love to have lunch with you, but I really have to finish my report. How about tomorrow?”  
    This affirms the connection while expressing the other’s needs at the moment. A negative response could be interpreted as a rejection, “I have too much work to do.”
    As the couple grows in emotional connection through this bid process, the relationship is able to withstand more frequent and serious situations within their marriage.
    It also requires respect and honor on the part of both parties. Seeking to become one challenges us to give each other the time and space to be fully listened to, to be fully understood and to demonstrate to one another they are No. 1 in their other’s eyes.
    Connecting with one another is a matter of consistently doing little things with and for each other. It does not require big events or “things.” Putting your spouse first is simply letting him or her know they are in the forefront of your mind.
    Are you connected?
    Deacon Dave Farinelli is coordinator of marriage preparation and enrichment of the archdiocesan Family Life Apostolate. He can be reached at dfarinelli@archdiocese-no.org.

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