The Montfort Group

Staying Emotionally Connected to your Partner

Staying emotionally connected is a challenge for many couples when demands for time are numerous: careers, family, parenting, social media and the neighbor next door. When fatigue sets in and partners feel stretched, before they know it, their relationship takes a back seat to everything else in their lives. Partners can feel like ships passing in the night as meaningful conversations become fewer and emotional intimacy dwindles. And when that happens, couples can feel distant and alone.

Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.

– Sue Johnson, PhD, author of Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

However, a busy schedule isn’t always the culprit. Disconnection can be rooted in unmet needs like feeling unacknowledged and unimportant – issues that go deeper than who is picking up the children at daycare. 

According to relationship expert Sue Johnson, the loss of connection sparks distress and fear as couples seek emotional safety and reassurance from one another. The ultimate question is “will you be there for me?” (Hold Me Tight, page 30). Not surprisingly, it is the decreased affection and a lack of emotional response, and not the conflict that comes after it, that can be a predictor of how solid a marriage will be according to Ted Huston of the University of Texas.

Case in Point

John and Jane came to see me complaining of weekly arguments that left them frustrated and stuck. Jane’s job demanded weekly travel. She complained she was doing double duty –  “taking charge” of household responsibilities and doing the emotional lifting in the relationship. Further she felt that if she didn’t “take care” of her husband by anticipating his needs, she would “pay the price” with increased tension between them. Jane felt unacknowledged for how hard she was working in the relationship. John’s experience was different. He shared that the amount of time his wife devoted to her job left him feeling he was less important than her work. It was not only time but her response to his attempts to engage her further added to his perception that he was not a priority. All of this contributed to a cycle of emotional distancing and resentment as both partners felt misunderstood and alone all the while longing for closer connection.

Couples therapy helped unpack each partner’s experience in the cycle. When the wife saw her husband’s pain and vulnerability, she was able to respond with reassurance and comfort. 

How do you stay emotionally connected to your partner? Ultimately, it boils down to making the relationship and each other a priority. How you respond to one another and the timeliness of it goes a long way to strengthen emotional connection.

Sue Johnson’s A.R.E. tool, described in her book Hold Me Tight provides helpful reminders towards building connections and disrupting escalation.

Acknowledge – acknowledge your partner and their request or bid for connection. We want to know that our significant other “sees” us; that we matter.

Respond – to what you see and hear with an openness and willingness to hear what your partner has to say even if you disagree. Be curious. “tell me more” or “help me understand” are ways to do just that.

Engage – Be curious. “Tell me more” or “help me understand” are phrases to further engage and respond to your partner in a way that lets them know you care about what they’re saying,

And finally, if there is one thing you do to enhance connection to your spouse, put your phone down and put the electronic devices away. They are distractions from being fully present with your loved one.

If you and your significant other are having a hard time being connected, contact the Montfort group for marriage and couples counseling.

The greatest gift a lover has to give a lover is 

emotionally attuned attention 

and timely responsiveness.

For More Reading

The Digital Age: The First Duty of Love Is To Listen

Seven Ways Besides Sex to Emotionally Connect with Your Partner

How to Build Emotional Connection

Emotional Connection

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

Schedule Online

It's easy to set up an appointment with us - see what's available now!

Our Blog

Therapy thoughts