Balancing the Need for Emotional Connection with the Need for Autonomy

Feeling emotionally connected in relationships is key to having a good life. But how do you maintain connection without losing your sense of autonomy? It is often difficult to find a balance between these two things. In a relationship, if either partner loses their connection with the other they suffer, and if they lose their sense of autonomy the relationship suffers.

Often at the beginning of relationships both people feel merged because they are both focused on their mutual wants and needs. During the honeymoon stage, each person sees the other in an idealized way. The reality of negotiating their differences is in the background, and there is not much distinction between one person's needs and the others'. The relationship is meeting each person's basic needs for connection, especially physically, and there is little room for differences.

The most common way that a person can lose their autonomy is by losing connection with their own needs. Often it feels as if we could hurt the other person, or make them angry if we express what we need for ourselves. If we are afraid of disrupting the relationship by expressing our own needs, it often seems that meeting the other person's needs is an easier solution than to negotiate the differences that exist. When one person compromises themselves too often, their unmet needs can build up into resentments. Unfortunately being unable to express needs causes feelings of disconnection in the relationship,i.e., by compromising ourselves we do not create more connection.

An example of this is when one person needs more time to themselves than the other. This can become a problem when the need for alone time is felt to be a rejection or is felt to be rejecting. It becomes very difficult to say " I need to spend time alone" for fear that the other person will react negatively. Instead of working with the feelings of rejection and talking about them, the person who needs "their own space" gives up and disconnects from their own need. The relationship suffers because one person's needs are getting met at the expense of the others'.

It is important to be able to negotiate differences in a relationship. The first step is for each person to express what they need and be willing and able to listen and take in the needs of the other person. Secondly, if feelings arise in either person in reaction to the other person's needs, it is important to express the feelings and get them heard. We usually find it is easier to negotiate when we actually understand what the other person is feeling. The final step is for both people to find a middle ground in which no one feels compromised.

Having your own autonomy means being able to know and express what you need in your relationships and being able to negotiate with your partner when you have differences. Remembering that you are responsible for nurturing your own needs and interests and not collapsing your own desires when they differ from your partners because you hesitate to negotiate for what you need.

Meeting your own autonomous needs and negotiating if necessary, gives you emotional energy and reserve to bring to your relationship. When each person brings energy to their relationship, it can grow and be more fulfilling.

Copyright 2011 TruceWorks