Husbands, especially, are in the dark when their wife says to him something like, “I just don’t feel connected to you.” Understanding what a connection means to his wife is, to him, like trying to unravel an unresolvable mystery. The world of emotions to a man is like a forbidden foreign territory that he tries not to visit. But then add the word “connection” to the word “emotional” and it really becomes not just foreign, but downright scary.
Fortunately, attachment theory, and the research being done on how babies attach emotionally to a mother and a father, can give us helpful information on what constitutes an attachment, which is an emotional connection. A universal principle associated with attachment issues between mother and nursing baby is that the comfort hormone oxytocin is released in both the nursing baby and in the mother. This is the biochemical basis of connection.
Research has found that when both are faced with an anxious situation, if a husband will hold his wife’s hand, it leads to the release of more oxytocin in the brain of both the husband and the wife. Oxytocin is the connection hormone. So physical touch can be a big part of an emotional connection. It certainly includes sex, but it also includes holding hands. I often suggest to a husband that when he and his wife are having a difficult conversation, he put his hand on her forearm and just leave it there while they talk.
There are also three behavioral components to an emotional connection. They are 1.) being available; 2.) being responsive; and 3.) being affirming. Let’s look at each one. When a wife is feeling disconnected, it can be caused by a husband working 12 hour days. He legitimately is unavailable for his wife and family. Then if he plays golf when he isn’t working, he is even more unavailable. Not feeling connected is a wife’s natural response.
And when he is available, how responsive is he? Does he interact verbally with his wife? Does he respond when she wants to talk with him? I’ve worked with couples who are available to each other, but neither one responds to anything the other spouse does or says. When this happens, the connection starts to fade, and over time they are like two strangers living in the same house.
The third part, being affirming, is related to being positive about each other. A wife may feel disconnected because she just can’t talk to her husband without criticizing something about him. She seldom affirms anything he does, almost ignoring the positive contributions he makes to the marriage. For some reason, she only focusing on what doesn’t measure up to her expectations. A Husband can do the same. He often forgets how powerful and affirming touch can be to a wife.
An emotional connection requires both spouses to do all three parts. When one part of the process is missing for a short period of time, or due to circumstances, a couple needs to be careful with each other. And when one or more parts of connecting is missing over a longer time, the emotional connection will become weakened, and may even begin to fade away. So make sure you are available, responsive, and affirming–if you do your part in the process of connecting emotionally, you will reap incredible benefits in your marriage.
Question: Which of the three parts of connecting emotionally is hardest for you to do?