BY: Troy Murphy |July 2018
Creating and Maintaining Relationships
We need a healthy web of connections. We develop relationships, not find them.
We want connection. It is so fundamental to our well-being we expect it (see Others). But basic connection is anything but simple, dragging our hearts through the mud, challenging our resolves, and leaving us running for the hills, vowing to a life of celibacy; only to renounce hermithood and jump right back into the burning fire that has continually disappointed, confused and depressed our aching souls. Our biological drives for connection lag behind the evolving skill to bond in the modern world. To succeed, we must dismiss the comforting lies that we are naturally good lovers, and purposely seek to develop character, skills, and compassion. Only a purposeful approach will lead us over the hurdles preventing intimacy.
The most effective avenue to connection is effective templates, modeled by significant others in our lives, particularly during childhood. When a caregiver expertly attunes to a child’s emotions (see emotional attunement) and models productive responses, the child learns, from not just seeing (or reading about) healthy bonding but experiencing the connection. The child often mirrors these blessed behaviors and integrates healthy connecting skills into their adult relationships. Unfortunately, many have never experienced intimate bonding and must muddle through rudimentary steps, fighting contrary emotions, and opening to scary vulnerabilities.
Connections are created, not found. The work of love starts after the Hollywood depictions on the silver screen end. The fragile strings of attachment are just the beginning, needing gentle cultivating, patience understanding, and willing openness. This is a difficult process for everybody, especially those unfamiliar with intimacy. Dangerous environments create a protective approach to connection. We develop defenses to guard against abusive outside intrusions. Unfortunately, these defenses continue to protect even when the threats have dissipated.
We must be attentive to these invading protections and combat them; or they will destroy attempts of closeness. Intimacy does not exist with a protective approach, avoiding risks, and unhealthy reducing of uncertainty. We must be willing to be known and interested in knowing. We accomplish this through openness, exposing the tender parts of our lives. This connecting process extends over the life of the relationship. We become familiar with each other over months and years—not a few introductory coffee dates. This requires a life time of vulnerability. But only through the vulnerability can trust be established.
"Connections are created, not found. The work of love starts after the Hollywood depictions on the silver screen end. The fragile strings of attachment are just the beginning, needing gentle cultivating, patience understanding, and willing openness. "
During open explorations, individual preferences, opinions, and histories are shared. From a distance, intimate conversations sound appealing. We see fulfillment. The feeding that our soul hungers. But these conversations lose their attractiveness as we engage in openness. Our frantic starvation for acceptance interferes with the openness. Our wandering mind catastrophizes over every word, facial expression, and the occasional differences that any two people connecting will encounter. The glorious and dreadful process of connecting has begun.
The true value of being known and knowing extends beyond purposeful explorations of each other into everyday communications. Our intents and our partner’s intents are exposed to the tests of connection. We either act in ways that builds upon the trust of shared knowing or we destructively use our intimate knowledge to manipulate. Here in the developing stages of closeness our self-interest either expands to encompass the partner or selfishly uses the partner. Our behaviors then dictate whether continued explorations are safe or dangerous. Are we safe to express feelings, weakness, and fears to this person or not? Will they abuse the sanctity of knowing our inner worlds? We must also carefully examine our privileged knowledge.
When the discomforting emotions of connection arise, when we feel fear, anger, and shame, do we respectfully engage, or use all means necessary to soothe the inner disruptions? These are the magical moments for building a relationship or destroying connection. These are the moments that build trust or shamefully misuse our privilege of intimate knowledge.
For many, the connections are difficult, demanding unfamiliar action in the face of the fears of abandonment and hurt. There are steps we can take to assist in moving closer and connecting with those we love. If we wait until we are satisfied in our relationship demands before inching forward, we will starve the growing bonds and they will wither and die.
We nurture a relationship by:
As we consciously work towards stronger connections, focusing on building positive moments, soothing protective fears in more productive ways, we not only enjoy the intimacy previously missing from our lives, but we establish a strong template for our children to observe and absorb. We create a new loving chain of life that may extend over many generations to come.
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