The connection question is one of the most common spikes that darts across the screen of my clients and readers’ consciousness when they’re struggling with relationship anxiety. Do we connect enough? Do we talk enough? What if I feel bored sometimes? Is there a meeting of the minds? Do we have enough chemistry? What is chemistry? What, oh what, is this elusive thing called connection that everyone keeps talking about and how do I know if we have enough of it?
In the throes of their relationship anxiety, they become tangled in the cobwebs of thought that want to analyze and mince apart the question of connection until it lays like a heap of shredded paper in their center of their mind. Alongside, “Do I love my partner enough?”, the connection question is a heavyweight in the world of the ego, that part of us that desperately attempts to find unequivocal answers to fundamentally unanswerable questions.
Once again, our culture fails miserably in its dissemination of its definition of connection. In fact, nowhere does the culture actually define connection at all; rather, through images and messages transmitted via the media we piece together a ratty definition of connection that says something like the following:
You must know immediately when you’ve met “the One.”
You must feel irrepressible sexual desire even years into the relationship.
You must engage in long, scintillating conversations that extend late into the night (preferably over a candlelit dinner or in front of the fire).
Here’s my definition: Connection is a sense of home and safety. It’s the person you long to be with when the world feels like it’s crumbling. It’s your safe base and your safe haven, the person to whom you have healthfully and securely attached even when your ego wants to pull you away and tell you otherwise. Of course, when anxiety is at the helm, it’s difficult to feel attached or secure anywhere and with anyone, but we’re talking about the baseline place beyond fear, the place beyond anxiety.
Another sign of healthy connection is having a foundation of friendship: you like each other, you enjoy each other’s company, and you “do life” well together. Basically, you make a good team, and at the core you both have the sense that the other has your back. This doesn’t mean that you like everything about your partner nor does it mean that you agree on every aspect of life. But when there’s a healthy, secure connection, you can ride through these differences and find your way back to your place of home together. Home is a word that often arises when I ask someone about their connection with their partner.
You can see that having scintillating conversation or mind-blowing sex have nothing to do with connection according to my definition! And obviously true connection has very little to do with physical or mental attraction (as the culture defines these attractions), or having all of the same interests, or having a thousand things to talk about. In this vast sea of the billions of people who inhabit this planet, it’s a miracle to find someone with whom you like enough and feel safe enough to attach securely. My clients often ask, “What if I’m with my partner because I’m attached?” to which I respond, “That’s a great reason to stay with your partner!”
And I can hear the anxious choir singing…
… But what if we have nothing to talk about?
… But what if we don’t have enough passion?
… But what if there’s someone else with whom I would feel more connected?
Again, this is the ego looking for the guarantee that your relationship will last, that you’re not making a mistake, that you will live out your days together and not have to suffer through a divorce. It’s understandable that you want to avoid pain; who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want to investigate all possibilities to make sure they’re making a smart choice from the start? But the bottom line is that we can’t avoid pain. It’s part of being human, and it’s certainly part of any intimate, longterm relationship. The stuff that makes a relationship last isn’t what the culture tells you it is. It’s feeling safe enough with your partner so that you can walk through the highs and lows of life together and face the dark and shadowy regions of your psyche and heart that will emerge by virtue of standing face-to-face and heart-to-heart with an intimate other. At the core are trust and safety. The next layer is friendship. If you have those qualities with your partner, you are blessed indeed.
As “heartchakra” on the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course wisely wrote in response to the intelligence spike:
I came across this quote recently in an article that helped me with this issue of “is my partner smart enough”:
What I know to be true without exception is this: There is no perfect partner. Where there is lack of conversation, there is stability in spades. Where there is an abundance of sexual sparks, there’s often an overload of volatility. You can go searching the land for your fairy-tale partner but you’ll never find that person because perfection doesn’t exist. We, as humans, are imperfect to the core. A perfect union is two imperfect people learning to tolerate each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies and loving the places that synchronize easily. We meet at the heart, the place of home and safety, and then, over the course of many years, decades even, we strengthen our weak spots and temper the heat. This is the work and the blessing of a lifetime.