Learning to Maintain Emotional Connection in Relationships

The ability to clearly express our feelings and needs and to hear and respond to those of other's, is an essential quality for maintaining a secure personal relationship. Our strong reactions to failures in receiving the responses we need in our relationships are a signal for how much we depend on our relationships to maintain an ongoing sense of well-being. Our reactions often bring up past experiences.


We often lack basic skills necessary to maintain our emotional connection in our relationships through communicating our feelings and needs, and to repair disconnects when they occur. Our lack of skills can cause us painful feelings of isolation, affecting our overall sense of vitality and well-being.

We learn how to relate in our early relationships with our parents or caretakers. These early experiences create many of our capacities to form and sustain new relationships. Both parents and children learn from each other how to relate by learning to read each others emotional and physical signals and states. Children learn to be aware of their own feelings by having their feelings recognized by their caretakers. We also learn how to repair disruptions when they occur.

Every infant needs to experience that the people in their environment hear and respond to their signals appropriately, e.g., their cries, movements, and expressions. Some of our needs such as hunger, comfort, warmth, contact, safety, and being loved are obvious, other emotional needs may be more obscure.


One way we feel connection is by receiving a response that corresponds to what we need, or are expecting. This need is not as obvious. Most of the time our signals will be understood and responded to appropriately. This means that if you are hungry you will be fed. On the other hand, if you are afraid you will be comforted, not fed. In both cases, the responses match the need. Of course no parent can always match the signals of a baby, but getting it right most of the time is important.


If as children, we have experienced a constant mismatch of our signals to the responses we received, we are left with difficult feelings of disconnection. Later in life we may have strong reactions when we are misunderstood.

A disruption to our sense of connection that can occur when we are misunderstood, can trigger reactive states linked to early relationship disconnects. Without some developmental perspective, it is hard to understand why we often become so reactive. This is why a simple difference with someone can escalate into a complicated emotional situation.


Spending time focusing on what we need from our relationships, even very simple needs like wanting to be told if someone is going to be late, and expressing those needs, can begin the process of bringing us back into emotional connection. Expressing our needs and getting them met, leads to a feeling of emotional connection.

If we have lost touch with some of these fundamental relational needs, our lives can lack intimacy and we may experience an ongoing sense of alienation. Once we begin reconnecting to our own needs and expressing them, not only will we feel more alive, but we will often find it much easier to accept and respond to the other persons needs.

© 2015 TruceWorks