Emotional Connection in Relationships is Vital!
We’ve been talking about how to Build Healthy Relationships for the last several weeks. We spent quite a few weeks talking about how important a strong sense of self is to forming healthy relationships, and explored how we developed our beliefs about ourselves and how to strengthen our relationships with God, ourselves, and others. Today we take a look at Principle 2 – Strong Healthy Relationships Include Emotional Connection
We all have the need for emotional closeness, or bonding in our relationships
We are born with the need to be connected emotionally. We want to be loved, known and in relationship with another. The first and foremost human need that the family is intended to meet is the need for forming deep and loving attachments. God made us to desire and thrive in safe and loving relationships.
What is bonding or connection?
“A bond between two people is an emotional and intellectual investment they have in one another. It is a relationship in which all of the parts of the soul—feelings, thoughts, values, beliefs, joys and sorrows—are shared with and valued by another… The best way to define bonding at its core is to say that when I am bonded, I “matter” to someone. When we are bonded to someone, we feel that we make a difference to him, that our presence is desired when we are around and missed when we are absent. This sense of “mattering” is in direct contrast to feeling overlooked, forgotten, or even simply tolerated by others.” ~ from Secrets of Your Family Tree, by Carder, et al
God is our example
God is Bonded to Himself (Matt 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14) – The very nature of God indicates how important bonding is. God is always connected to Himself…Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible never reports that parts of the Trinity are mad at each other. God wants to connect to us deeply, but doesn’t need us to meet His relational needs.
God created us to need each other (Gen 2:18, Ecc 4:10)
We are made in His image and are meant for emotional connection. We are all designed and need to be connected in loving relationships.
God assumes that we will love ourselves (Matt 22:39) Love others as you love yourself. Our love for ourselves is our model for loving others.
What are examples of emotional connection in a family?
A family should be a place where its members can count on the safe nurturance of others to fuel their emotional needs. These needs for love and interaction can be met in a variety of ways. Here’s some examples:
- Warm times of telling stories and saying prayers at bedtime.
- Times of conversation over the dinner table about the day’s events.
- Moments of sharing painful hurts at work or at school and of having tears understood and wiped away.
- Times for assurance that no matter how hard things are in the outside world, at home everything is OK.
- Times when parents show their children their own vulnerability and thus let their children know that their parents are human too.
~ From Secrets of Your Family Tree, by Carder, et al, pp 148-149
What happens when bonding does not occur?
If we are not connected in healthy relationships, we will try to meet this need in other ways (bonding to work, affairs, addictions, habits such as excessive TV, screen time, shopping). If our need for connection isn’t met, it doesn’t go away. We either strive to meet these needs in unhealthy ways, may wrestle with anxiety or depression, or stay really busy to feel the deep loneliness inside
Symptoms of bonding deficits
Look through the following list of signs that a family is having difficulty in achieving closeness. As you read the list, ask yourself: Do any of these symptoms characterize my current relationships, the family I grew up in, or both?
- Whenever all of the members of the family are at home, they spend all of their time in different rooms (often on their devices).
- When the members of the family need comfort, they turn to food, drugs, work, hobbies, or other non-relational substitutes.
- Conversations in the home center around what a person is doing, as opposed to how he is doing.
- Relationships outside the home take precedence over relationships inside the home.
~ From Secrets of Your Family Tree by Carder, et al, p 155
Components of bonding in relationships
There are ways to encourage love and connection in relationships. Some of practices include feeling safe, emotional openness, empathy, and respect. These ways of relating build closeness in all our relationships.
It is very common to repeat the same ways of connecting in our current relationships that we experienced growing up. Take a look at the following ways of building connection in relationships. Ask yourself if these components of bonding were present in your family growing up, as well as currently in your relationships with others, God and yourself?
- Safety – A place of emotional shelter, protection from harm, and a place to feel “connected” even if conflict exists.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ John 4:18
- Emotional Openness – A place to share needs and struggles in an environment of receptivity and trust. Emotional openness includes the ability to be vulnerable, listened to, and validated.
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness God.” ~ Eph 4:17 – 19
- Respect – A place where who you are as a person is valued and cared for, even when problems and failures occur. Treating others right is of more value and importance than being right. When problems are brought up, the value and worth of the person is affirmed, and help given to learn from and correct the mistake.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
~ Matt 7:12
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” ~ 1 Peter 2:17
Ideas to form a deeper connection with God
- As you are able, take your needs to God. Focus on Him as you pray, and imagine Him listening to you and connecting to you as you pray.
- Meditate on meaningful Scriptures that focus in on God’s love for you. Rewrite the Scripture with your name in it (John 1:12, 1 Pet 2:9, Rom 8:35-39, Eph 1:4-6)
Ideas to form a deeper connection with yourself
- Be willing to consider the idea of having a positive relationship with yourself.
- Talk to yourself like a friend, not an enemy. Be on your own side.
- Strive to be compassionate to yourself about your struggles, while at the same time still holding yourself accountable.
- Give yourself the acceptance and assurances you want that are based on the truth of how God sees you. Ask God to help you be safe to you.
- Picture the kindest person you know and imagine you sharing your problems/struggles with him/her. What might they say to you to encourage you and build you up? Then say these kind words to yourself.
Ideas to form a deeper connection with others
- Start looking for a place to have safe, uncritical relationships. This is extremely important. Our connection injuries occurred in relationships originally, and they heal in safe relationships. If you are unable to find relationships like this with those you know, consider getting involved in a support group with a trained leader, where safety will be highly likely.
- Begin to “test the waters” with someone by sharing a small part of yourself (thoughts and/or feelings you may have not shared before) and see how it goes.
- Begin to allow yourself to become involved in relationships at a slightly deeper level than you have been before.
I’d love to hear from you! What stood out for you as you read about how important bonding is in our relationships? What areas of emotional connection do you want to increase in your relationships ? Please leave a comment below and/or share this post on social media or e-mail so others can benefit.