Evidence suggests that the ability to form a stable relationship starts to form in infancy with our early attachments. A child’s earliest experiences with who reliably meets their needs for food, care, warmth, protection, stimulation and social contact. Ref: https:/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles
Most theorists agree that it is these early relationships that form the deeply ingrained patterns of how we relate to others. However, adult relationships succeed or fail for many reasons of course, not just because childhoods. Most people have to work on the skills to a make romantic relationships endure and flourish. And generally, any threat to these connections are a source of great anxiety.
In modern day society, people are living longer, so couples can spend several decades together. So, the challenges long-term partners face goes on much longer than perhaps used to, say seventy years ago. However, fundamentally, relationships are challenged because individuals change and their partners are forced to adjust. This often leads to crisis when one partner is unwilling or unable to do so.
The relationship challenges couples face
‘Relational Turbulence theory’ (Knobloch & Solomon, 2004) examined the association between reports of relational uncertainty and/or interference from a partner’s reactions to specific relationship events or communication episodes. Which suggests that ongoing exposure to differentiating experiences such as jealousy, infidelity, family values, avoidance of difficult subjects or taking conflict personally. Can cause a couple’s connection to deteriorate. Ref: onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Identifying these potential problems early and speaking about them openly, can save a relationship.
How couples manage to successfully manage challenges
The most important factor which determines whether a couple can get through the challenges in their relationship is simply a commitment to believing they can – no matter what. Couples who believe, when conflict arises, they have the skills to maintain their connection, are much more likely to stay together for the long term.
For example – can couples survive infidelity?
For many people, the idea of breaking the commitment to remain faithful to their partner is unthinkable. Yet, 1 in 5 British adults say they have had an affair whilst in a committed relationship. People are unfaithful for a variety of reasons, but whatever the cause, it poses a serious challenge to the wounded partner.
Infidelity, however, doesn’t always lead to a couple separating. Surviving the challenge depends on the strength of their connection and whether the affair was emotional as well as physical.
Many couples do find a way to stay together. But this is largely dependent on how remorseful the unfaithful party is and how much time, effort and patience they are prepared to put in to win round their partner.
People stray in relationships for a variety of reasons, research has found, but the most common reason for infidelity are flattered by the attention. Feeling emotionally neglected, dissatisfied with their sex life, lack of commitment and enjoying the thrill. Ref yougov.co.uk
The importance of connection in a relationship
It is common for people to talk of communication being important in a healthy relationship. Whilst this is true, it’s not always the most important thing. The most important thing is actually connection. Connection is that feeling of being on the same team, of understanding each other, that inexplicable warm happy feeling of being in love and together.
This concept is really important but sometimes tricky to get our heads around. Because so often, it’s the key issue we are really fighting about.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of a relationship is “the way two or more people are connected or the way they behave toward each other” . So, if this is the case. If there is no connection, there is no relationship, because one defines the other. So, it would make sense that being disconnected from our partners can bring up painful, insecure and lonely feelings for us.
The big mistake
If we are struggling with connection in our relationships and subsequently feel any of the difficult feelings mentioned above. It’s only natural that we would want to reconnect with our partners to regain a feeling of love and wellbeing with them.
However, the big mistake that can often happen, when we are not feeling connected, is to put too much focus on the problem and ‘over-communicate’ from a disconnected place.
It can be very difficult to communicate effectively and respectfully when we are feeling disconnected. Disconnection and difficulty unfortunately go hand in hand. Because if you are feeling frustrated or threatened this can lead to you both fighting your own corners.
Then when you still can’t connect, you believe the problem is that you can’t communicate. When it is actually because we aren’t able to get our need for connection met. Unwittingly, we can then become trapped in a vicious cycle and the communication breaks down further.
Why connection can be the most important thing in a relationship
At the heart of it, we are only communicating to try to make a connection. And it is having a strong connection between you that will make you want to communicate with each other. The connection makes the communication feel more open, honest and safe.
When you feel connected in your relationship, as if by magic everything, including your communication will begin to flow much more easily. It’s ironic that communicating from a connected place, will build on your connection, and the connection will build on your communication.
In truth, the two things are closely intertwined – you can’t put all your energy into one and ignore the other.
If you would like some professional help to strengthen your connection with your partner contact us now