It is true that we look at relationships quite different than much of society does. Yet our relationship is quite traditional in many respects, and the components that have helped make our relationship successful I believe, can help any relationship. One of those things that are different in our relationship is less of an emphasis on the sexual connection.
While I would not down play the importance of a sexual relationship in a marriage, for many people it is the foundation of their relationship. We look at it differently. If you have read Love Times Three you know our values against premarital sex for example, and the lengths we went to build an emotional and spiritual attraction. It is the idea of emotional attraction that I want to talk about today.
It is not that building physical attraction in your relationship is not important. In fact it can increase your level of emotional connection and passion in your lovemaking. My wives work to keep their appearance up and find ways to look good for me and I for them. This can be from grooming and nice clothes or that extra effort to look attractive for one another.
However, it is more important that a spiritual and emotional connection is made. When you are emotionally attracted to your partner, you value them for more than just their physical appearance. When you have spiritually connected to them you have a true soul mate. For example, that my wives want to serve God and do right is probably the single most important value that we share. It is this love in doing right for righteousness sake that has connected me to them no matter the trial.
On an emotional attraction you might find it incredibly sexy that your partner can be a good parent, or share some of their deepest fears, or perhaps talk about a movie that moved them. Whatever the emotion, it is finding the attractiveness to that person that goes much deeper than the physical. Think of it as an expansion of the idea, “looks aren’t everything” in a mate. Emotional attraction is finding the aspirations, values and dreams of that person and valuing them for what they stand for.
It is this emotional attraction that enhances any physical attraction. I have found that the most important way to build that emotional attraction is in communicating genuine emotion. For us the foundation of our relationship lays upon the cornerstone of Trust, Communication, and Respect.
Emotional attraction is largely determined by the ways we communicate. If you communicate well you trust to open up yourself emotionally, and your partner will open up as well. Doing so with respect adds to that deeper emotional connection. There is no worry about judgment and intimate trust is reaffirmed in our daily conversations.
I am amazed at how often these daily conversations are taken for granted. I watch couples all the time miss opportunities for real genuine emotional connection in their daily conversations. I think that most of us experience stress in our lives on a daily basis. It is the work, the kids, the demands and rigors of the day. Most of this stress is not caused by the relationship. In fact relationships usually are a source of inspiration, security and hope. The connection initially revives stress.
Having our every day communication should be to eliminate this stress and not let it affect the relationship. I recently heard of a couple that had their last child move out and experienced a sort of honeymoon effect, only to find her moving back into the home caused stress on the relationship. In my own experience, it was the stress of a down turn economy and the financial worry it induced that led me to bring that into the relationship. I was unwittingly taking that stress out on those that I was closest to. So how do we keep that stress from entering the relationship.
When we are overrun by stress and can’t properly talk about it with our partner then the level of emotional attraction drops and the relationship suffers. On the other hand, when we talk about the stress of daily life with one another and help each other cope with it we keep the relationships strong, and in fact often grow it during the struggle.
So when do these conversations take place? Often they automatically occur as we are trying to unwind, perhaps at the dinner table or while we are undressing for bed. How this conversation occurs is more important than when, but often it is the timing that is off which ruins the how. If the timing is off the desired effect of decreasing stress actually increases your stress levels. While there is a time to talk about relationship ‘issues’ with your partner, don’t talk about them when there are outside issues of stress such as after a stressful day with the kids, or after a long day at work. I will come in the door after a long day and have three women want to bring up some issues they are having and they have learned not to talk to me than.
Talking to your partner to find a solution that is convenient for both of you is important. As far as how to have that conversation, it is important that you talk only about what is stressing you out outside of your relationship. This is not the time to play the blame game and discuss areas of conflict between you two. It’s an opportunity to support each other emotionally in other areas in your lives.
However, even though you are not talking about your relationship, you are improving your relationship by connecting with your partner on an intimate level. You will be more emotionally attracted to your partner because they are listening to you and genuinely caring about what you have to say. This heightened level of emotional attraction will translate into improvement in your intimate life as well.
Perhaps the most important key is what I call active listening. I first learned about this concept when learning about parenting. We came across a book called Parent Effectiveness Training. It teaches you extensively about communication techniques. One of the best however, is the concept of active listening.
Most people when they hear that communication is important in the relationship automatically think it is about talking openly. In fact the most important part about being a good communicator is being a good listener. The goal of active listening is to hear your partner’s perspective with empathy and without judging them. It is the ability to reflect back what you hear without defensiveness or without trying to “solve” what they are telling you.
This is a skill that takes time to be developed and one I recommend reading about and practicing. While it sounds reasonable, this approach usually fails because couples are asked to use it when they are airing their gripes with each other. When someone is blaming you or complaining to you it is very difficult to listen. You certainly will not be feeling emotionally attracted to your partner if you feel like they aren’t listening to you or you can’t listen to them.
I have found that this same listening technique can be extremely beneficial if you use it during discussions where you are not your partner’s target. In this context, you’ll feel far more free to be readily supportive and understanding of your partner and vice versa. This can only heighten the love and trust you feel, thus also increasing your emotional attraction for each other. Here are tools I have used for having this discussion:
1. Timing. Make a time for each of you to just take a turn being the complainer for a set time, say fifteen minutes. Ask in advance for a time when you can “connect”. Hint, if a woman tells a man she needs to “talk” his defenses go up!
2. Don’t give fix or solve!. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. When they feel understood if they want advice they will ask for it. Until they ask do not offer!
3. Show sincere interest. While this seems simple, our body language can betray us, don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay intently focused on your partner.
4. Actively reflect your understanding. By repeating back understanding of the emotion you can let your partner know that you can and are empathizing with what they are saying.
5. Be a partner, and use a “we” approach. This means show them you are on their side, even if you think his or her perspective is unreasonable. You can always support the person even if you don’t agree. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together.
6. Express affection. Hold your partner, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and say “I love you.” Many couples miss the non-verbal cues that are critical in our communication.
7. Validate emotions. Let your mate feel validated in their feelings by telling them that they make sense. Again even if you don’t agree with the perspective, or the emotional response, all emotions are valid as we try to sort through what we are feeling. When you validate the emotion you experience it with them.
This emotional attraction is just as important as physical attraction in having great sex and a great marriage. If you are not feeling emotionally attracted to your partner, chances are you will not find arousal. Most people focus on the physical state of arousal, and yet the true source of arousal is emotional. When we are emotionally aroused we go to our primal state of mind, the place of our earliest states of connection. This powerful place requires trust and connection that will forge a bond that will endure any trial. Try this active listening exercise tonight and see how it affects the level of emotional attraction you feel for each other.